Rhodes goes distance, one-hits Missouri to take series
Published: Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 2:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 6:25 p.m.
When Aaron Rhodes walked the first Missouri batter he faced Saturday, Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan wasted little time getting to the mound.
Who: Missouri (19-23, 6-14) at Florida (29-15, 14-6)
When: 1 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
His message was simple — bear down.
“You can lose a game in the first inning as easily as the ninth,” O'Sullivan told the sophomore pitcher.
To say Rhodes regained his focus would be an understatement. He allowed only two more base runners the rest of the way during a complete-game one-hitter as he pitched No. 6 Florida to a 5-0 win over Missouri in the second game of the series between the SEC opponents.
“I don't know when the last time was that I pitched a complete game,” Rhodes said. “Probably back to high school.”
Rhodes (5-2) has been pressed into a starter's role (it was his third straight start of the year) as O'Sullivan has searched to find three strong weekend starters. Prior to that, he had been used in relief. On Saturday, he lowered his ERA to 2.08.
“When you're a reliever, there is a sense of urgency,” O'Sullivan said. “When you're a starter, there is a tendency to want to pace yourself. I just told him (after the leadoff walk) to go as hard as you can for as long as you can.”
It turned out to be all day. After the walk to Eric Anderson to start the game, Rhodes struck out the next three batters. He finished with six strikeouts (two in the ninth) and got 10 batters on lazy fly balls to the outfield. He retired the last 18 Missouri batters of the game.
The only Missouri hit was a double down the right-field line by Dillon Everett with two outs in the second inning. The complete game was Florida's first of the season.
“In my mind, I knew I had only given up one hit,” Rhodes, who threw 102 pitches, said. “But he earned it. I thought I threw a good pitch.
“I just kept pitching to contact, try to keep my pitch count down and go as long as I could.”
The win allowed Florida to match its win totals overall and in SEC play from a year ago just 44 games into the season.
UF is now 29-15, 14-6 in the SEC and remains alone at the top of the conference. Missouri is 19-23 and 6-14. Florida assured itself of taking its third straight SEC series and will go for the sweep at 1 p.m. today.
Florida opened the scoring in the second inning for the second straight game. After Taylor Gushue singled, Braden Mattson hit a grounder to second and Shane Segovia's throw pulled first baseman Kendall Keeton off the base.
Zack Powers followed by hitting into a double play, but a run scored.
Errors also helped Florida score twice in the fifth. With two runners on and one out, UF freshman John Sternagel hit a hopper to third base for an apparent double play. Mizzou third baseman Ryan Howard stepped on the bag, but threw wildly to first.
Buddy Reed never stopped running and scored all the way from first on the play. The throw home also got away, allowing Sternagel to go to third. Casey Turgeon's single made it 3-0.
“If there was one key at-bat, that would have been it, Turgeon's single to give us a three-run lead,” O'Sullivan said.
The Gators scored two more runs in the seventh, including a Powers solo shot to right, for the final margin. The Gators won despite hitting into five double plays in the game, two of them on liners to right with the runner going from first base.
In two games against Missouri, which came into the weekend last in the conference in scoring and batting average, Florida pitchers have allowed one run on seven hits.
Note: Rhodes' complete-game shutout was the first for a Gator since Jonathon Crawford did so against Ole Miss on March 30 of last year.