Duke Edges No. 13 Florida Baseball, 4-3, In Season Opener

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Duke snapped a 2-2 tie with a pair of runs in the eighth inning to defeat No. 13 Florida, 4-3, in front of an Opening Night record crowd of 5,771 fans at McKethan Stadium on Friday in the 2013 debut for both squads. Blue Devil junior Mike Rosenfeld (3-for-5), who was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle, delivered an RBI triple off Gator sophomore Corey Stump (Lakeland, Fla.) (0-1) that put the visitors ahead and sophomore Andrew Istler retired all four batters he faced to save the victory for junior Robert Huber (1-0). Tonight marked UF’s first season-opening setback since 2007.

“First of all, I give Duke a lot of credit,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I thought their starting pitcher [Trent Swart] did a really nice job – he kept us off-balance and made some big pitches. I thought Jonathon [Crawford] threw the ball well. [Jordan] Betts just ran into one pitch [on a two-run homer in the fourth inning], got the barrel out and did a really nice job. As far as both of those innings, both the fourth and the eighth, [each] started with lead-off walks and that’s kind of been a point of emphasis in the early part of the spring, but you have to give Duke all of the credit. I thought they played a really, really good game. There is always something to pull away from a game, whether you win or lose.”

Gator redshirt freshman Cory Reid (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) opened the scoring with a two-out RBI single down the right-field line in the second inning. After Duke sophomore left-hander Trent Swart retired the first five Florida batters of the contest, sophomore Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) (2-for-4) blooped a double into right center field and moved to third base on a wild pitch. Following a four-pitch walk to sophomore Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) that left runners on the corners, Reid sliced Swart’s first offering into right field to bring across Shafer.

The Blue Devils put a pair of runners aboard in the third but were kept at bay by junior Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.). After junior Mark Lumpa reached on a one-out fielding error by freshman shortstop Richie Martin (Brandon, Fla.) and Istler was hit by a pitch, Crawford induced a ground ball by senior Jeff Kremer that forced Istler at second base and then struck out Rosenfeld to complete the inning with the 1-0 score intact.

Junior Jordan Betts connected on a two-run homer in the fourth to give the visitors a 2-1 advantage. Redshirt sophomore Chris Marconcini had drawn a leadoff walk on a full count and Betts followed with a round-tripper to left center field. Crawford set down the next two batters before junior Anthony D’Alessandro tripled into the right corner. Junior Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) took over on the mound for Crawford (3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K) and had Lumpa ground out to first base.

Istler began the fifth with a free pass and moved into scoring position on a grounder by Kremer. Gibson had Rosenfeld fly out to left field and caught Marconcini looking on strikes to complete the stanza. Sophomore Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.) replaced Gibson (1.1 IP) prior to sixth and registered the first two outs before yielding a base-hit into left field by junior Angelo La Bruna. However, Harris picked the runner off first base to end the inning.

UF senior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) tied the game at 2-2 in the sixth with a sacrifice fly. Freshman Harrison Bader (Bronxville, N.Y.) (1-for-4, 2 runs) opened the frame with a single into center field, ending a stretch of 10-consecutive hitters set down by Swart. Sophomore Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) executed a hit-and-run with a single through the right side of the infield to move Bader to third base and Ramjit lofted a fly ball into center field that brought across Bader. Turgeon was thrown out attempting to steal second base to complete the inning.

After Harris worked a 1-2-3 seventh, Duke’s announced starter for Sunday, Huber, replaced Swart (6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 4 K, 1 BB). Shafer roped a one-out double off the wall in right field but was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a triple on a perfect relay from Kremer to junior second baseman David Perkins to Betts covering third. Tobias was then robbed of a single on a diving stop and throw by La Bruna.

Stump relieved Harris (2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 K) to start the eighth and permitted a leadoff walk to Kremer. Moments later, Rosenfeld moved the Blue Devils back in front with an RBI triple to deep center field. Stump notched his first career strikeout by catching Marconcini looking and junior Keenan Kish (Worcester, Pa.) was summoned from the bullpen. A fielding error by Turgeon on a grounder by Betts enabled Rosenfeld to score for a 4-2 lead for the visitors. Sophomore Andy Perez was hit for two runners aboard and La Bruna flew out to right for the second out before Kish struck out D’Alessandro.

