Florida starting pitcher Alex Faedo allowed just three hits and struck out nine over 8 2/3 innings Thursday in the 1-0 win over South Carolina at McKethan Stadium.
Faedo dominant for Gators in series-opening win
Florida righty Alex Faedo came close to his first career, nine-inning complete-game shutout Thursday.
But after walking South Carolina left fielder Alex Destino with two outs in the ninth inning on his 125th pitch, Faedo had to settle for 8.2 scoreless innings, and a standing ovation from the McKethan Stadium crowd.
No worries. Sophomore closer Michael Byrne got South Carolina shortstop Madison Stokes to fly out to end the game, as the Gators squeaked by the Gamecocks 1-0 to open an important SEC series.
On a night when Gator basketball standout Canyon Barry threw out the first pitch (underhanded, of course), Florida (26-12, 9-7) got a superb start from Faedo and just enough offense. After Florida third baseman Christian Hicks doubled off the left-field wall with two outs in the fifth inning, freshman designated hitter Keenan Bell followed with an RBI single up the middle for the lone run of the ballgame.
That slim margin was enough for Faedo (6-1), who outdueled South Carolina ace righty Clarke Schmidt (4-2). Faedo allowed just three hits, walking four and striking out nine.
“I felt like I kept the ball down a little better and I had a little more movement on my pitches,” Faedo said. “With that and the wind blowing in a little bit it should be a good day for a pitcher.”
Schmidt left after 5.1 innings due to forearm tightness in his pitching arm. A number of Major League Baseball scouts were in the stands to watch both draft-eligible pitchers.
“Alex was great, he pitched around a couple of situations where he needed to,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He needed to be that way because Clarke was that good. We knew going in this was going to be a low-scoring game.”
Faedo, who had a seven-inning, complete game last year in the SEC Tournament against Mississippi State, also pitched 8.2 scoreless innings earlier this season against Miami on Feb. 24. At 111 pitchers going into the ninth inning, O’Sullivan gave Faedo a chance for his first career nine-inning complete game and shutout.
“Sully asked me how I was feeling and I said good and he gave me the opportunity again and I came up short again,” Faedo said. “We got the W, though. That was the big thing.”
With eight days rest before Faedo’s next scheduled start April 28 at Georgia, O’Sullivan didn’t have second thoughts about extending his outing.
“You watch the pitch count but the ball is coming out of his hand so good,” O’Sullivan said. “He earned an opportunity to finish it.”
Faedo bounced back from his prior two outings, when he allowed a combined seven earned runs in 11.2 innings against Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks (23-14, 8-8) had their best chance to score in the fifth, when Stokes led off the frame with a double. But with Stokes at third base and two outs, shortstop Dalton Guthrie came up with an over-the-shoulder catch on a soft liner to save a run.
Faedo then retired South Carolina in the sixth and got out of a first-and-second jam in the seventh by getting center fielder Danny Blair to ground out. In the eighth inning, Faedo allowed a one-out single to designated hitter Carlos Cortes, but catcher Mark Kolozsvary erased the threat when he threw out Cortes attempting to steal with two outs.
It was that kind of night for Faedo.
“He’s ultra-competitive,” Guthrie said. “I don’t think it was just the scouts, I think it was just going up against a guy like Schmidt. For him to do what he did tonight, rise to the occasion, that’s what you need from your ace and that’s why he’s one of the best.”
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