Zack Powers hits two grand slams in UF win
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 4:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 18, 2013 at 10:07 a.m.
Florida’s bats finally found their rhythm Sunday afternoon as the 17th-ranked Gators exploded for 14 runs in their final three at-bats to turn a close game into a rout and take the rubber game of their season-opening series with Duke, 16-5, before a McKethan Stadium crowd of 3,581.
UF (2-1) more than doubled the seven combined runs it scored in splitting the first two games with the Blue Devils (1-2) and banged out 13 hits, more than the first two games (12) combined.
“We’d been kind of scraping by all weekend, so I was really pleased how we swung the bats in the sixth, seventh and eighth,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We needed that.”
Leading the way was redshirt sophomore Zack Powers, who stroked back-to-back grand slams in the seventh and eighth innings and finished the game with a career-high nine RBIs, just one short of the all-time Florida record.
“I’m just happy for him (Powers) in general,” O’Sullivan said. “His freshman year, he tore his meniscus and missed half a year, then last year, right before the season started, he hurts his labrum (torn) and missed the entire year. I’m just pleased he’s healthy and is contributing the way we knew he could.”
“It’s great to actually be back and playing,” said Powers. “To have a game like this is really special.”
Powers came up three straight times with the bases loaded and delivered on each occasion.
In the sixth with one out, he launched a long sacrifice fly to the warning track in right center that advanced all three runners and knotted the score at 3-all.
Sophomore Josh Tobias followed with a two-run, two-out bloop single to left center to give the Gators their first lead of the game, and senior Cody Dent followed with an RBI single to right to cap a four-run inning that put UF up 6-3.
Powers came up in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and the bases juiced and sent a 2-2 pitch over the right field fence for his first career grand slam to make it 10-3.
After the Blue Devils plated a pair of unearned runs in the top of the eighth to make it 10-5, Powers struck again in the bottom of the inning, launching another slam over the fence in right, this one on a 3-2 pitch, and the Gators plated two more runs before the inning was over to seal the deal.
Powers is just the second UF player to hit two grand slams in a game, joining ex-Gator great Preston Tucker who did it as a freshman in 2009.
Almost lost in UF’s offensive outburst was the pitching performance of sophomore Ryan Harris (1-0), the third of six Gator hurlers on the day. He tossed 2 2/3 innings of one-hit-shutout ball — his second solid relief outing of the series – to pick up the win.
“I’m just trying to throw strikes and let our fielders do their thing,” Harris said. “It’s a big, deep breath for everybody. We’ve got a young team and we did well.”
For the weekend, Harris allowed just two hits and no runs in 4 2/3 innings of relief.
“He was really good on Friday and really good today,” O’Sullivan said. “He competed and he threw the ball with conviction.”
Reliever Michael Matuella (0-1), the second of seven Duke pitchers, took the loss.
Powers and Dent each finished 2-for-3 at the plate to lead UF and were joined in multi-hit games by freshman shortstop Richie Martin, who was 2-for-4 and made the defensive play of the day in the top of third when he caught a fly ball while running flat out with his back to the infield just inside the left field line, reaching over his head to snare the ball despite a stiff breeze and rob Duke’s Jeff Kremer of an extra-base hit.
The Gators travel to Orlando to take on UCF (2-1) for their first road test of the year Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. before returning home to take on Georgia Southern (2-1) Wednesday at 7 p.m.