Maddox's new slider on display in UF baseball win


Florida pitcher Austin Maddox pitches during the second game of opening weekend against Cal State Fullerton, at McKethan Stadium on Saturday. The Gators beat the Titans 5-2.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 7:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 7:40 p.m.

Austin Maddox has a new slider and if his first effort with it is any indication, Florida's pitching staff may be even better than everyone thought it would be.

Facts

Sunday's game

Who: No. 16 Cal State Fullerton (0-2) at No. 1 Florida (2-0)
When: 1 p.m.
Radio: 103.7 FM

Maddox pitched four innings of one-hit ball in relief of Karsten Whitson, and freshman Taylor Gushue again came through with a big hit as top-ranked Florida beat No. 16 Cal State Fullerton 5-2 in the second game of the three-game opening series Saturday.

Maddox, expected to be Florida's closer this season, switched from a two-seam slider to a four-seam slider with the help of Florida reliever Steven Rodriguez.

“I feel like I can throw it harder,” Maddox said.

He needed only 44 pitches to dispatch the Titans and hold on to the lead. Maddox struck out three and allowed only Anthony Hutting's two-out double in the ninth.

“He's not a one-inning pitcher,” said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. “I felt like it would be a low-scoring game, and the sixth and seventh innings would be the most important of the game.

“He's a starting type of guy with a closer's mentality. You kind of know what you are going to get with Austin.”

Maddox replaced Whitson, who allowed two runs in five innings. Whitson was bailed out of a bases-loaded situation in the second inning by a double play, one of two the Gators turned in the game.

“I didn't have my best stuff,” said the sophomore. “I just wanted to go as hard as I could go for as long as I could go. I got the two double plays using my sinker, and that's something I'll take away from this game.”

Cal State Fullerton (0-2) jumped on Whitson for a run in the first and another in the third, as the pitcher gave up three doubles in the first three innings.

And for those first three innings, the Gators (2-0) could do little with Titans starter Grahamm Wiest. But as a crowd of 4,951 watched, Florida finally struck in the bottom of the fourth.

After Daniel Pigott singled, Preston Tucker hit a squib shot to third and beat the throw to first. Catcher Mike Zunino, last year's SEC Player of the Year, followed with a single to cut the Fullerton lead to 2-1.

That brought up Gushue, the early enrollee with a smile from foul line to foul line. He ripped an 0-2 pitch down the right-field line for a triple to give Florida the lead.

“Early in the at-bat, I was pulling off balls,” he said. “I finally relaxed and he left a change-up up. I just put a good swing on it, and it fell in thank goodness.”

In his college debut Friday night, Gushue homered on the first pitch he saw and spent the night answering 50 or so text messages from friends and former high school teammates.

“I'm really happy. I couldn't ask for anything more,” Gushue said. “It's a little bit (surreal). At first, it's not as real as you think it is, but it's starting to get more concrete.”

While Maddox was shutting down the Titans on one hit, the Gators were able to add an insurance run in the eighth. Nolan Fontana had his first hit of the young season, was sacrificed to second and scored on Tucker's single up the middle.

Tucker has three RBIs in the two games and needs four more to tie Brad Wilkerson's career mark.

Brian Johnson, who sat out Saturday's game, will start today as Florida tries to sweep the series. Freshman left-hander Kenny Matthews will go for the Titans.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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