Baseball: top ranked Gators clobber FSU on a night of unforgettable ineptitude

Nelson Maldonado has spent a few years watching a slightly older group of Gators destroy FSU pitching. Now he gets to be a part of the fun, too; the fun of teeing off on pitches that belong in batting practice while watching the Noles beat themselves up some more in the field.

The freshman from Tampa unloaded on a second inning fastball and sent it over the fence, and just like that, the rout was on.

Peter Alonso added a towering home run of his own, JJ Schwarz added an RBI of his own, and the Gators got a fine pitching effort from Dane Dunning in a 6-0 shoutout win over their rivals to the west. It’s Florida’s third straight win over FSU, and the fifth in a row over FSU in Gainesville. Florida swept FSU in the 2015 Gainesville Super Regional, and beat the Noles at home in each of the last two regular seasons.

This one may have been the easiest win in a stretch full of them.

The three errors that the Noles were charged with last night doesn’t come close to describing their defensive ineptitude. For starters, FSU infielders dropped four routine pop flies on the night. Just for perspective: most college baseball teams, hell, most high school teams don’t drop that many over the course of an entire season. The fact that three of the four were in foul territory means that only one of the hilarious boo-boos counts as an error in the official stat book, but those weren’t even the most damaging miscues of the night.

The homers by Maldonado and Alonso made it 3-0 heading into the fourth. After Buddy Reed reached on a fielder’s choice, he immediately took off to try to steal second. Catcher Cal Raleigh threw down to try to nab him stealing. There was just one problem. Nobody was covering second base. Which means that Raleigh threw the ball all the way to center field, which allowed Reed to get all the way to third. Schwarz then brought him in with a single to left to make it 4-0.

Incredibly, FSU still wasn’t done handing out goodies. After Jonathan India singled home another run in the fifth with the bases loaded, Dalton Guthrie got fooled by a 2-2 curveball and struck out. But the pitch had also fooled Raleigh. He managed to chase down the errant ball and get Guthrie, but all three runners advanced, including Jeremy Vasquez who scored. That goes down as a wild pitch, not an error, but a completely avoidable run that the Noles gave up nonetheless.

So not even counting the four walks and two HBP’s the Nole pitchers combined to issue, FSU basically gave the game away in the field. Then again, when you get shut out, it’s kind of hard to win regardless.

Speaking of that: Dane Dunning deserves a heaping of praise. This is a guy who would easily be a weekend starter on literally any other team in the country, but had been relegated to the role of midweek starter because of the depth of the Gators’ pitching staff. So technically, he’s Florida’s fourth best pitcher. And he shut down the Noles’ entire starting lineup, striking out five and only allowing one runner to advance to third in 5 & 2/3 innings. He did give up seven hits, but worked out of each jam by keeping the ball low and forcing ground balls that turned into double plays.

The bullpen was similarly effective. Freshman Jackson Kowar came in and allowed just one hit in two innings, and after Kirby Snead got the final out of the 8th inning, Shaun Anderson came in and slammed the door shut in the ninth.

Florida is now 18-1 on the season, with SEC play beginning this weekend against Missouri. And while they can’t count on teams giving them presents like FSU did, if their pitching keeps dominating like this… well, it’s a long season. But I think you know where I’m headed with this.