Sorry for the slight delay in posting this guys and gals. This East coast thing finally caught up with me. Thinking I could stay up to my usual 2-or-3am, my body finally crashed (without the help of Red Bull, nor the help of whiskey, I promise) and I hit the pillow before I could finish this write-up. Mea culpa. But here’s how the day in college baseball went, including my trek to McKethan Stadium to see game two of the LSU-Florida series.
WHAT I SAW AT McKETHAN STADIUM
The last time I saw this Florida Gator team, they were ripping off wins and heading to the national title round of the College World Series. Tonight, they walloped out 11 hits and seven runs while getting a complete squashing of a good LSU team with wicked pitching and sound defense. So… what’s the problem? Why was everybody freaking out on the Gators? They looked fine to me tonight.
LSU – 000 000 000 – 0 4 1
U.F. – 002 000 41x – 7 11 0
WP: Jonathan Crawford, 3-1
LP: Kevin Gausman, 5-1
- Austin Nola, 1-for-3, walk
- Mike Zunino, 3-for-5, 2doubles, 3RBI
- Taylor Gushue, 2-for-4, double, RBI
- Nolan Fontana, 2-for-4, 2RBI
- LSU: 24-7, 7-4 SEC
- UofF: 25-6, 7-4 SEC
IN A NUTSHELL.
In the 7th inning, Florida’s Daniel Piggott ripped a single to right field and as he trotted down the 1st base line he gave a fist pump and gritted his teeth, knowing this wasn’t total redemption for last night’s no-tag-up gaffe, but he was officially over it. That single off of Kevin Gausman ignited a 4-run rally which put tonight’s game essentially on ice, leading to a 7-0 rout and a 1-and-1 weekend of SEC play between these two behemoths. Along with temporarily dousing the furor over the Thursday woulda-coulda-shoulda loss, the Gators looked more like the national title stalking machine I was expecting to see from the first pitch of the season. Doing everything right, the Gators were never seriously in trouble here at McKethan Stadium tonight. Question is, was this a hint of the beatdowns to come? Or was it merely an oasis in the desert of pain the Orange & Blue has been feeling lately?
IT WAS OVER WHEN.
- When Nolan Fontana slapped that two run single in the 7th.
Okay, okay, it might’ve been over well before that. Like when Mike Zunino crushed a ball to the wall, plating two in the 3rd inning (a hit which head coach Kevin O’Sullivan called “possibly the biggest hit of our season, so far”). Or when Crawford came out dealing tonight, like this was a fall scrimmage and not an SEC spring weekend. Or in how the defense made nary a mistake on the stat sheet. Or how the team rallied from that harrowing Thursday night loss chock-full of mental mistakes. Either way, tonight’s game was still in doubt until that 7th inning knock made a 2-run deficit a 4-run deficit. From there, it was curtains.
That was the number of hits the LSU offense could scrape together in tonight’s game. That was also the number of pitchers the Florida arms corps sent to the hill in the form of starter Jonathan Crawford and relievers Austin Maddox (19 pitches), Steven Rodriguez (10 pitches) and Justin Shafer (5 pitches). The three relievers tossed the final 3.0 innings and surrendered just one hit with six Ks and on walks. Wow. That’s some steady work by the Florida arms.
GAME BALL GOES TO:
- Jonathan Crawford, Florida pitcher
As coach Kevin O’Sullivan said in the post-game presser on the field after the final out, tonight’s 6.1inn, 3-hit, shutout effort from the sophomore who threw a grand total of 3.2 innings last season was pretty remarkable. He was hitting a consistent 95-96mph in the first few innings and even notched a trio of 97mph fastballs along the way. The former 42nd round pick of the Marlins will be an instrumental part of the re-patching of the Gator pitching staff as this season rolls down the stretch. And of course, Gator opponents are saying, “Oh Gawd! Not ANOTHER great arm.”
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan.
- On coming back from last night’s tough loss:
“Let’s face it, we haven’t played our best baseball the last few games. Last night’s game doesn’t fall on one player, obviously Daniel’s mistake was magnified, but there were a lot of things that happened last night. But this was a big win for us tonight, I’m not gonna sugar coat it. We were facing one of the best pitchers in the country. I know it only counts as one win in the win column, but it’s a big win for us.”
