Florida powers past Tennessee in opener
Published: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 9:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 1:07 a.m.
In a game that was expected to be a battle of “small-ball” teams, Florida flipped the power switch to “on” Friday night.
Who: Tennessee (17-23, 5-14 SEC) at Florida (24-19, 11-8)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
Gainesville-area radio: 103.7 FM
The Gators blasted a season-high three home runs in handling Tennessee 7-2 in the opening game of a three-game series as 3,864 watched at McKethan Stadium.
“I haven't seen three balls go out of the park in awhile,” said UF sophomore Taylor Gushue, who had one of the homers. “That brought back some old memories.”
Florida is now 24-19 and 11-8 in the SEC. Tennessee is 17-23 and 5-14.
The Gators have now won 10 of their last 11 games, including eight straight at home. Florida has won 12 of the last 14 against Tennessee.
The game had a scary moment when Florida starter Danny Young was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of Vincent Jackson. Young was flat on his stomach for a couple of minutes before walking off the field under his own power. He was holding a towel to his mouth after suffering a cut to his lip and was taken to Shands Hospital for stitches.
“I think we dodged a bullet there,” Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “I think he's going to be all right.”
Before he was literally knocked out of the game, Young (3-3) gave Florida the start it needed with Jonathon Crawford unable to pitch. Crawford turned his left ankle in practice Thursday and is expected to pitch Saturday night.
“He probably could have pitched, but we didn't want to take any chances,” O'Sullivan said.
Young pitched a career-high 5 2/3 innings to register the win. He scattered six hits and was helped by two double plays turned by the Florida infield.
“Danny has a lot of fight in him,” Gushue said.
Justin Shafer started the power surge for the Gators by leading off the bottom of the second with his fourth homer of the year, a solo shot that barely climbed over the left-field wall over the glove of a leaping Jackson.
“I thought he caught it,” Shafer said. “Nobody was signaling anything. He got up there really high.”
In the third, the Gators rocked Tennessee starter Aaron Quillen (1-3). Richie Martin singled home a run, and after a single by Casey Turgeon, the hot-hitting Gushue drilled a three-run homer to right. It was his fifth of the year.
“I wanted to be aggressive,” Gushue said. “I wanted to go after the first strike I could handle, see it high and put a good swing on it.”
In the fifth inning, Turgeon hit a towering homer to right, tying Gushue for the team lead with his fifth of the year.
“It had a lot of backspin on it,” Turgeon said. “But it also had the (favoring) wind.”
Gushue followed with a double to left-center, and Shafer drove him home with his 17th double of the year to knock Quillen out of the game. Shafer leads the SEC in doubles.
“We've done a good job hitting with two strikes all year, but one area where we needed to improve was doing some damage in hitter's counts,” O'Sullivan said. “We did a good job.”
Young kept working out of trouble, including a misplayed line drive in center by Martin that gave Ethan Bennett a triple. The only inning where Young didn't allow a baserunner was his final inning. The ball that hit Young ricocheted to third baseman Josh Tobias, who threw out Jackson.
Aaron Rhodes got the final out of the sixth. He missed first base on a routine grounder to first in the seventh and gave up a high-bouncing double to Will Maddox. But after Rhodes struck out A.J. Simcox, Parker Danciu came in to get Scott Price on a grounder.
Danciu also pitched a scoreless eighth before giving way to Tucker Simpson, who gave up Tennessee's only runs in the ninth.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.