On a persistently breezy 53-degree night, the Gators faithful began to file out of the ballpark in bunches. After a quick 1-2-3 seventh inning from Knights reliever Eric Hepple, roughly a third of the 3,253 in attendance had had enough of the cold weather and UF’s cold bats.
Florida recorded its second fewest hits (4) and runs scored during Wednesday night’s 4-2 loss to UCF at McKethan Stadium. It was UF’s worst offensive performance since its shutout loss in Miami on Feb. 25.
The Knights began the second of its two-game series against the Gators with a blitz on freshman starter Jordan Butler. He gave up a leadoff double to the left-field corner on his second pitch of the game. Three batters later, Butler surrendered a two-run homer to UCF cleanup man Rylan Thomas to deep left-center field on a 3-1 fastball off the plate.
“I’m sure if he could, he’d love to have that pitch back and throw it maybe a few more inches outside,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It’s a learning experience.”
Though Butler would only allow one more hit in his next four innings, the Knights (10-3) had already dealt the bulk of their damage.
“Other than that, I thought he threw the ball good,” O’Sullivan said.
Apropos of their flat offensive evening, the Gators (12-3) pushed across their first run of the ballgame in the fifth without recording a hit. Four walks issued by UCF starting pitcher Joe Sheridan in the span of five batters scored Nick Horvath with the bases loaded. In all, Florida drew nine walks on the night.
“We just put ourselves in a position where if we just get one hit here and one hit there, who knows what would’ve happened?” O’Sullivan said. “Credit to Central Florida, they played good the last two nights. It’s that simple.”
The Gators did threaten to score several times on the night. They put at least one man on base in every inning but the sixth and seventh. But the threats never manifested in anything substantial for UF as it left nine men on base and hit just 1-for-14 with runners on.
Florida will practice early Thursday morning in preparation for a three-game set with Rhode Island at home beginning Friday night at 6:30. Right-hander Brady Singer is expected to make his fourth start of the year for the Orange and Blue.
“Quite honestly, things have been a little bit easy for us up to this point,” O’Sullivan said. “Hopefully this’ll motivate us to play a little bit better this weekend.”
Follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin and contact him at [email protected].