- Reflecting on Daniel Pigott’s baserunning mistake on Thursday night:
“No one felt worse than he did. Obviously he just got a little too excited and no one is perfect. But at the same token, I thought the players rallied around him. We didn’t dodge it today, we talked about it as a group before BP. Those things happen… they don’t happen very often, but they happen. The only thing we could do was give him a vote of confidence and put him right back in the lineup at centerfield and leading off.”
- On Jonathan Crawford getting the win tonight:
“Aw, it was huge. We’re talking about a guy who pitched all of three innings last year. Going up against LSU, who is a great offensive team is one thing, but to have to match pitch-for-pitch one of the best aces in the country in Kevin Gausman, that’s not easy to do. I’ve got to believe he grew up an awful lot tonight.”
- On Crawford hitting 95-to-96 on the guns tonight.
“No, I’m not surprised at all. He was hitting the same thing last week against Ole Miss, he just hit his spots tonight and that was the difference. For him, when he locates and has his slider going, mixes in his change-up, he’s really good. He’s just like everybody else, when he pitches well and he locates and hits 94-to-96, he’s pretty good. But tonight was special.”
- On Mike Zunino’s 2-RBI double in the 3rd inning:
“That double, that might’ve been one of the biggest hits of the year for us, as a team. Maybe not for Mike, but for us it might be as big as it gets this season.”
A few images from the game and whatnot. (photos courtesy of the Dr. of College Baseball, who had camera duties during the game.)
- Monster-sized Crowd
Total attendance for the game was announced at 5,793, which was the third-largest crowd of all time according to Florida’s sports information department. As baseball SID John Hines told me, “It’s usually a late arriving crowd here, unlike a lot of SEC crowds.” I thought to myself, what is this, a Dodgers’ crowd?”
- License Plate Heaven
As I’ve noted before, I have seen no other state in the country that has more variations of license plates than the state of Florida does. From it’s usual oranges plate to their space shuttle plate to the “Save the Florida Panther” plate, there are numerous others. Here’s one that the good doctor and I came across, celebrating bicycling in the state of Florida. Or… maybe more accurately, celebrating a bicyclist riding down the middle of a road with a car bearing down on them about to bump the poor soul off the bike and onto the pavement.
I don’t think I’ve seen a town with as many Vespa-like scooters in my life. They were all over the campus and zipping between cars on all the roads around Gainesville. Of course, the fact that most of them were students who wore flip-flops and no protective gear, well… being a motorcycle rider myself, that’s a major no-no in my book. Not that I’m a huge hand-wringer when it comes to things like that, but to each their own of course.
Some extra things from around the country.
The best of the day in college baseball.
George Horton’s boys won their second straight game in Westwood, downing No. 5 UCLA 8-3. Freshman hurler Jake Reed had another great start, going 6.0 innings and giving up just five hits and at one point retiring 10 straight batters, though he did surrender three runs. But this was the Ducks’ fifth straight win in Pac 12 play, including last week’s three-game sweep of Arizona State.
Despite their youth, these guys are showing some guile out there, including Friday’s scintillating 5-4 win at South Carolina, which improves the Vols to 20-10 and 6-4 in the SEC and drop the Cocks to 21-9 and just 3-7 in the SEC. A Matt Price throwing error in the 9th inning allowed the winning run to come in for the Vols after the game saw three lead changes. And how ’bout this stat… Vol reliever Nick Blount recorded his seventh save in seven straight games. Beauty.
3- The High Point pinpointers
It was a record-setting day for the Panthers as they set a Division I school record with 17 strikeouts in their 4-2 win over Radford. Four pitchers, led by starter Ryan Retz’s 5.1 innings of work which yielded eight punchouts, took the Highlanders down to the Lowlanders. Will Resnik, Joe Goodman and Jaime Schultz combined for the final 3.2 innings of work, giving up no hits, no runs and adding nine Ks to the total.
- Cal State Bakersfield is long known as a team that will get complete-game wins by the bushel-full. Tonight, the Roadrunners took down Santa Clara 4-0 on Jeff McKenzie’s 3-hitter, which saw him also strike out 12 Bronco batters while giving up nothing more than a single. His only flaw? He walked four batters in the game. But that’s nitpicking here.
