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Friday March 14, 2014Florida Baseball Holds Off Arkansas, 2-1, To Claim SEC Opener

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida freshman right-hander Logan Shore (Coon Rapids, Minn.) (1-1) allowed one run over 6.1 innings and sophomore Aaron Rhodes (Venice, Fla.) registered a career-high six strikeouts and retired all seven Arkansas hitters that he faced in a 2-1 Gator victory on Friday night in the SEC opener for both squads. In winning its sixth-consecutive game, UF improved to 6-1 (.857) under Kevin O’Sullivan in league openers.

 

The Gators grabbed a 1-0 lead in the opening frame against junior left-hander Jalen Beeks (3-2) on an RBI grounder by freshman Peter Alonso (Tampa, Fla.). Sophomore Richie Martin (Brandon, Fla.) had led off with a single into right field, was sacrificed to second by junior Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) and went to third on a balk before scoring on Alonso’s ground ball to third base.

 

Arkansas answered in the second inning with a two-out RBI single by freshman Clark Eagan. Redshirt junior Eric Fisher had drawn a one-out walk from Shore, swiped second base and came home on Eagan’s single into left field. However, Eagan was thrown out at second base trying to stretch his hit into a double by junior Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.).

 

The Hogs loaded the bases with two down in the third but Shore retired junior Krisjion Wilkerson on a comebacker to the mound. Florida seized a 2-1 advantage in the bottom of the frame on an RBI grounder by Turgeon. Freshman John Sternagel (Rockledge, Fla.) had started things off with a base-hit into left field and freshman Buddy Reed (Finksburg, Md.) blooped a double into shallow center field. With one out, Turgeon plated Sternagel with a grounder to shortstop.

 

Florida filled the bags in the fourth on a single by Braden Mattson (San Antonio, Texas) (2-for-4) and walks to Shafer and Sternagel. However, Beeks kept UA’s deficit at 2-1 with an inning-ending strikeout.

 

In the fifth, a two-out single by Alonso and a double by junior Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) (2-for-4) ended the night for Beeks (4.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 K). Freshman Zach Jackson kept the Gators scoreless with an inning-ending strikeout.

 

Arkansas threatened in the seventh, as senior Jake Wise (2-for-4) and sophomore Bobby Wernes (2-for-3) had consecutive one-out singles to prompt a pitching change. Junior Bobby Poyner (Wellington, Fla.) came in for Shore (6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 5 K, 2 BB) and a fielder’s choice by freshman Andrew Benintendi gave the Hogs a pair of runners in scoring position. Rhodes preserved the Gators’ lead with a strikeout of junior Brian Anderson and proceeded to strike out the side in the eighth. Rhodes nailed down his second save with a clean ninth that featured two strikeouts.

 

Postgame Quotes

Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan

On today’s SEC-opening win:

“I thought this was probably the best game we’ve played all year. The dugout was outstanding, and from the first to the last pitch of the game we got a really, really good start from Logan Shore. That might have been the best start we’ve had in a couple of years, and for him to be a freshman and do that against a really good Arkansas team, it shows a lot of poise and it shows a lot of maturity. Bobby Poyner came in and did his job, left on left. And, what can you say about the job Aaron Rhodes did? He struck out six of the seven guys he faced. The pitching was outstanding.”

 

“I know we only scored two runs but I thought the at-bats were outstanding tonight. We knocked a Friday night starter out in the fifth inning. We knew that we were in for a tough ballgame with (Arkansas starting pitcher Jalen) Beeks - he’s a veteran, he’s a junior, and he’s pitched in this league. Then, we faced another freshman - Zach Jackson and he’s 92 to 95, with a good breaking ball and showed a changeup, and I thought our bats there were good.”

 

“Overall, the at-bats were very competitive tonight against really good pitching. So, from a pitching standpoint, an offensive standpoint, and a defensive standpoint, we played about as clean a game as we have all year.”

 

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue

On getting the win tonight:

“It was good to get the first one like this. It was a tight game, but the pitchers threw unbelievably well. It’s all we can ask of those guys. We’ll come back tomorrow and hopefully get the series win.”

 

On sophomore pitcher Aaron Rhodes:

“He was on his game tonight. From start to finish, he was aggressive and throwing everything for strikes. That was pretty much unhittable stuff.”

 

On freshman pitcher Logan Shore:

“I think the strikeouts might have boosted his confidence a little bit and pushed him further into the game. He just carved it up tonight. He did such a good job. For a freshman to come out in his first SEC game and carve it up like that is unbelievable. It was all working tonight. Any pitcher that has all his stuff working is usually pretty hard to hit, so it was good.”

 

Sophomore right-hander Aaron Rhodes

On his pitching tonight:

“I felt really good. I had a lot of adrenaline. Sully told me just to come in, and the plan tonight for every hitter was to spin it for a strike. I fell behind one guy I think on a slider, but I came right back with it and eventually got him.”

 

On the play of John Sternagel and Buddy Reed:

“Everyone needs to contribute, and John Sternagel and Buddy Reed did exactly what they needed to do. Sternagel led off the inning with a hit, and Buddy followed him up with another hit. All around, I thought it was a good win.”

 

Friday Night Notables

·         The Gators improved to 6-4 in their last 10 games against Arkansas

·         UF is now 15-10 all-time at home against the Razorbacks.

·         Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan improved to 6-1 in SEC openers

Winning Ways

·         Florida has now won six-straight games, its longest winning streak since they took eight in-a-row April 7-20, 2013

·         UF’s five-game home winning streak is its longest since eight in-a-row from March 30-April 27, 2013

·         The Gators have won 7 of their last 8 contests

·         Florida has had four of their last five games decided by one run, winning all four contests

·         The Gators improved to 5-1 in one-run games this season.

Fresh Face

·         RHP Logan Shore earned his first career win, holding the Razorbacks to 1ER on 7H in 6.1IP (2BB, 5K)…allowed just his second earned run of the season in the second inning…snapped his scoreless streak at 9.0 innings.

·         Gator starters over the team’s current 6-game winning streak: 1.30 ERA (48.1IP, 24H, 7ER)…UF improved to 6-1 this season when its starter throws at least 5.0 innings.

At the Plate

·         Sophomore shortstop Richie Martin went 1-for-3 with a walk and has now reached base safely in 17 of 18 games this season…has scored a team-high 18R in 18 games.

·         Junior catcher Taylor Gushue (2-for-4) collected 2 more doubles tonight, giving him a team-high 8 on the year.

·         Freshman John Sternagel (1-for-2) made his fourth start of the year, second at DH…singled to lead off the third and came around to score the eventual game-winning run go-ahead run…has scored 5R in 8G…reached base three times tonight (also 2BB).

 

Welcome Relief

·         RHP Aaron Rhodes retired all 7 batters he faced, striking out a career-high 6 – including each of his first five batters faced…fanned all three batters in the eighth inning looking. 

Up Next

The Gators and Hogs will play game two of the series at McKethan Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Jeff Cardozo and Steve Russell and will be carried on Fox Sports Florida with Nick Belmonte and Larry Vettel.

 

Follow the Gators

Live stats for each game are available on GatorZone.com and fans can also receive updates of each game on @GatorZoneBB, the official Twitter account of the Gator baseball team.

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