But the nationally ranked Gators have needed the 6-foot-8 sinkerballer and, when called upon, Larson has delivered.
The lanky righthander has pitched 11 innings for No. 23 Florida out of the bullpen and he’s allowed just two runs in his eight appearances. Larson recently picked up his first win of the season with 1.1 scoreless innings in a 7-5 Gators victory over Tennessee on Saturday.
“I’ve been really comfortable. I’m just trying to go out and not think too much,” Larson said during last week’s visit to UCF. “I didn’t really expect anything going into my freshman year since I didn’t really prove myself on the college level yet. I just jumped in there when my number was called and tried to do my best.”
Larson has been one of Florida’s best this season, posting a 1.64 ERA and scattering 15 hits in just over five weeks since making his debut on the college diamond. His 11 innings pitched are the most for a non-starter on the Florida roster so when the call goes to the pen, the crafty freshman is one of the first on the receiving end.
“Whenever they need a ground ball or they want to stop a rally, they bring me in,” Larson said. “Since I throw a sinker, I can get a ground ball. Every time we’re in trouble, they call on me.”
In his victory over Tennessee on Saturday, Larson entered with one out in the 7th and allowed back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners. But the righty used his patented sinker to induce a double-play grounder and sneak out of the jam and leave the score tied at four.
The Gators scored two in the bottom half of the seventh and Larson was the beneficiary for his first career victory.
“We’re starting to bond as a team a little bit more,” Larson said of the Gators, who have won five straight entering a Tuesday night (late) showdown with the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. “Guys are coming through at the right times. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. We’ve just got to keep working hard and keep going out there and pitching.”
In his lone return to the Central Florida area this season, Larson got the night off as the Gators defeated the Knights 7-2 last week. Larson got a chance to see his high school teammates D.J. Hicks and Brennan Dobbins but didn’t get to give them much more than a pat on the back. Still, Larson has fond memories of his teammates and their state championship in his senior year at Lake Brantley last season.
“It was definitely a team effort, that state championship,” Larson said. “We all worked so hard and all of us seniors, we were looking forward to that moment for our entire high school careers. It was a great way to top it off.”