Liz Green, ESPN Radio
The Gators wrapped up the three game weekend decked out in their spiffy uniforms, with the fan count total for the weekend at 14,389 it was one of the best turnouts the Gators have had in a home opener. Cal State Fullerton won today's game 8-5.
Left handed pitcher #35 Big Brian Johnson started the game for the Gators. Johnson looked great as he pitched four shut out innings with a 75-pitch count. After shaking out all of the ants in his pants after the first inning, the strong junior had a pretty solid control over the ball, along with the help of catcher Mike Zunino for framing the pitch in the strike zone throughout the game. Johnson’s fastball was the go to pitch he used on Sunday. To start the day off for the Gators, Brian Johnson trotted out to the mound using the same music as Kenny Powers from “Eastbound and Down,” fitting the pitchers personality to the T. An Outstanding choice made by Brian himself, I’m sure. With the wind blowing out towards left field it was evident it would be difficult for the pitchers to keep their count low. Around 35 scouts sat behind home plate watching the 6’3, 235 lb junior as he took control of the ball game. The lefty got into his groove on the bump looking calm and comfortable. The scouts must have been pleased with Johnson’s performance on the mound yesterday afternoon.
The Titans started out with a lefty, freshman Kenny Mathews pitched a total of 47 pitches before Fullerton coaches made the first pitching change of the game.
The Gators bats were off to a great start scoring 2 runs in the second inning to grasp the lead over the Titans. Austin Maddox, who pitched on Saturday, (with a one hit shutout ball game for 4 innings) was up to bat for the Gators. With a runner on 1st Maddox Hit a line drive down the third base line for a double moving Zunino to third. #10 was placed in the line up yesterday because of the Titans lefty starter, not to say he wouldn’t be batting with a righty. This boy can pretty much hit anything you ask him to, from a strike zone to a parked car in the Gators lot.
Mike Zunino led off in the bottom half of the third knocking one into left field for a hit. The single made it Zunino’s seventh game hitting streak dating back to the College World Series.
In the bottom of the second Fullerton’s starting pitcher freshman, Kenny Mathews hit #18 Tyler Thompson and walked Turgeon to load the Bases for the Gators as Fontana was hit by a pitch to bring in the first run on of the day. Senior, Daniel Pigott was up to bat and got a hold of the ball sending it to center field for a two run single. At the end of the second the Gators took the lead 3-0. Fullerton decided to make their first pitching change of the Game bringing in #32 Koby Gauna RHP. The freshman standing at 6’2 threw 1/3 of an inning at Friday night’s game as well. The game seemed to drag on with dueling at bats. The pitchers were going pretty deep into the pitch count and Guana was very deliberate when throwing, I’m pretty sure everyone was worried the Titans weren’t going to make it to their flight on time!
As Johnson returned to the mound at the top of the third, someone in the Gator dugout was unhappy with the umps about the strike zone. Johnson threw a mix and match, in and out curve ball more than he used his change ups. He made the three up three down routine outs look easy for anyone in the stands.
The Gators were still 3-0 in the bottom of the third. Then Guana shut down the Gators throwing breaking ball after breaking ball. The Gators have struggled with this pitch throughout the entire series. Patience is a problem for most of the power hitters; getting anxious and swinging a little too early for the pitch. It has taken about two innings for the batter’s to adjust to the pitch before they can really get a piece of the ball. This left the Gators with four straight scoreless innings. The rest of the game the Gators had a difficult time bringing in some solid hits from the top of the Gators line up; including Veteran, Preston Tucker. Tucker says that things just didn’t happen today, it was frustrating but the timing was off.
During the 5th and 6th innings the Titans took advantage of their window of opportunity and scored four runs in each inning, moving through four of the Gators pitchers.
As soon as I heard the lyrics “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy,”play throughout the Mckethan stadium I just new Jonathon Crawford would be the first to go in after Johnson. This sophomore from Okeechobee, Fl. came into to pitch at the top of the 5th. This was the first outing for Crawford in the 2012 season. After not seeing too much of the bump his freshman season, O’Sullivan says that Crawford is one of the most improved players on the team. Sully also says, “Crawford didn’t do a terrible job today.” He thought his pitches looked good for the first time out and is confident that he will see the field again soon for some more game time. O’Sullivan is planning on starting the sophomore this Wednesday against UCF. Crawford has got the arm and the pitches; it is just a matter of taming the anxious pitcher, which comes with experience. Confidence will be key for this hometown Country boy.
