Gator baseball's spell over Bulls ends


Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 10:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 10:30 p.m.

For the first half of Tuesday night’s game, South Florida starter Matt Reed kept lobbing opportunity after opportunity up to the Florida hitters. Quite literally.

Facts

Wednesday

Who: Bethune-Cookman at Florida
When: 7 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850

But the hard-swinging Gators could not find a way to turn the lobs — pitches of 70 miles per hour or less — into line drives.

It created a frustrating early trend for No. 5 Florida that the Gators could never reverse in a 5-3 loss to the Bulls at McKethan Stadium that ended USF’s 12-game losing streak in the series.

“It was just one of those night where we couldn’t get things going offensively,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Matt Reed did a nice job.

“We had 13 fly-ball outs and we struck out four times. Seventeen of 27 outs were fly balls or strikeouts. When you work with only 10 quality outs, it’s hard to score runs.”

Despite the game-long problems at the plate, the Gators had a chance to pull the game out in the ninth inning. But with two outs and the bases loaded, UF star Mike Zunino, who hit a two-run homer earlier in the game, grounded out to short to end the game.

“We put ourselves in position,” O’Sullivan said. “The whole goal was to see if we could get Tucker and Zunino up, and we did just that. We just didn’t do enough.”

While it was a frustrating midweek loss for UF (31-10), it was a tremendous victory for the Bulls (28-14), who last defeated the Gators in 2005.

“It was a great win, a huge win for us,” USF coach Lelo Prado said. “I’m so proud of this team, so glad for the seniors and I’m just glad for USF.This was a big win for our program and a big win for our guys, and I’m just happy for them.

“Oh my God, if this doesn’t help the resume, I don’t know what will. But we had a big win Sunday (against Louisville), should have won two out of three. So it was a huge win here today.”

Andrew Longley hit solo home runs in back-to-back at bats for the Bulls to spark USF offensively.

But it was Reed who set the tempo with his off-speed (and very slow) pitches. The Gator hitters were scoreless and clearly frustrated through the first five innings against the left-hander.

“We didn’t do what we needed to do early in the game and it showed,” UF shortstop Nolan Fontana said. “Going through the lineup once is one thing, but we didn’t make adjustments well enough to produce runs. We were jumping out of our stances a little bit.

“We didn’t adjust regardless of who they threw. That was a big part of the game.”

The Gators finally got Reed in the sixth inning. Fontana led off with a home run to right and later in the inning, Zunino launched a two-run home run to left to tie the game 3-3.

But the lead lasted only minutes. After drawing a leadoff walk in the seventh, Alex Mendez would eventually score on a clutch two-out single by Jimmy Falla to put the Bulls back in front for good. Longley’s second home run in the eighth made it a 5-3 game.

“The turning point of the game was after we tied the game, we walked their leadoff hitter the next inning,” O’Sullivan said. “That changed the momentum of the game. We battled back and it had been a frustrating night, and the next thing you know you’re battling with a runner at first already.”

The Gators will have a chance to rebound tonight at McKethan Stadium against another in-state school, Bethune-Cookman. O’Sullivan said sophomore Karsten Whitson will get the start for UF.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com.

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