For a team with six, or seven preseason All-Americans, one wouldn't think Florida's underclassmen would be asked to do much in the 2012 baseball season. But they contributed greatly to the No. 1 Gators' season-opening 7-3 win over No. 16 and college baseball powerhouse Cal State Fullerton on Friday night.
The Gators got contributions from three freshmen in the lineup, including a home run from early enrollee/designated hitter Taylor Gushue on his first swing in an Florida unform. Fellow freshman Casey Turgeon hit an RBI double and Josh Tobias beat out an infield single to start a rally in the seventh-inning to help Florida to the win.
Gators reliever Steven Rodriguez picked up the win and Greg Larson pitched a perfect ninth to seal the Florida win. The crowd at McKethan Stadium set an opening day record, with 5,356 in attendance, and head coach Kevin O'Sullivan improved to 5-0 in his season openers.
The Titans struck first off of Florida starting pitcher Hudson Randall in the second when Turgeon misplayed an Anthony Trajano grounder that scored Michael Lorenzen. The run gave Cal State Fullerton a 1-0 lead. Florida tied up the game in the home half of the second with Gushue's first career home run.
Florida took its first lead of the game in the bottom of the fifth when Turgeon atoned for his mistake by hitting a two-out RBI double. CSF struck back in the top of the sixth, though, taking a 3-2 lead. Derek Legg tied the game with an RBI groundout to second and Carlos Lopez put the Titans on top with an RBI double.
Lopez's double knocked Randall out of the game. He pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits, one strikeout and no walks. Rodriguez finished off the sixth by striking out pinch hitter Ivory Thomas.
All-American Preston Tucker then added to his impressive numbers at UF by belting a line-drive home run to right to knot the game at 3-3 in the sixth for his 42nd homer as a Gator and his 209th RBI of his career to move within five of Brad Wilkerson's school record of 214 RBI.
In the seventh, Florida exploded for four runs to put the Gators up for good. Tobias scored on Daniel Pigott's hit by pitch and Tucker lifted a sac fly to right to score Turgeon and put the gators up 5-3. Reigning SEC Player of the Year Mike Zunino drove a single up the middle to score Nolan Fontana and Brian Johnson's single to right scored Pigott to put the Gators up for the final score of 7-3.
The Gators did all this without All-American do-everthing Austin Maddox. Maddox will definitely factor into Florida's future, but pulling out a win without the All-American is a testament to UF's depth.
The top-ranked Gators face off against the 16th-ranked Titans again today at 4 p.m. at McKethan Stadium. Righty Karsten Whitson takes the mound for Florida after an impressive freshman campaign (8-1, 2.40 ERA) and Grahamm Wiest makes his debut for Cal State Fullerton. Coverage is available on WRUF SportsRadio 850 and GatorVision Online.