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February 16, 2014

Baseball Weekend Recap: Maryland

With a single hit, Florida negated a three-run first inning that returning star pitcher Karsten Whitson would like to forget. After missing all of 2013 with what Kevin O'Sullivan described as "arm soreness," Whitson was back as a Sunday starter in the rubber match of the Gators' series against Maryland.

Except the screenwriters of this flick were a tad cruel.

The Gators entered the bottom of the first inning down 3-0. Two walks, a groundball sacrifice and a sacrifice fly later, the lead was two. By the second, Florida had tied the game with one hit thanks to five walks and a hit batter.

"First inning, we really saw (starter Jared Price) struggling with his command," catcher Taylor Gushue said. "He didn't have his control today."

It led to an 8-5 Sunday victory for the Gators and summed up the weekend. In all, Florida scored 19 runs on 21 hits in their 2014 debut.

"Always nice to get a series win. We've got a young team and (Maryland) had a lot of experience coming back," O'Sullivan said. "That's not going to be the last you see of Maryland."

Friday night, Florida scored its first runs of the season on a dribbler to Maryland third baseman Jose Cuas whose effort was devalued when catcher Kevin Martir couldn't handle the toss. A hustle play by freshman Buddy Reed allowed a second run to score from second on the play.

Reed went 1 for 8 with three walks, three runs and two RBIs on the weekend. Florida rode strong pitching and defense to a 4-0, allowing just three hits and making one nice play in the field after another.

The Gators fell into an early hole Saturday afternoon when freshman Brett Morales gave up three early runs and left after allowing five. Florida rallied late with three-run frames in both the sixth and seventh innings, but the bullpen couldn't sustain the offensive surge. Florida lost 9-7.


LHP Bobby Poyner: Friday night's starter was the only member of the weekend rotation to truly prove he deserved the nod against Maryland. After a limited role in 2013, Poyner took his new job in stride and pitched 5.1 clean innings, allowing three hits while striking out five with one unintentional walk. Not previously known as a strikeout pitcher, Poyner showed his ability to get misses with his breaking pitches after allowing runners to get to second and third with no outs in the second inning. Two strikeouts helped him escape the situation unscathed.

SS Richie Martin: After extended time playing the outfield because of a broken finger in 2013, Martin is back at his natural position and hasn't missed a beat. He was error-free all weekend and carried the success over to the plate. Martin batted .455 (5 for 12) and had a full line - four runs, three RBIs, one walk and one steal. He'll be one of Florida's most important players all season.

"I was glad to come out hot to start the year," Martin said. "But it's early and what matters is how you finish. I hope to keep this going."


RHP Brett Morales and RHP Karsten Whitson: The pitching rotation is almost always a work in progress in the season's first series and this weekend was no different. Morales, a much-hyped freshman, took his lumps against a Maryland lineup that had been silenced the night before. His five earned runs over 3.1 innings dug the Gators a hole they couldn't climb out of. Whitson struggled with command in his highly awaited return, lasting two innings on 48 pitches while walking two and allowing three runs.

3B Josh Tobias: He may have greatly improved his power during the offseason, but Tobias didn't have a chance to show it off Sunday. That's because he was sat in favor of freshman Peter Alonso after going 0 for 6 in the first two games of the series. He subbed in late Sunday but didn't' get an at-bat. Tobias has shortened his swing and looks noticeably different at the plate after batting .260 in 2013, but he still struck out three times and did not reach base once against the Terrapins. He also committed Florida's only error of the weekend Saturday night.

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