GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Just two days removed from taking their SEC opening series against the Arkansas Razorbacks, the Florida Gators were given an even greater test on Tuesday evening, as the No. 2 ranked Florida State Seminoles stopped by for a midweek match-up after sweeping NC State this past weekend. Challenge accepted and complete, as the Gators took the 3-1 victory over the Seminoles before a season-high crowd of 5,657 (tied for the tenth-highest attendance in McKethan Stadium history).
The Seminoles threatened in the top of the first with back-to-back singles through the right side by Justin Gonzalez and D.J. Stewart with just one out. Florida’s starter for the evening, sophomore lefty Danny Young, was able to get Brett Knief to ground into the inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, quelling any threat that could have been.
Florida State would threaten once again in the third, but Young displayed impressive poise and worked his way out of the jam. Young surrendered a base hit to Danny De La Calle to open the inning, a hard hit grounder up the middle that Richie Martin fielded, but was unable to pivot and make the throw to first in time. After registering first-pitch strikes to nine consecutive batters to start the game, the streak ended with the next batter, as Josh Delph would slap a 1-1 pitch to right for a single.
Justin Gonzalez followed with his team-leading 27th walk of the season to load the bases with no outs. D.J. Stewart stepped up to the plate with the opportunity to break the game wide open, but the sophomore slugger fouled out to third baseman Josh Tobias for the first out of the inning. Knief followed with a six-pitch at-bat, only to be called out on strikes, while John Nogowski ripped a grounder to third to end the inning.
The Gators took some of the momentum built by the Seminoles and utilized it for their own benefit in the bottom of the third, as Tobias jumped on the first pitch he saw from Peter Miller, sending the ball into the left-field bleachers for his first home run of the season, giving the Gators the early 1-0 lead.
Young departed in the fourth after surrendering a base hit to Jose Brizuela (the third infield hit of the evening against Young), prompting head coach Kevin O’Sullivan to bring in Aaron Rhodes, who would close out the inning with relative ease, as the right-hander sat down Sansone, DeLuzio, and De La Calle in order.
All would be quiet until the top of the sixth when Jose Brizuela launched a 2-1 pitch from Rhodes off the bottom of the scoreboard in right for his first homer of the season, tying the game at 1-1. Rhodes responded by striking out both Sansone and DeLuzio swinging to end the inning.
Once again, Florida responded with momentum of their own, as Martin led off the bottom of the sixth with a double to right. After a sac bunt from Casey Turgeon moved Martin over to third, Harrison Bader stepped in the box and drilled the first pitch he saw off the bottom of the wall in right, legging out a triple and plating Martin in the process for the outright 2-1 lead.
Taylor Gushue followed with a sac fly to deep right, allowing Bader to score from third and giving the Gators the 3-1 lead.
Florida threatened in the bottom of the eighth with runners on the corners, following a fielder’s choice to third by Bader that would advance Buddy Reed over to third. However, Gage Smith would get Gushue to sharply line out to center to end the inning.
In all, Poyner tossed 3.0 perfect innings of relief, fanning one batter in the process en route to his first career save.
Pitching was truly the name of the game for the Gators as Young tossed 3.0 scoreless innings, striking out two and surrendering just one free pass.
Rhodes followed with 3.0 innings of his own, giving up the lone run of the game on three hits, while fanning four and giving up not a single free pass.
To be able to hold the No. 2 ranked team in the country to just one run is quite the achievement, especially an offense that came into the game having seven starting position players with RBI totals either greater or equal to your highest individual total.
From here, the Gators travel to College Station this weekend to face the Texas A&M Aggies on the road for their second straight weekend of SEC play. The Gators will face the Seminoles once again the following Tuesday before readying themselves for a three-game set against the LSU Tigers at home.