By Jim Harvin/Correspondent
The Florida Gators baseball team was more than ready for the 2020 campaign to begin.
They finally got their chance Friday and the result was an 9-2 win over Marshall in the season opener for both squads.
Junior starter Tommy Mace scattered eight hits over six innings with six strikeouts and the Gators came through with an 11-hit attack as UF won before a chilly McKethan Stadium crowd of 4,441.
Florida’s roster featured 15 newcomers, including 13 freshmen from a consensus top-three recruiting class.
“It’s opening night and there’s a lot of different things that happen,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I’ve seen guys that went in the first round struggle a little bit on the mound or you don’t hit like you think you’re going to hit. It’s just one of those things.
“You’ve just got to get through the first weekend. I thought we handled it well.”
Mace was solid and worked out of a couple of tough jams, and relievers Ben Specht and Nick Ficarrotta combined to toss three innings of relief without allowing a hit.
“I felt good,” Mace said. “I think we played well. It was opening night and everybody had some little jitters, but it was good.”
The Gators scored in the home half of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead on Kendrick Calilao’s two-out, RBI single that plated leadoff hitter Jud Fabian, who led off the at-bat with an infield hit.
Marshall tied things in the top of the third, but UF answered in the bottom of the inning on Cory Acton’s two-out single that scored senior Kirby McMullen, who had doubled to the gap in left center.
UF added a pair of runs in the fourth to extend the lead to 4-1, but Marshall added a single run in the fifth to make it 4-2 and had men on first and second with just one out.
After a visit from O’Sullivan, Mace responded by striking out clean-up batter Peter Hutzel on three pitches and then got Jordan Billups to hit into a force play at third to end the inning.
Florida added a single run in the sixth on a solo homer from freshman Josh Rivera to make it 5-2, then blew it open with a four-run seventh that was capped by sophomore first baseman Kris Armstrong’s three-run, no-doubt homer to deep right.
“It was a close game until the seventh inning and then we kind of broke it open,” McMullen noted. “We’ve got a good offense this year and we’re going to put some good at-bats together. We were able to do that in the seventh and put that four-spot on the board.”
Starter Wade Morris (0-1), the first of four Marshall pitchers, took the loss.
Fabian, Acton and designated hitter Nathan Hickey each had two hits in the UF win, while Marshall’s Gordon Blanton and Luke Edwards had two hits apiece.
The two teams return to play game two of a three-game series Saturday at 4 p.m.
SATURDAY PARKING INFORMATION
Due to the men’s basketball game versus Vanderbilt on Saturday, Feb. 15, the O’Connell Center lot will be closed off for basketball season ticket holders. Baseball fans may park in the O’Connell Center Parking Garage until full. The next parking option is in Garage 14 off Gale Lemerand Dr. Free shuttle services will be provided. Drop-off locations will be at Gate 2 of Exactech Arena for basketball, and at the Lemerand Center entrance on Stadium Rd. for baseball.