Gators struggle against Duke in opener
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 10:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 12:20 a.m.
For a team with a small margin for error, Florida made just enough mistakes to lose its season opener Friday night to Duke at McKethan Stadium.
There were two errors, two runners thrown out on the bases and — most importantly — two leadoff walks that triggered two-run innings for Duke (1-0) in its 4-3 win.
“It was a point of emphasis in the early part of the spring,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan of the walks to start the fourth and eighth innings. “We can’t do that. But it was the first game. We have 55 more.”
Mike Rosenfeld’s triple to center was the key hit in the eighth after Corey Stump started the inning by walking Jeff Kremer. With the infield drawn in, Jordan Betts’ hard smash to second was mishandled by Casey Turgeon, and Rosenfeld, who had three hits in the game, scored from third to make it 4-2.
Florida (0-1) rallied for a run in the bottom of the eighth on two singles and a botched pickoff attempt by Duke, but reliever Andrew Istler got Vickash Ramjit on a fly to right with two on to end the threat.
Istler pitched a perfect ninth to earn the save.
“There’s a lot of emphasis on opening night,” O’Sullivan said. “Everyone wants to play well and you want to win at home. But Duke outplayed us.
“Do we need to get better? Yeah. But if we were on the winning side I would have told you the same thing.”
On a chilly night, Florida set a school record for opening-night attendance with a crowd of 5,771. It was also the sixth largest crowd in school history.
Florida scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the second. After a pair of strikeouts by Duke starter Trent Swart, Justin Shafer hit a line drive that landed in center. The ball took a tricky hop to the right of center fielder Anthony D’Alessandro, and Shafer was able to turn the hit into a double.
After Josh Tobias was walked on four pitches, redshirt freshman Cory Reid blooped a single to right in his first Gator at-bat to score Shafer.
“It felt good,” Reid said. “I got it out of the way.”
Florida starter Jonathon Crawford made that stand until the fourth when he walked the leadoff batter and then gave up a two-run homer to Betts. The ball barely cleared the left-field fence, but Duke led 2-1.
Crawford left the game three batters later after throwing 74 pitches. He allowed three hits and struck out four.
Swart gave the Gators fits after Reid’s RBI single as he retired 10 straight Florida batters. But in the sixth, freshman Harrison Bader ended the drought by leading off with a single. He went to third on a hit-and-run single by Turgeon and scored on Ramjit’s sacrifice fly to tie the game.
Shafer doubled off the wall in right field with one out in the seventh, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.
“It’s just one game,” said reliever Ryan Harris, who pitched two scoreless innings. “We didn’t play our best, but we just have to get back out there (Saturday) and try to even the series.”
The two teams play again Saturday at 4 p.m.