Gators ride fast start to win over Ospreys

Florida's Justin Shafer drove in two runs with a home run in the first inning in Tuesday's win over North Florida.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer/File
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 9:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 9:46 p.m.
It took 22 games into the 2013 season, but the Florida Gators finally got a win from a starting pitcher. Freshman right-hander Tucker Simpson (1-1) tossed 5 2/3 solid innings and relievers Justin Shafer, Ryan Harris and Johnny Magliozzi combined to limit North Florida to one run on four hits the rest of the way as UF closed out its homestand with a 9-4 win over the Ospreys on Tuesday night before a McKethan Stadium crowd of 2,338. “It was an important game for us,” Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “Every game from this point forward is important. We've put ourselves in a situation where we've got to buckle down.”

Florida (10-12) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the first by Shafer, who started the game at designated hitter, but the Ospreys (15-7) cut the lead in half on a solo homer with one out in the top of the third by Corey Bass. After Simpson worked out of a tough jam in the top of the fourth when the first two UNF batters reached base on a walk and a single, sophomore Taylor Gushue smacked his first home run of the season leading off the bottom of the inning to make it 3-1 Gators. Reliever Jamie Cardwell, who took over in the third, proceeded to hit the next two batters and was replaced by Corbin Olmstead, and sophomore Josh Tobias smacked his first pitch for a single to left to load the bases with nobody out. Olmstead struck out senior Cody Dent, but sophomore Casey Turgeon came through with a sacrifice fly to center to extend the lead to 4-1 before Olmstead got freshman Harrison Bader on a called third strike to end the inning. Simpson was one out from getting through six innings with that lead intact but gave up back-to-back hits for the first time in the game after retiring the first two batters, giving way to Shafer on the mound. UNF's Paul Karmeris spoiled the strategy by doubling home both runners to make it a 4-3 game, but Shafer rebounded to strike out Peyton Walsh to keep UF in the lead. Florida then got a little breathing room in the seventh, scoring a pair of runs to go up 6-3. Dent drew a lead-off walk and Turgeon followed with a single. Bader then moved both runners up with a well-placed sac bunt, prompting the fourth pitching change of the night for the Ospreys. Left-hander Spencer Herrman's first pitch, however, was a wild one, allowing Dent to score, and Zack Powers followed with a ringing double to right to plate Turgeon. The Gators added three insurance runs in the eighth on an RBI single by Dent, a bases-loaded walk to Powers and a wild pitch before UNF scratched across a single run in the ninth on a two-out RBI triple by Bass, who was 3-for-4 to lead the Ospreys. Bader, who has a six-game hitting streak, and Gushue each had two hits to pace UF's nine-hit attack. Next up, UF travels to Nashville for a three-game SEC series with No. 2 Vanderbilt (19-2, 3-0) this weekend. “It's good to get this one to get a little bit of momentum going into Vanderbilt,” said Gushue, whose home run was his first of the season. “It was a good win. I felt like we put some good at-bats together as a team, got a great start from Tucker and the bullpen was filthy.” NOTES: The Gators came into the season with four junior pitchers, but that number is down to two as right-hander Keenan Kish, who was one of the top contenders for the No. 3 starter, is out for the season with a hip injury. UF previously lost junior right-hander Karsten Whitson, the projected No. 2 starter, just prior to the start of the year with shoulder issues.

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