The Gators opening series of the season finished this afternoon, as the Gators beat VMI 7-0 in front of a Sunday McKethan Stadium crowd.
This game was an important contest for the Gators, as they had previously dropped the first two games of the series, 5-3 and 7-4. Florida was trying to start the season with a bang following a lackluster 2006 campaign, but errors and men left on base led to a series loss against the "Keydets" of VMI (why that is their nickname and what it means, I have no clue).
Sunday's victory was an important win for another reason -- it came on a day in which Matt LaPorta, Florida's slugging first baseman, became the school's career homerun leader. He hit his 56th career homer today, his second in two days, finishing the series 7-12 from the plate.
LA.....PORTA (Gatorzone Photo)
While LaPorta was tearing it up for the Gators in this series, he was helped tremendously by the production of 2B Cole Figueroa and SS Jon Townsend. The middle infield combination for the Gators went a combined 11 of 27, 2 homeruns and 3 RBI in the VMI series.
Another key performance from Sunday was the pitching of freshman Billy Bullock, who pitched 5.2 scoreless innings. Throwing 74 pitches, Bullock walked none and struck out 4 on the day. This was a pleasant surprise for the Gators today, seeing the best outing of the season from their Sunday starter.
While Bullock did perform the best of all 3 starters in this weekend series, it should be known that I think Bryan Augenstein was pretty good on Friday as well, despite the loss. He pitched 6 innings, throwing 101 pitches and only giving up 2 ER. He got the tough-luck loss due to Gators fielding errors and unearned VMI runs.
In the relief for the Gators, Junior Josh Edmondson made 2 strong appearances. In the 2 games Josh gave up only 2 hits over 5.1 innings, striking out 4. VMI only batted .125 against him in the series. This is very good production from the bullpen, so hopefully Edmondson becomes a shutdown type of guy in relief this season.
Tough series to lose, but it is still early. The Gators have a cast of young guys to go along with a few who are trying to have bounce-back type seasons (some due to injury). We should expect to see a few bumps in the road, but overall there were positives from the set of games with VMI.
The Gators will take on Florida A&M on Tuesday in Gainesville, trying to even their record at 2-2.
I'll have some stuff on the Kentucky win coming, I promise.