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Florida 19, Florida A&M 0: Gators batter Rattlers in NCAA Tournament opener

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Florida returned to winning ways in the NCAA Tournament by pulverizing an overmatched foe on Friday.

Rob Foldy / GatorZone

Florida hadn't won an NCAA Tournament game since 2012. Florida A&M hadn't played in one — ever.

On Friday night in the Gainesville Regional, both facts changed in a 19-0 Gators rout.

After being blanked in the first inning, Florida scored in six of the seven more it would play at the plate, and scored multiple runs in five of those frames, tallying five runs in the third and six more in the eighth against a thoroughly overmatched Rattlers staff. A&M starter Ricky Page recorded five strikeouts through two innings, including two of likely MLB player Harrison Bader, but eventually gave up six runs (three earned) in 2.1 innings of work, and left the game having gotten just seven outs from 16 plate appearances.

No other Florida A&M pitcher gave up more than five runs, or more than Kenny McDonald's four earned, but the game was over by the time Page turned over the ball. And Florida ended it without much in the way of power: Only five of the Gators' 17 hits went for extra bases, and JJ Schwarz's homer, the only one of the night, was a leadoff solo shot in the sixth.

This was mostly a patient, talented team taking what Rattlers pitching gave it, whether in the form of pitches to smack for singles or inside throws that resulted in seven hit batsman — including three by McDonald, who did not record an out, in the eighth. Florida went 17-for-40 at the plate, for an impressive .425 batting average, but its on-base percentage — .540, with 27 batters reaching base from 50 plate appearances — was still more staggering.

The offensive onslaught made excellent work on the mound and in the field afterthoughts. Florida ace Logan Shore threw five scoreless, two-hit innings, and recorded his second straight win after going more than a month without one, and little-used Gators relievers Frank Rubio and Shaun McDonald struck out two and four batters, respectively, in their two-inning appearances.

And no play at the plate was more spectacular than Buddy Reed's fantastic diving catch in the fourth, which preserved what was then the makings of a no-hit bid by Shore.

The sprint and stab made SportsCenter's Top 10 on Friday night.

The win was Florida's most lopsided in NCAA Tournament play since a 23-3 mauling of Notre Dame in 2005, and its first shutout in NCAA Tournament play since Jonathon Crawford's no-hitter against Bethune-Cookman in 2012. It was also the most lopsided shutout victory by the Gators in an NCAA Tournament game ever, topping a 15-0 blanking of Florida Atlantic in 2010.

But that was all expected, really. Florida A&M was among the worst teams in this NCAA Tournament field, entering Friday's game with a .500 record, and Florida is among the best teams in the country. Yet Florida doing what is expected is a welcome change: After an SEC schedule largely spent alternating between unlikely losses and puzzling wins, Florida surprised more than a few observers by rallying from an opening loss to Arkansas in the SEC Tournament to win the event, and is now playing on as high a level as any team in the country.

The terrifying thing for teams like USF — Florida's opponent in a 7 p.m. game in the winners' bracket of the Gainesville Regional on Saturday — is that the Gators, still more young than seasoned in most spots, have plenty of room to improve.