Friday February 20, 2009No. 23 Baseball Downs No. 8 Louisville, 6-3, To Kick Off Campaign
Behind a seven-inning stint and a career-high seven strikeouts by senior right-hander Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.), No. 23 Florida enjoyed a successful 2009 debut with a 6-3 victory over eighth-ranked Louisville on Friday night at McKethan Stadium in front of a crowd of 4,403 fans. Junior Billy Bullock (Balm, Fla.) closed the game with a pair of scoreless innings to notch his first career save. Holding a slim 4-3 lead in the seventh, UF tacked on two insurance runs to capture its opener for the sixth time in the past eight years.
“Our coaches did a really good job with the scouting reports,” second-year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Part of our offensive approach is hitting with two strikes. The four-run lead took the pressure off and helped Patrick (Keating) settle in. We have told him that he doesn’t need to do any more than he’s capable of. We had him on a 75-pitch count expecting to get five innings out of him and we got seven. He threw around 10 pitches per inning; we can’t get much better efficiency than that.”
The Gators jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the home part of the first against junior All-American Justin Marks (5.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 K). Senior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) led off by being hit by a pitch and sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) singled down the left-field line for runners on the corners with one down. Senior Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) rifled a two-run triple into left center to open the scoring and freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) delivered a sacrifice fly in his first career plate appearance for a three-run cushion.
“It felt good to drive in two runs against a quality pitcher,” McArthur said. “We just did what our team strategy is: keep battling, put the ball in play and take long at bats. I got a little teary-eyed tonight with this being my last opening day. I love it here at the University of Florida and I love the game of baseball. There was a great crowd tonight supporting us and it was a positive opener for us.”
UF extended its advantage to 4-0 in the second helped by a balk and a fielding error. Sophomore Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) opened the frame with a base-hit and took second on a groundout by junior Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.). Cooper was called out attempting to steal third, only to have the home plate umpire call a balk on Marks. Soon after, junior Mike Mooney’s (Loxahatchee, Fla.) grounder was misplayed by senior shortstop John Dao to score Cooper.
The Cardinals cut UF’s lead in half during the fourth for a 4-2 deficit. Held hitless through three at bats by Keating, junior Andrew Clark doubled to center field to start things off. Junior Chris Dominguez went down swinging on strikes but an error enabled him to reach base and Clark to occupy third. Sophomore Phil Wunderlich put the visitors on the board with a single to center and Jeff Arnold followed with an RBI grounder. However, Keating retired the final two Louisville batters to strand Wunderlich at second base to end the inning.
With two down in the seventh, junior Adam Duvall clubbed an 0-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers to narrow the gap to 4-3. One batter earlier, Keating had established a career high with his seventh strikeout by setting down freshman Ryan Wright. Keating departed after seven full innings in which he scattered four hits and was charged with a couple of earned runs. Another plus was that the 2008 first-team All-SEC hurler did not issue any walks.
“Although you never know what to expect on Opening Night, we had a plan,” Keating said. “We attacked early and that worked tonight. Hopefully, it will also work for the future. I am very happy that we were able to pick up this first win.”
The Gators answered with two runs on three hits in the bottom of the seventh to build a 6-3 lead. Munroe collected his initial hit of the campaign off sophomore reliever Gabriel Shaw with one down and Mooney drew a walk to prompt a pitching change. With sophomore southpaw Bob Revesz on the hill, both runners moved into scoring position on a passed ball by Arnold. Barnes came through with a clutch RBI single on a 3-2 offering to provide the hosts with a 5-3 lead, then junior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) legged out an infield hit to drive home Mooney with the sixth run.
Florida held an 8-6 advantage in hits, as Adams went 2-for-4 and scored a run. Clark led the Cardinals with a 3-for-4 outing and Wunderlich was 2-for-3. Freshman left-hander Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) will make his collegiate debut on the mound in tomorrow’s second game of the series at 1 p.m. against UL sophomore Dean Kiekhefer, who was 1-1 with a 4.88 earned run average last season.
· Gator men’s basketball head coach Billy Donovan threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
· Florida opened its 95th season of baseball with a first-pitch strike at 6:37 p.m.
· UF improved to 54-40-1 (.574) overall in season openers, including a 34-20-1 (.627) record in Gainesville.
· After being hit by just one pitch last season, Avery Barnes led off Florida’s season at the plate by taking a 2-2 first-inning pitch in the square of the back.
· Brandon McArthur’s two-run triple in the first was his first triple since the senior recorded a three-bagger against Vanderbilt on May 15 of last year. The redshirt-senior has tripled in back-to-back opening day games.
· Florida’s three runs in the first were the most first-inning runs scored by the Orange and Blue on opening day since the Gators tallied five runs against Gardner-Webb in 2004.
· The Gators and Cardinals met for the first time on the diamond since a two-game series in March of 2000, where the teams split the series.
· Mike Mooney knocked in the first run of his career in the bottom of the second.
· Tonight’s game versus Louisville marked the first time since 2001 versus No. 4 Miami (Fla.) that UF opened its season against a ranked opponent.
· The Orange and Blue improved its record to 60-25 (.706) all-time versus the Big East.
· Preston Tucker recorded his first-collegiate hit in the bottom of the sixth.
· Patrick Keating gave up a career-low four hits in the start.
· In his two opening day games under Coach O’Sullivan, Avery Barnes is 3-for-6 (.500) with three runs and two RBI, while Josh Adams is 4-for-9 (.444) with two RBI, two runs and a stolen base.
· McArthur has recorded a hit in four-straight opening-season games.