GAINESVILLE, Fla. — All of that preseason hype for Florida’s reloaded weekend rotation, all the talk about potentially having three No. 1 starters and three future first-round draft picks on the mound is looking pretty spot on so far.
After Alex Faedo went 8 2/3 scoreless innings on Friday night, right-hander Brady Singer nearly matched him Saturday evening with 7 2/3 scoreless frames to lead the No. 2 Gators to a 2-0 win over No. 17 Miami before 6,160 fans at McKethan Stadium.
Singer racked up 11 strikeouts while scattering 5 hits and 3 walks as the Gators (5-1) clinched a series victory over the Hurricanes (2-3). They will now look for the sweep Sunday with fellow hard-throwing righty Jackson Kowar next up on the mound.
“Kind of a carbon copy of last night,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We had an unbelievable start by Brady. His fastball was special tonight, 93-96 and going both sides of the plate and (he) got into a really good rhythm.
“I’m really excited. I think I said that before the season started that our starting pitching’s got a chance to be dynamite, and those first two starts were as good of starts as we’ve had here.”
Florida got solo home runs from Mark Kolozsvary (his first of the season) in the third inning and Jonathan India (his second) in the sixth to provide all the run support it would need. The Gators had only 3 hits total, but it was enough.
This marks the first time Florida has ever posted back-to-back shutouts against Miami, going back to the start of the series in 1940.
“We just have to keep our heads up, keep battling and understand that we faced two of the better pitchers in the country,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “Most of those first-round guys, they come right after you. We out-hit them tonight. We just didn’t get the big hit.”
Singer moved into the weekend rotation this season after pitching mostly out of the bullpen as a freshman, posting a 4.95 ERA over 23 appearances. He showed his elite potential over the summer as Baseball America named him the top prospect from the vaunted Cape Cod Baseball League.
And he’s been terrific through two starts this year, giving up just 1 run over 12 2/3 innings with 17 strikeouts.
“He pounded the strike zone and showed some emotion. He’s got a really good arm,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s come a long way since last year and this start should give him a heck of a lot of confidence.”
Singer faced a few jams Saturday night, but he and the Gators remained in control each time.
— Ryan Young (@RyanYoungSEC) February 25, 2017
In the top of the fifth, Miami put runners on first and third with one out after back-to-back infield singles, but Singer got Brandon Gali to ground into a 5-4-3 double play started by India.
After striking out the side in the sixth, Singer had a runner on third with two outs in the seventh before retiring James Davison on a poorly executed bunt back to the mound.
He looked to be wearing down a bit in the eighth while topping the 100 pitch mark, issuing a one-out walk and a single to Carl Chester. But the sophomore righty bounced back to strikeout Michael Burns for his 11th and final K of the game.
Brady Singer ends his night w/ his 11th K. Nick Horvath takes over with runners on 1st, 2nd w/ 2 outs in 8th. pic.twitter.com/arbFyiLdwH
— Ryan Young (@RyanYoungSEC) February 26, 2017
Florida turned to reliever Nick Horvath for the final out of the inning and he made quick work of Johnny Ruiz, getting a called third strike to end the threat.
— Ryan Young (@RyanYoungSEC) February 26, 2017
As O’Sullivan mentioned, Singer had plenty of emotion on the mound, feeding off his own momentum and capping big strikeouts and inning-ending outs with excited fist pumps. There looked to be some tensions between the two teams, which India acknowledged after the game, but it only seemed to motivate Singer even more.
“It was just one of those days, everything was working. I just lived off the fastball, sunk it as much as I could and it was a good outing. I felt good,” he said. “It’s Florida vs. Miami. It’s a big series. I was just excited. It was a really fun game.”
Frank Rubio closed out the win with a perfect ninth inning for his second save in as many nights.
Florida has now taken at least 2 games from Miami in the teams’ annual series each of the last three years. After the back-to-back shutouts, the Gators will look to keep the mound momentum going Sunday with Kowar on the bump.
“It’s the same thing. Jackson and Brady, identical pitchers,” India said. “We’ll have a good game tomorrow hopefully and just come out and play like we did tonight.”
Said O’Sullivan: “It’s not easy to shutout anybody, let alone a team like Miami. So yeah, it’s a heck of an accomplishment. But it’s one of those things, you’re only as good as your last game. So let the guys enjoy it, and I told them that they needed to be greedy and try to get a sweep tomorrow.”
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