By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The last time Nick Routt faced the Florida Gators, on April 10, he kept their bats in check with only one pitch: A fastball that he was able to move around the strike zone.
It was Routt’s fourth start of the season as he fought back from last year’s elbow injury, and he pitched five innings of one-run ball, allowing six hits, striking out five and walking one. MSU lost that game, 3-1.
Routt (3-3, 3.78 ERA), a junior left-hander, gets another shot to beat Florida today when he starts opposite freshman Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.42), who was the winning pitcher that day in Starkville.
Florida can win the Gainesville super regional by winning today.
“This time hopefully I’ll be throwing my changeup and breaking ball for a strike, and I’ll be able to go deeper into the game and get some more quick innings, and hopefully get a victory,” Routt said.
Most important to MSU coach John Cohen is that Routt get ahead in the count, which Friday starter Evan Mitchell did not do. Routt is coming off a strong performance on Sunday, throwing a complete game against Georgia Tech as MSU clinched the Atlanta Regional.
“You’ve got to throw strike one,” Cohen said. “If you throw strike one, it’ll hurt anybody’s (offensive) plan, from the big leagues all the way down. Strike one has got to be our friend (today).”
Routt fully understands that.
“You’ve got to pitch with confidence,” he said. “You can’t be going up there scared. I’m going up there thinking I’m the best pitcher there is.”
Florida’s fast starts
– Florida has wasted no time in establishing control during the postseason.
In four NCAA games, the Gators have outscored foes 34-1 through the first three innings. In Friday’s 11-1 win over MSU, the Gators opened up a 7-0 lead.
In the regional round, Florida took early leads of 16-0 on Manhattan and 11-0 on Miami.
“This time of year it’s all about momentum, and how you handle momentum, how you gain momentum and hang onto it,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “It might’ve been one our better offensive days in a while.”
Few things aid scoring outbursts like home runs, and UF has hit six of them during these early barrages, including two Friday – a two-run shot by Nolan Fontana and a solo job by Mike Zunino.
Zunino, the SEC player of the year, has been a thorn in MSU’s side this season. In five games against the Bulldogs, the sophomore catcher is 10 of 21 with two home runs, nine RBIs and nine runs scored. He had a grand slam in Florida’s 18-0 win over MSU on April 9, when the Gators jumped out to a 10-0 lead after three innings.
Parks out of slump?
– One good thing to come out of Friday’s setback was senior third baseman Jarrod Parks going 2 of 4. Entering this series, he was in a 7-of-42 slump that had caused his average to dip 40 points.
Parks stroked a single to center field in the first inning and then singled again in the sixth. He scored the Bulldogs’ lone run.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.