Gators breeze past Bulls for midweek win
Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 9:02 p.m.
In the grand scheme of a long baseball season, these midweek games the Florida Gators have struggled with so really haven’t carried much weight or importance.
But this one was different. Very different.
This Tuesday night game against an in-state rival was about getting back in the right frame of mind, about regaining momentum — about moving past those two discouraging losses to Vanderbilt last weekend and getting ready for the biggest SEC series of the season.
It was a big-game feel for the No. 8 Gators, and they treated their 8-2 domination of South Florida at McKethan Stadium like a big-time win.
Just what UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan was looking/hoping for.
“We talked about that today,” O’Sullivan said. “We need to learn to understand that very shortly here, there’s going to be games being played where if you lose, this season is over. We need to play with a little more urgency.
“I don’t want them to think they just need to turn the switch on in the regional or on Thursday night. We needed to start doing this now. We need to play every game like it’s our last.
“We needed to play with some urgency and intensity and not come into this game like we have in some midweek games kind of flat. We needed to try and show that.”
The Gators accomplished their goal thanks to great production out of the top of the lineup and an excellent, shutdown performance by the bullpen, which held the Bulls (25-27) scoreless over the last seven innings.
The top three hitters in the lineup — Casey Turgeon, Richie Martin and Harrison Bader — produced six of the Gators’ 11 hits, scored six runs and drove in three.
The big hit was a three-run double by Bader in a five-run second inning that gave UF a commanding 6-2 lead.
From there, the bullpen took care of things, with four relieves shutting down the Bulls on four hits and striking out four. The bullpen ace was Kirby Snead, who was close to flawless in his 3.1 innings of work, giving up only three hits and striking out two.
“It was a good night (for the top of the order),” O’Sullivan said. “Richie was good offensively, running the bases extremely well. Bader had a really good night as well. His hit was the big hit of the night.
“Kirby Snead was outstanding on the mound. Overall, it was a good night. This was an important game for us to kind of gain some momentum going into the weekend.”
The Gators now shift their focus on trying to clinch the SEC title this weekend in Knoxville, where they end the regular season with a three-game series against the Vols.
Heading into the final weekend, UF (19-8 in conference play) has a two-game lead over Ole Miss in the overall SEC standings and a three-game lead over Vanderbilt and South Carolina in the Eastern Division.
Ole Miss plays a three-game series at Texas A&M this weekend, while Vandy and USC faceoff for three games in Nashville.
The Gators now have something they lost last weekend against Vanderbilt.
“It was big to get this win and keep it rolling into this weekend, and get the ring,” Snead said. “This definitely gives us some momentum. We’ll be good now.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.