Florida routs Long Beach State to open season

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Florida's Tyler Dyson (18) comes off the field after the first inning against Long Beach State at McKethan Stadium on Friday. [Cyndi Chambers/ Correspondent]

Florida opened its 2019 baseball season Friday with an 8-2 win over Long Beach State.

That was the good news.

Then there were also these bullet points.

* Two Florida errors.

* Nine walks by UF pitchers.

* And two hit batters.

* A passed ball to allow one run to score and a wild pitch for another.

* Three misplayed foul pop ups.

* And an 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position after the first inning.

“It was a weird game,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

Still, the No. 6 Gators prevailed in their season opener as a crowd of 4,851 watched at McKethan Stadium. Florida scored four runs in two different innings and five pitchers combined to allow Long Beach State only four hits in the game.

“It seemed like every out was a hard one,” O’Sullivan said.

The Gators put the game away in the seventh inning, needing only one hit to score the four runs. A balk brought home one run and the other three scored when Long Beach left fielder Calvin Estrada misplayed a shallow fly ball with the bases loaded and two out.

It was the sixth straight opening night win for the Gators. And it was the first game of a marathon, right?

“It was our first game,” said senior co-captain Nelson Maldonado. “I won’t think too much about it.”

Three UF players had two hits in the game — Brady McConnell, Maldonado and Wil Dalton, the team’s 2, 3 and 4 hitters.

For McConnell, his first-inning single was his first hit since sitting out all but nine games last season.

“It definitely felt good,” McConnell said. “I’ve been waiting for that for awhile.”

Florida took advantage of a favorable instant replay review in the first inning to jump all over Long Beach State. McConnell was called out trying to steal third, but it was overruled on review for being high and late.

Dalton then slapped a single up the middle to give Florida its first runs of 2019. Three batters later, sophomore Brady Smith singled just past the shortstop’s reach to score two more runs.

“That was huge,” said Maldonado, who walked in the inning. “Without that inning we probably would have struggled.”

Starter Tyler Dyson pitched in and out of trouble before leaving with one out in the fourth after his fourth walk of the game.

“He looked like he was trying to fight himself,” O’Sullivan said. “But it’s just the first game.”

Jordan Butler — who got the win — got one quick out, but a passed ball scored one run and wild pitch brought home another to make it 4-2.

“We had some miscommunication there,” O’Sullivan said.

Butler and freshman Ben Specht worked out of another jam in the sixth on a line-drive double play.

Another Florida freshman pitcher — Justin Alintoff — struck out three of the four batters he faced in the eighth. Freshman Kris Armstrong finished out the game with a scoreless ninth.

“I wish there was something to tell the players about (opening games) because the unexpected is really the expected,” O’Sullivan said. “We have so many new faces, it’s not surprising. We were able to overcome it.”

The Gators and Dirtbags play again today at 4 p.m.

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Jack, Carlton, Long Beach has a long, storied history as a powerhouse baseball program. The moniker “Dirt Bags” was attributed to their baseball program many years back due to their aggressive style of play. I think the school’s official nickname for all other sports remains “49ers”, but I guess the baseball team decided that “Dirt Bags” sounds cooler. I love it!! I was surprised that UF opened their season with these guys, but I know they aren’t taking them lightly. This Gator team is pretty young, but is deep on the mound.