“We competed today,” Harris said. “We did the best we could and just came up short. But, our team is ready to come back and bounce back tomorrow, to try to even the series and get back at it. It’s just one game; we will move on and build from it.”

The Gators pulled within 4-3 in the home part of the inning. Senior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) had a one-out single but was erased at second base on a fielder’s choice by Bader. Martin collected his first collegiate hit with two down for runners on the corners and a failed pickoff attempt allowed Bader to come home on a fielding error by Perez and trim UF’s deficit to 4-3. A walk to Turgeon prompted a pitching change, as Istler moved into from left field to mound for Huber (1.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R) and had Ramjit fly out to right field to preserve the Blue Devils’ lead.

Kish recorded the first two outs of the ninth before surrendering consecutive singles to Kremer and Rosenfield. Freshman Danny Young (Boca Raton, Fla.) kept the Blue Devils off the board further with a strikeout of sophomore Grant McCabe. Istler put the Gators down in order to help head coach Chris Pollard claim his debut as Duke’s skipper. Each team totaled seven hits.

In a meeting of right-handers tomorrow at 4 p.m., freshman Tucker Simpson (Oxford, Ala.) will make his collegiate debut for the hosts against Duke junior Drew Van Orden. The game will be carried live on GatorVision and can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Jeff Cardozo and Steve Russell.

Game Notes

· The Gators started a trio of freshmen on Opening Night: Harrison Bader (left field), Richie Martin (shortstop) and Cory Reid (right field) and all three registered their first collegiate hits.

· The crowd of 5,771 spectators marked the 31st time since McKethan Stadium opened in 1988 that the Gators drew in excess of 5,000 fans.

· The previous top Opening Night crowd at McKethan Stadium was 5,356 spectators for the Gators’ 7-3 victory over Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 17, 2012.

· The Gators dropped to 57-41-1 (.581) on opening day, including 37-21-1 (.636) at home.

· Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan fell to 5-1 in season openers.

· O’Sullivan began his sixth season at the helm of Florida baseball tonight against Duke.

· LF Harrison Bader was the first Gator freshman to bat leadoff on Opening Day since 2003 (Stephen Barton – designated hitter).

· Richie Martin became the first freshman starting shortstop for Florida since Nolan Fontana (2010) began a three-year run at the position.

· Redshirt freshman Cory Reid started in right field for the Gators as the first rookie outfielder in game one since Josh Adams played in center field in 2008.

· A freshman has now been in the starting lineup on Opening Night during all six years of Kevin O’Sullivan’s tenure.

· The 4-3 loss for Florida was its first loss in a season/home opener since 2007, when the Gators dropped a 5-3 decision to VMI.

· The loss also snapped a 12-game winning streak Florida had against ACC opponents. Before tonight, UF’s last setback to an ACC foe came in Tallahassee to Florida State on April 12, 2011 (3-1).

· The Blue Devils have now taken three of the four all-time meetings against the Gators.

· Justin Shafer scored the first Gator run of the 2013 season after Cory Reid knocked him in with a two-out single in the second inning. The hit was also Reid’s first of his career.

· Shafer’s hit in the second inning also extended his current hitting streak to seven games dating back to last season.

· Final line for starting pitcher Jonathan Crawford was 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB and 4 K’s. The total of four strikeouts was his most in one outing since striking out five batters against NC State in last year’s NCAA Gainesville Super Regional on June 10, 2012.

· Ryan Harris was able to pick off a Duke runner to end the top of the sixth inning Friday night. The Gators only had one pickoff all of last season.

· Bader’s first career hit came on a single in the bottom of the sixth inning. It also broke a string of 10-consecutive batters retired by Duke starting pitcher Trent Swart.

· In the bottom of the sixth inning, Vickash Ramjit sent a sacrifice fly into center field, scoring Bader to tie the game at 2-2. Ramjit’s at-bat lasted eight pitches.

· Corey Stump’s strikeout in the top of the eighth inning was his first strikeout of his career.

· In the bottom of the eighth inning, freshman Richie Martin dropped a single down the right field line for his first collegiate hit.

· UF used six pitchers in Friday’s contest (Crawford, Gibson, Harris, Stump, Kish and Young).

· Shafer’s two doubles on the night tied a career-high for the sophomore. His last two-double outing came against Kent State in the College World Series last year on June 18, 2012.

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