What was shaping into a blowout win against a forgettable team turned into something much more for Cody Dent.
With Florida leading 9-1 with two outs in the fourth inning and a runner on first, the senior shortstop hit the first pitch he saw off the scoreboard in right field for his first career home run.
“It was amazing,” Dent said. “I don’t even really remember it until I got back to the dugout. Seeing all my teammates, it really made it special.”
The home run was just a small part of the Gators’ (26-23) offensive effort as they defeated Florida A&M, 22-1, on Monday night at McKethan Stadium.
Prior to Monday, Dent had just six RBI on the season, and the two-run shot came in his 304th at-bat of his career.
“When he hit it, I started yelling, ‘Get out,’” starting pitcher Justin Shafer said. “But he got all of that ball. That ball was crushed.”
The easy win came at a good time for Florida, as it snapped a four-game losing streak and rebounded from getting swept by LSU in Baton Rouge, La., over the weekend.
“You just got to put that behind you,” Dent said of getting swept by the Tigers. “Reflect on the mistakes, fix them, flush it and get focused for the next game.”
Dent, who also walked twice and had a sacrifice fly in the win, came into the game hitting just .176 with two doubles as his only extra-base hits on the year.
While solid defense had kept him as a mainstay in the lineup, O’Sullivan said his expectations for Dent at the plate are still high.
“We expect him to contribute just like anybody else,” O’Sullivan said. “The bottom line is, his glove is very good.”
Although the Rattlers entered Monday tied for last in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with a 6-18 record in league play, O’Sullivan said his team didn’t make any glaring mistakes, which is impressive regardless of the competition.
“I think the thing that stands out looking at the box score is that we didn’t walk any one or make any errors,” O’Sullivan said. “We played clean.”
O’Sullivan used the lopsided effort to get several bench players playing time. Freshman Christian Dicks, Mike Fahrman, Kevin Stypulkowski and Brady Roberson — all of whom came into the game with less than 40 at-bats — were subbed in and combined for six hits.
Dicks hit his first career home run in the win as he hit a three-run shot in the sixth that put Florida up 18-1.
“To get up like that and have everyone be able to play is great for the young guys,” Shafer said.
Junior bullpen catcher Todd Haskel, who did not see the field in his first season at Florida in 2012 after transferring from St. Petersburg College, made his first appearance of the season coming in for starting catcher Taylor Gushue and hit two singles. While he was talking to the media after the game, closer Johnny Magliozzi stuffed a shaving cream pie in his face.
“I’m just really happy I had the opportunity,” Haskel said. “Just trying to hit fastballs. Got a fastball and tried to put a good swing on it. Things turned out good.”
The competition quickly improves for UF as it hosts Florida Atlantic (28-19) on Tuesday night. O’Sullivan said sophomore Bobby Poyner would get the start in Florida’s last non-conference regular season game.
“It’s a big one,” O’Sullivan said. “They’re all important from here on out… I’m sure it’s going to be a big game for FAU from an RPI standpoint. They’re probably a regional team as well. It’s a big game for both teams.”
Contact Josh Jurnovoy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior center fielder Cody Dent swings during Florida’s 16-5 win against Duke on Feb. 17 at McKethan Stadium. Dent hit his first career home run against Florida A&M on Monday.