Midweek games in college baseball not only have a tendency to run long, they also can produce strange, unpredictable results, with relative unknowns coming off the bench or out of the bullpen to play prominent roles.
Central Florida’s 12-9 win over Florida certainly featured all of the above Wednesday night before 3,167 at McKethan Stadium.
We’ll start with the brothers McMullen — Kirby and Hunter, Gators you usually don’t see on the weekend. These two took center stage and were the focal point in a four-hour plus marathon matchup with the Knights.
In the fifth inning, Kirby McMullen came off the bench to play the hero, launching a two-out, pinch-hit grand slam home run to give the Gators an 8-7 lead.
“I was definitely pretty excited,” said McMullen, a junior who’s mostly been a pitcher in his UF career and had only nine at-bats coming into the season. “It was my first home run here at the University of Florida.
“It was really exciting for me, but also getting the team back in the ball game.”
The feel-good moment didn’t last.
In the seventh inning, younger brother Hunter McMullen came out of the bullpen and gave up a home run to UCF’s Brandon Hernandez that gave the Knights a 9-8 lead.
The brothers McMullen stuff was a little different.
But what was really strange is the way the Knights put the game away in a three-run ninth inning.
UCF scored on a wild pitch on a strikeout by closer Jordan Butler, put up another run on a steal of home by Matthew Mika, and then another on a throwing error on the play by Butler.
All and all, a strange and unpredictable night, even for a midweek game.
“It just wasn’t a very clean game,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Unfortunately, you’re going to see these type of things when we have a young team.
“We started five freshmen in the lineup and a freshman on the mound (Ben Specht). You’re going to make these mistakes. We made too many young mistakes. I’m going to have to do a better job helping these young pitchers understand the running game.”
The young guys pretty much looked clueless trying to hold runners. As a result, the Knights stole five bases, including home in the ninth.
That last steal came against a veteran in Butler, but O’Sullivan was not blaming his pitcher for that one.
“The effort to get the ball was disappointing,” O’Sullivan said. “You’ve still got to play hard no matter what happens. I looked at the tape of it. I can’t tell if any of the infielders yelled, ‘They’re he goes, they’re stealing.’
“We talk about communication on the infield all the time. It’s a culmination of things that led to that play. If it’s going to happen, you’re rather it happen now and learn from it.”
Overall, it was a very shaky performance by the young Gators.
UF committed four errors, hit two batters and could not prevent the Knights from making things happen once they got on base.
The result was another disappointing midweek loss that drops the Gators to 6-4 on the season.
“The bottom line is we got exposed on the mound with a lot of young pitchers,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve got to do a better job of holding runners. Obviously, got taught a lesson, all these young pitchers.
“We talked about holding runners. We’ve got to do a better job. And some young pitchers weren’t able to put any zeroes on the board. (UCF) scored in six consecutive innings. We’ve got to learn from it and get better from it.”
Who: Winthrop vs. Florida
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: McKethan Stadium
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM