Gainesville, FL - No. 20 Florida (2-1) overcame a 3-0 deficit with a four-run second and a three-run fifth en route to an 8-5 win over Maryland (1-2) to claim the rubber game of the teams’ series on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The game was shortened to eight innings due to the Terps’ travel schedule. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club has now captured all seven season-opening series in his tenure.
Junior Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) (1-for-3) snapped a 3-3 tie with a two-run single and also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Sophomore Eric Hanhold (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (1-0) notched his first career triumph by tossing three scoreless innings, while junior Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.) collected his first career save by having UMD senior Blake Schmit (2-for-5) ground out to end the game with a pair of runners aboard. The Gators drew a season-high nine walks.
Maryland plated three runs on three hits in the opening frame against redshirt junior right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.). Junior Charlie White led off the game with a walk, was sacrificed to second by freshman Brandon Lowe and scored on a two-out RBI single into left field by sophomore Kevin Martir (2-for-5). Schmit followed with a run-scoring double into left center field and sophomore Anthony Papio (2-for-2) walked before freshman Mike Rescigno had a ground-rule double that brought home Schmit.
The Gators answered in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Gushue to get on the scoreboard. Sophomore Richie Martin (Brandon, Fla.) (2-for-3) and freshman Ryan Larson (Orlando, Fla.) opened with consecutive walks from sophomore righty Jared Price (0-1) and moved into scoring position on a swinging bunt by sophomore Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.). Gushue’s fly ball went to the warning track in right field.
Florida erupted for four runs on three walks, two hits and a hit batter in the second to seize a 5-3 lead. Martin lofted a bases-loaded sac fly into center to bring home junior Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.), who had drawn a leadoff walk, and Turgeon tied the game by being plunked by freshman reliever Jake Drossner with the bases full. Gushue moved the Gators in front by stroking a two-run single through the left side of the infield.
UF tallied three runs in the fifth, highlighted by RBI doubles from freshman A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and Martin, to build an 8-3 advantage. Junior Braden Mattson (San Antonio, Texas) started the inning with his second walk of the contest and came around on Puk’s first career RBI. With two down, Martin rifled a double down the left-field line that plated Puk, stole third and scored on a fielding error on the relay throw.
After Hanhold had three scoreless innings in relief of Whitson, Maryland pulled within 8-4 in the sixth on a run-scoring grounder by Lowe. Junior Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) struck out the first two batters of the eighth before yielding a double to Lowe and a single to sophomore LaMonte Wade. An infield RBI single by Martir reduced the Terps’ deficit to three runs and Harris came out of the bullpen to complete the contest.
Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan:
On battling after a rough start today and getting the series victory:
“There were a lot of positive things to pull out from today like there were yesterday and the bottom line is that we have a series win. We knew Maryland was a quality opponent; we had a chance to get Karsten (Whitson) back on the mound - it’s been an awfully long time. He was one pitch away from getting out of the first (inning) and other than that there were a lot of quality pitches he threw. As a staff, the first few games, we made numerous 0-2 mistakes and we’ll talk about that. But, other than that one pitch, I thought he threw the ball well. I wasn’t really sure on what his pitch count was going to be, I just know that he had made a lot of stressful pitches there in the first two innings and I wanted him to leave on a good note. It was really good to get him back out there.”
“I thought (Eric) Hanhold kept things kind of at bay but you have got to credit Maryland hitters; they were scrappy. They were hard to strike out and they competed obviously, all the way to the last out of the game there. (Justin) Shafer came in there and did a nice job and obviously Ryan (Harris) did a nice job. I was really pleased with our offense today. I thought we swung the bat much better; we only got seven hits but we did hit a lot of balls hard, our offense was better but there’s obviously a lot of room for improvement.”
On how Taylor Gushue’s big hit that started things off for Florida:
“We were looking for that big hit, and that (Gushue’s single to left field in the second inning) was obviously a big hit at that point in the game. Like I said, I was pleased with how A.J. (Puk) swung the bat - I think we had four freshmen in the lineup today. Braden Mattson was a new addition and I thought he had a good day at the plate as well. We put a lot of younger guys in there; I think inevitably we knew we would get a lot of these freshmen in there. After yesterday’s game, where it was kind of stale offensively, we thought that we needed to get some of those new guys in there.”
Sophomore shortstop Richie Martin:
On coming back after being down early:
“We fell down 3-0 in the first inning, but we bounced right back and scored a run right there. We swung the bats well and it was a great team win. It was great to get the series.”
Opening Series by the Numbers:
· Dating back to 2002, the Gators hold a 12-1 (.923) record in opening series at home.
· In Kevin O’Sullivan’s tenure, the Gators have swept Siena (2008), Louisville (2009) and USF (2010 & 2011) and captured two of three from Cal State Fullerton (2012), Duke (2013) and Maryland (2014).
· After making his collegiate debut as the Gators’ designated hitter on Opening Night, freshman Peter Alonso drew his first start at third base.
· Junior Braden Mattson started for the first time at Florida in right field and was 1-for-2 with two walks and scored twice.
· Over the three games, 10 Gator newcomers saw their first action for the Orange and Blue.
On the Mound:
· Starting for the first time since May 26, 2012, redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson gave up four hits and three runs, with two strikeouts and two walks, over two innings.
· Sophomore RHP Eric Hanhold gave the Gators a solid 3.0-inning stint out of the bullpen to collect his first collegiate victory.
· Junior RHP Justin Shafer scattered six hits over 2.2 innings, with four strikeouts and a couple of runs.
· Junior RHP Ryan Harris joined sophomore LHP Danny Young with saves on opening weekend.
· Sophomore Richie Martin was a team-best .455 (5-for-11), with four runs, three RBI and a pair of doubles in today’s game.
· Junior Taylor Gushue drove in a team-high five RBI and was 4-for-11 (.364).
· Junior RHP Ryan Harris had two appearances in which he did not allow any hits or runs.
· With today’s win, Florida has taken three of its five meetings with Maryland.
The Gators continue their season-opening homestand on Tuesday by welcoming UCF to McKethan Stadium for a 7 p.m. start.