The Hurricanes haven’t had a vast supply of clutch hits lately, but got plenty in Friday in their 8-0 win over No. 3 North Carolina. Their 14-hit attack was keyed by Peter O’Brien’s three-run bomb in the 8th inning. Eric Erickson also reverted back to his stellar form, throwing 7.0 innings of four-hit ball with five Ks and no walks.
- Joe Bircher, Bradley.
The Braves’ Friday ace took down Missouri State 2-1 with a 12K, 7-hit performance which also saw him go the distance without issuing a walk on the night. With the win the Braves improve to 15-11 and 2-2 in the MoValley. Missouri State got a complete-game five-hitter from Nick Petree, but drops to 23-9 and 3-1 with the L.
- Towson’s Andrew Parker hit a pair of home runs and 4RBI as the Tigers beat Old Dominion 14-10. As a team, Towson had just 16 runs in its previous eight games, but had 13 in the first four innings tonight.
- Pokes stop streak.
Oklahoma State got three runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to end a dramatic comeback in a 7-6 win over Kansas. Jared Womack wo-smacked a bases-loaded single that brought home the game-deciding runs, ending OSU’s five-game Big 12 losing streak. The Cowboys are now 15-14, 2-5 in Big 12 play.
- Indiana’s Sam Travis.
The Frosh slugger drove in five runs and extended his hitting streak to 17 games in a big time 12-3 rout of Illinois in Champaign. The win improved IU to 5-2 in the Big 10, good enough to reclaim first place among the Monsters of the Midway.
- Jimmy Reed, P, Maryland.
The Terrapins may be a little tough to figure out this season, but the UMd flinger went 8.0 innings, giving up just two measly hits and striking out eight with two walks in UMd’s 4-0 win over visiting North Carolina State. Reliever Korey Wacker came on in the 9th inning to lock down the win.
The worst of the day in college baseball.
1- South Carolina and Arkansas.
It’s hard enough to win on the road in the SEC, but as everybody knows it’s vital to hold serve at home if you’re going to contend for a conference title. The Cocks and Hogs took tough losses on the chin in their home wild environs, with South Carolina losing to Tennessee (to fall to 3-7 in SEC play) and the Razorbacks dropping a 4-2 game to Georgia in their respective weekend openers.
2- Bobby Wahl, Ole Miss.
The Rebels ace only pitched 4.0 innings (giving up only two hits, though he did walk four) in their 3-2 loss at Kentucky. Makes you wonder why he had such a short stint on the night at Cliff Hogan Stadium. Hopefully it’s nothing serious of course, but the Rebel ace is usually good for seven to nine innings every time out.
In addition to that, the Rebels also have only themselves to blame for the loss, out-hitting the Bat Cats 14-to-7, but they left 10 baserunners stranded on the night. Aye-yaye-yaye.
3- Oral Roberts’ offense.
Typical of how this team has performed this season, the Eagles got a great effort from starting pitcher Paul Giller, who went 8.0 innings, giving up three hits and striking out 11 Oakland Grizzlies along the way. But then he could only watch as his offense only mustered three hits of their own, and more importantly not a single run, in a 2-0 loss at home to OU. Now you see why ORU is 13-15 on the season.
Tonight’s win by the woebegone Grizz was just their fifth W in 26 games and marked the beginning of Summit League play for both teams.
- Dallas Baptist
The Patriots, who could be better than last year’s Super Regional edition, beat Prairie View A&M 11-0 and 7-0. Not sure if I should admonish them for playing PV or other programs who won’t schedule the Patriots, so they HAD to schedule the Panthers here instead. Either way, their RPI of No. 50 and their strength of schedule of No. 89 will take big hits because of it.
It was a mild upset and a stunning result. Furman sugar-blasted the Phoenix 18-2 tonight in their Southern Conference weekend opener. An 11-run 5th inning for the Paladins was the knockout punch where they earned 10 hits, including a 3-run dinger from Chris Ohmstede. They also benefitted from a walk, an error and three wild pitches. Ugh.