Gators brush aside Vulcans with 16 hits

The Gators (19-20) kept their postseason hopes alive as they beat the University of Hawaii at Hilo (7-31) 11-4 in a game dominated by their offense.

The Vulcans didn’t stand a chance as they committed three errors while the Gators rallied for 16 hits. Gator first baseman Ryan Burke went 4-for-4 and lead all batters in hits and tied with teammate Logan Marston in RBIs with three.

“I felt really good with our three, four hitters,” head coach Tony Schifano said. “Brooks and Burke, in quality-at-bats, were 9-for-10, and that’s what you need from the middle of your lineup this late in the season.”

The Gators loaded up the bases twice early on, once in the first inning and once in the second, but couldn’t capitalize, leaving six runners on base. After four scoreless innings, SF State finally figured out Vulcans pitcher Jordan Kumasaka in the fifth inning when they raked in six runs off of five hits, including two doubles and a home run.

In the fifth inning, with two runners on base, Burke doubled and brought both runners in to get the Gators their first two runs.

On the next at bat, Vulcans new pitcher Cole Nakachi threw a ball past home plate and allowed Burke to score, accounting for a total of three runs himself in the fifth inning.

“We haven’t really been swinging it how we like,” Burke said. “To get it rolling was nice and from there it just blew up.”

Logan Marston hit a home run in the following at bat and tied the game at four. The Gators scored two more runs against Nakachi before the end of the fifth inning.

Shane Martin had a rough outing on the mound for the Gators, allowing four hits and four runs in one and two-thirds innings of work. The Vulcans scored all of their runs in the second inning before Matthew Hernandez subbed in to pitch. Down 4-0 with two outs and facing a rally from the Vulcans, Hernandez didn’t let the inning get anymore out of hand and got the last out.

“I was just looking to throw strikes, hit my spots and got a good result,” Hernandez said. “It felt great, especially since I haven’t got to pitch more than one inning in the past three weeks to month.”

Matchups had stopped Hernandez from pitching extended innings, but that didn’t stop him from throwing three scoreless inning, allowing only three hits while throwing three strikeouts.

Sitting in fifth place of the North Division of the California College Athletic Association with six of their last nine games at home, the Gators still have a chance to get the third and final spot for the CCAA tournament.

“We’re excited,” Schifano said. “In the beginning in February if you said ‘hey with two weeks left you got Chico and Sonoma left, and a shot for playoffs’ I’d say I’d take it.”

With four games remaining against Chico State and Sonoma State, the Gators will have multiple chances to add some losses to the respective first and fourth place teams in the division.

Aside from the win, it was a special day for Gators reliever Zack Zevenbergen as he made his first collegiate outing in the eighth inning after three years of waiting. Zevenbergen walked on for the team as an outfielder three years ago but was cut from the team. The following year he convinced the coach to let him pitch and this time made the team.

A week before opening day last year, Zevenbergen heard a pop and a strong numbness in his arm while warming up in the bullpen: he had torn his ulnar collateral ligament and needed the infamous and dreaded Tommy John surgery.

After 12 months of recovery, Zevenbergen faced his first collegiate batters and he allowed only one hit and no runs in one inning of work.

The Gators next series is against first place Chico State and begins April 29 with the fourth and last game of the series taking place on May 1, a home game for the Gators.