GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Rhode Island Rams thought they were lucky to get out of the wintry wrath that has engulfed the northeast as of late and experience the warm sunshine of Florida. Not only were they sorely mistaken about that warm sunshine (as the game time temperature hovered in the upper-40s), they were also on the wrong end of a 9-1 Florida Gators victory on Friday evening at McKethan Stadium.
Before we jump into the strong night that was for Florida’s pitching staff, let’s discuss how the Gators offense supplied their staff ace and company with run support.
Buddy Reed got things started with a hard hit grounder to short, not only beating the throw, but also advancing to second on an overthrow from Tim Caputo. Following a flyout by Richie Martin, Harrison Bader stepped to the dish with two down and ripped the first pitch he saw from Steve Moyers up the middle, plating Reed for the Gators’ first run of the evening.
The Gators struck again in the bottom half of the second, as a pair of free passes and a HBP (a pitch worn by Mike Rivera just below the left knee) loaded the bases for Reed with two down. The sophomore centerfielder ripped a grounder to short, but a bobble by Caputo allowed for each runner to advance, plating A.J. Puk from third. Martin followed with a base knock to left, allowing Rivera to score, but a quick relay from Nick DeRegis in left caught Reed at the plate to end the inning.
Florida tacked on a pair of runs in the fourth in rather unorthodox fashion. Caputo’s third miscue of the night at short allowed Josh Tobias to reach first, while Ryan Larson followed with a base hit (an infield fly that fell between Foreman and Corin at first). With Reed at the dish, Tobias took off for a swipe of third, prompting Rams catcher Chase Livingston to overthrow Martin Tavares at third, allowing both Tobias and Larson to score as the ball trickled past DeRegis in left.
Florida bats added three more runs in the fifth, behind a two-run shot to left by Bader and later a sac fly to right by freshman catcher Rivera, which plated fellow first-year J.J. Schwarz for the 8-0 lead. The Gators added a ninth and final run in the bottom of the seventh when Mark Kolozsvary (pinch hitting for Schwarz) scored from third following Rivera hitting into a 4-6-3 double play.
Now that we have discussed the manner by which Florida put their respective runs on the board, let’s discuss the strong performance given by Logan Shore and the Florida bullpen.
Shore tossed five scoreless innings, surrendering just four hits, fanning four batters, and registering not a single free pass. The sophomore right-hander was on point from the get-go and kept at such a pace throughout the rest of the night, fanning two in the first frame and retiring eight consecutive batters before departing after the fifth inning. His four-seamer sat consistently between 90 and 93 (while hitting 94 at times), whereas his changeup absolutely dazzled, dancing throughout the bottom of the zone with great movement and registering a handful of swings-and-misses in the process.
Mike Vinson and Tyler Deel entered in relief, tossing a combined two perfect frames to go along with three punch outs. Freshman right-hander Alex Faedo opened the top of the eighth and despite giving up a solo shot to Mike Sherburne, dug into the pitching rubber and closed out the inning with a pair of strikeouts. Fellow freshman right-hander Taylor Lewis (who figures to be a strong option for the role of closer, if necessary) made his debut as well, tossing a scoreless inning and cementing the 9-1 victory for the Gators in their 2015 season opener.
Florida and Rhode Island will resume the rest of their opening weekend series tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and finish off with a 12:30 p.m. contest on Sunday.