GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gators have evolved into one of the nation's strongest teams year in and year out since head coach Kevin O'Sullivan took over the program in 2008.
A program built on pitching more than anything else. So, with O'Sullivan shooting for his 400th career win on Friday night, Florida starter Alex Faedo delivered a performance worthy of the Gators' reputation.
Faedo pitched a career-high 8 2/3 scoreless innings as Florida defeated Miami 1-0 in front of an announced crowd of 5,385 at McKethan Stadium. Faedo surrendered just two hits, walked one and struck out eight.
"He just made pitches. He didn't try to strike out everybody,'' O'Sullivan said. "It felt like he didn't have to make that many pressure-packed pitches because he was only in the stretch a few times. Friday night guys are different. Alex is one of those guys. He was awfully special."
Faedo didn't face serious trouble until the ninth.
A rare error by shortstop Dalton Guthrie with two outs in the ninth is all that kept Faedo from going the distance. Guthrie's error on a ground ball by Michael Burns kept Miami alive, and Faedo then walked Johnny Ruiz on a 3-2 pitch, forcing O'Sullivan to replace Faedo (119 pitches, 78 strikes) with Frank Rubio.
Faedo raised his arm in the air on Burns' grounder expecting his first complete-game shutout. Instead, Rubio struck out Rony Gonzalez for the final out to secure O'Sullivan's milestone win.
"Once the lefty [Ruiz] came up, I needed to either walk him or strike him out,'' Faedo said. "That's why I went with the 3-2 breaker at the end. It was a good all-around night. I was happy that Frank got to close it out. I think that was a big confidence-builder for him and the whole team."
Faedo's outing was so good that a single run held over the final six innings.
The Gators scored the game's only run in the third inning on Jonathan India's RBI single to plate Guthrie. Florida scored when Guthrie drew a one-out walk off Miami starter Jesse Lepore (6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K) and advanced to third on Austin Langworthy's single. India followed with a hot shot toward third that bounced off Miami third baseman Edgar Michelangeli's glove and trickled into left field.
Faedo did the rest to defeat the Hurricanes with a memorable outing for the second consecutive season. Faedo pitched 6 1/3 hitless innings and struck out 12 in Florida's 2-0 win at Miami on Feb. 28, 2016.
O'Sullivan suggested some minor tweaks to his mechanics and stressed Faedo to pitch lower in the zone and try not to overthrow.
"I knew when I got to the field I needed to work on my stuff a little extra to make sure that didn't happen again,'' Faedo said. "I didn't want to go out there and pitch like I did again, really ever."
The adjustments paid off handsomely as No. 2-ranked UF took the first in its three-game series against No. 17 Miami, giving O'Sullivan 25 wins in 36 games against the Hurricanes in his 10 seasons.
"I did expect him to be better," O'Sullivan said. "He was focused. As the game got closer, the weekend got closer, he was focused. He was prepared. He worked awfully hard."
Considered a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 major league amateur draft this summer, Faedo was locked in from the first pitch Friday. He retired the first 13 batters he faced and had retired eight in a row prior to Guthrie's error.
Win No. 400 and counting for O'Sullivan.
"All the credit really goes to our staff and the players we've recruited,'' he said. "We've got some really good players who have played in this program."
Some good pitchers, too.