ZEPHYRHILLS — On a night replete with baserunning kinks, fielding cobwebs and overall early-season sloppiness, Land O'Lakes freshman left-hander Brad Hencke was virtually untarnished.
Not to mention untouchable.
In his high school debut, the Gators rookie turned in one of the few rust-proof performances of the Gators' 9-3 win Thursday night at Zephyrhills.
Summoned from the bullpen with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, Hencke tossed no-hit ball the rest of the way, striking out seven and walking only two on a chilly night at Clements Field.
"We couldn't do nothing with him," Bulldogs coach Bruce Cimorelli said.
Replacing hard-luck starter Brad Renner, who struggled with his control (six walks), Hencke escaped the third-inning jam by getting leadoff hitter Kenten Monbarren to fly to rightfield. Hencke was perfect his final three innings, striking out four of the last five batters.
"He's going to be pretty good," Gators coach Calvin Baisley said. "He was in the groove. He was on."
The same couldn't be said for many others. The Gators (3-0) and Bulldogs (3-1) combined for seven errors and left a combined 22 baserunners stranded. Among those rising above the ugliness: Gators No. 9 hitter Austin Costa, who went 4-for-4 with an RBI.
In fact, Land O'Lakes' No. 6-9 hitters accounted for eight of their team's nine hits. Those four — Austin Aubuchon, Patrick Dudkiewicz, Alex Estes and Costa — had consecutive base hits in a three-run fifth that gave Land O'Lakes a 6-3 lead.
By contrast, Zephyrhills' first three batters went 0-for-8 with four walks and three strikeouts.
"We haven't hit the ball all year so far," Cimorelli said. "We lucked out the last couple of ball games and it came back to get us. So hopefully we'll wake up, but we're not hitting the ball well at all as a team."