Florida baseball blanks Maryland to open season

Florida's Peter Alonso (20) slides into home to score the first run of the season for the Gators during a 4-0 win over Maryland on Friday at McKethan Stadium.

Brad McClenny / Staff photographer
Published: Friday, February 14, 2014 at 9:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 14, 2014 at 9:25 p.m.

A year ago, Bobby Poyner wasn’t a part of opening night. On Friday night, he was the story of the first college baseball game of the season.

The junior, who was suspended at the start of last season, threw 5⅓ scoreless innings as Florida opened the season with a 4-0 win over Maryland.

“It’s crazy how things work out,” Poyner said.

Poyner missed the start of the 2013 season, but Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan couldn’t have been happier with the way the left-hander started this one.

“It’s a great story,” O’Sullivan said. “He just made some big pitches.”

Poyner struck out a career-high five batters and escaped a mess in the second inning. With runners on second and third and nobody out, he struck out two batters, issued an intentional walk and then struck out a third to end the inning.

It was a bit of a surprise when O’Sullivan tabbed Poyner, 3-3 last year, to be the opening night starter.

“I was not expecting the ball on Friday night,” Poyner said.

Florida’s first runs of the season were scored in the third inning where the hardest-hit ball was an out. Freshman Peter Alonso delivered a single to start the inning and Josh Tobias followed with a long drive to left that was caught at the fence. After a walk to freshman Buddy Reed and a single to left by shortstop Richie Martin, freshman Ryan Larson hit a nubber down the third-base line.

Maryland third baseman Jose Cuas tried to flip the ball to home with his glove, but catcher Kevin Martir couldn’t handle it as Alonso slid at the plate. When Alonso and Cuas became tangled behind the plate, the speedy Reed raced home to make it 2-0.

“I have a motto — never stop running,” Reed said. “My mom always told me that and the coaches here told me that, too.”

Reed, starting for the suspended Harrison Bader, also made a highlight-reel catch in center to end the fifth, sliding to grab a ball hit well over his head.

“I’ve been bragging on him for awhile,” O’Sullivan said. “You kind of saw a glimpse of how he plays the game.”

Taylor Gushue’s bloop single to center scored Martin to make it 3-0.

The Gators loaded the bases with three singles in the eighth inning and Gushue flew to deep left for his second RBI of the night.

“I give a lot of credit to their starter (Jake Stinnett),” O’Sullivan said. “The first couple of innings he’s throwing 90-94 (mph) and I was looking around and thinking, ‘Who does the scheduling?’

“But our at-bats need to get better.“

The Gators received efficient relief performances from Ryan Harris, who needed only 13 pitches to retire five batters, and Danny Young, who needed only 17 to retire the last six batters of the game for his first career save.

The shutout was the first on opening day for UF since 2006 against Cincinnati. The teams play again Saturday at 4 p.m.

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