Eli Putnam put metal to leather, smacking a drive over UF centerfielder Nick Horvath.
Horvath ran toward the ball, but after an awkward carom, it ended up in the hands of Ryan Larson. He fired toward the infield, but by then, he had no play.
Putnam was clapping on third base — his pants still clean — after a stand-up triple to open the game for UCF.
The next batter for the Knights was centerfielder Luke Hamblin, who tapped a grounder up the middle toward Florida second baseman Deacon Liput. The sophomore couldn’t make the play. Hamblin was safe, Putnam scored, and from there, the Knights poured it on.
Playing in Orlando on Wednesday night, UCF exploded on an ineffective Gators pitching staff and limited an anemic Florida offense, taking the game 11-2 and splitting the two-game series.
“Quite frankly, it was probably one of the worst games that we’ve played since we’ve been here,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said in a release. “I will say this: It’s the best thing that could have happened to us at this point. It gives us a chance to reevaluate some guys, maybe catch some guys' attention."
Florida starter Michael Byrne entered the game boasting a team-best ERA of zero in 11 innings pitched. But against the Knights (8-1), the sophomore fireballer served up three earned runs in three innings of work, swelling his ERA to 1.93.
In relief or Byrne, the Gators (7-2) brought on a trio of freshmen that didn’t fare much better.
Tyler Dyson logged two innings and gave up one run, Nick Long also logged two innings but gave up five runs, and Cole Maye finished the game for Florida with a scoreless eighth.
Florida’s defense also struggled, with three players committing errors. The Gators entered the game with an SEC-best fielding percentage of 0.985.
“We tried some different things defensively,” O’Sullivan said, “put Mike (Rivera) over there at first. It didn’t quite work out tonight."
But Florida’s greatest struggles came on offense, where it mustered six hits and left five on base. Nobody on the team managed more than one hit, while outfielder Blake Reese picked up the team’s only RBI on a groundout.
Offensive struggles have been common for the team to start the 2017 season. Entering Wednesday’s game against UCF, the Gators ranked second to last in the SEC in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and RBIs. They were also dead last in runs and hits, which are trends O’Sullivan is hoping to fix before the Gators return home for a three-game series against Columbia on Friday night at 6:30, along with another problem.
“The more glaring issue we have right now,” he said, “obviously we’ve got to get going offensively, but the body language tonight was terrible."
Junior pitcher Michael Byrne allowed three runs on three hits in relief during UF's 6-3 loss to Mississippi State on Thursday night.