The next pitcher from the Florida bullpen was sophomore Daniel Gibson, another Gator looking to gain more experience this season. “Gibby” has a mean breaking ball that was spinning on the inside part of the plate. This pitch left the Titans heads spinning as well. The Lefty threw ten pitches before Sully called down to the pen for senior lefty Greg Larson.
Then, Fullerton brought in switch hitter Keegan Dale, #5 to battle against Lefty Larson. Larson made the big K to finally get the Gators out of the inning. The boys in white and blue had a team discussion in the dugout before grabbing their bats. During the Gators next at bat the reliable Tuck was fired up for a comeback and hit the first pitch out of the gate to start off the bottom of the 5th with a stand up double. #25 was again stranded on base when Fullerton made the next three outs. After the fifth inning the Titan’s had made a comeback using their scrappy small ball techniques to get the job done. They led the Gators 4-3.
During the top of the sixth, Larson was throwing some heat with his 91 mph fastball. But, the wind was blowing hard towards left center field. Larson hit #11 to put a runner on 1st, that’s when Sully paced out to the mound getting his exercise in for the day, to make yet another change. The McKethan Stadium blared the song “Fuego” by Pitbull as Steven “Paco” Rodriguez came out fired up from the pen. The Titans must not have paid to much attention to the song, but maybe they should have. The lyrics sing “Well listen here Gangsta, don’t cross the line.” After, #17 for the Titans, lefty Lopez drilled the ball up the middle. This put Fullerton at a 5-3 advantage, the visitors made it apparent to Paco by chirping things from their dugout. Rodriguez must have felt they had really “crossed the line.” He threw his next pitch behind Kingsolver's back no question about it. The umps immediately ejected the Spicy Paco from the game. Apparently the tensions had been building all weekend long. Sully and Fullerton’s head coach discussed with the umps but it was obvious the pitch was purposeful from the left-handed pitcher.
The marathon game then called upon freshman pitcher making his collegiate debut, Johnny Magliozzi from East Milton, Massachusetts. The freshman also known as “Maggs” did well for his first Gators experience. Only giving up two hits with zero runs scored. O’Sullivan said he is likely to start the 5’10 righty this Tuesday’s against BCU.
Justin Shafer another freshman for the Gators was called to the mound for the first time; facing four batters giving up two hits and zero runs.
Sully made another appearance on the field calling in the third and final freshman pitcher of the day #14 Bobby Poyner. A Lefty who reigns from Wellington Florida who threw five pitches to close the game without any runs scored.
Preston Tucker had another giant at bat when he smacked the ball over the fence for another Bomb, making it his second in the series. The score was then 8-4.
Zunino followed up with a line drive to left center field for a single. #32 for Fullerton had thrown nearly 60 pitches when #10 Maddox came up to the plate. He was going after pitches right from the start trying to making the last few efforts for a come back. Maddox scribbled down to first base moving Zunino to second but not quite reaching the bag in time at first. With Ramjit up to bat for the Gators, Titans out fielder, Lorenzen made a circus catch out in center field to end the inning. Florida still trailed going into the top of the 8th 8-4.
#4 Fontana singled to score Tobias in the bottom of the 8th, making Fullerton’s lead 8-5. In his final attempt for the Gators Tuck hit a leadoff single in the 9th. Not too mention the fact that he ended the first weekend hitting over .500. A word of the Wise, respect your elders!
Everyone was frustrated with the loss, but they know what they want to work on to prepare for the games later on this week. Regardless of the situation, they have waited a long time to get out there and get started. O’Sullivan is going to point the focus towards moving the ball and advancing the runner’s. Over all they won the series 2-3. Next time there will be no letting up on the competition, the Gator’s are going to take a good look at the things that they can improve on, says Sully. “A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” These Gators are going to end up as sparkling Diamonds from the rough by the end of the year you just hide and watch.
The Gator Baseball team will be playing two instate rivals coming up midweek! Tuesday they will take on BCU and on Wednesday they will play UCF. Followed by the Gators second three game series this weekend in Gainesville against William and Mary.