ALSO SEE: PG's Patrick Ebert hails Logan Shore
Logan Shore knew a long time ago he wanted to do something special during his collegiate career at the University of Florida.
He just never thought it would come this soon, as Shore, an elite righthanded pitcher, put together an impressive freshman campaign that has garnered him Perfect Game Freshman of the Year honors.
"You know, it was very evident we had something special in Logan early on in the process. He was very mature and very focused, and had a plan on what he wanted to do each day," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He's not your normal kid from Minnesota. He's savvy, and he's really, really sharp. I just think he kind of came in to our program very well rounded."
To the casual college baseball observer, one would wonder how the Gators got hooked up with Shore in the first place. Shore calls Coon Rapids, Minn., a city of 60,000 just outside of Minneapolis, his home. Though Shore wasn't particularly raised a Florida fan, as with most in Minnesota of all places, his affection for the Gators began during his early years of high school. He was exposed to many elite programs around the country, ranked No. 146 nationally by PG, and No. 2 in the State of Minnesota behind only PG All-American outfielder and current Nebraska outfielder Ryan Boldt.
In 2011, Shore's mother Cindi informed him that for his birthday that summer, she was taking him to the College World Series. It was particularly special to Shore because it was the first season in brand new TD Ameritrade Park. There in Omaha, Florida had one of the nation's elite teams with catcher Mike Zunino, two-way star Brian Johnson, and others, and battled South Carolina in the CWS Finals. Sure, the Gators fell short in the CWS Finals that year, but Shore had already fallen in love.
"I really just loved Florida from the get go. I watched two of Florida's games in Omaha, and just loved its style," Shore said. "The funny thing about the Gators, is they're pretty huge up here in Minnesota for some reason. You walk around, and you sometimes see 5-15 UF shirts, sweatshirts, and what not."
Not too long after that moment, the talented righthanded pitcher began the college recruiting process. He didn't scurry the nation looking for options, instead taking unofficial visits to SEC foes Arkansas and Florida, ultimately choosing his true first love -- the Gators.
And so this relationship began. Ironically enough, Shore would get his first Southeastern Conference start on the mound against those same Razorbacks just a couple of years later.
"Coming from Minnesota, it was a little bit of a culture shock going from Minnesota to Florida, so as you could imagine, when I got down there for the summer and did summer school, I spent a lot of time getting to know all my teammates," Shore said. "I got to know real quick that I was being immersed into a situation with a really solid core group of guys."
As the Gators progressed throughout fall workouts, Shore was getting the coaching staff's attention with his usually impeccable command and ability to throw strikes. But with the Gators littered with premier arms, he didn't particularly stand out over anyone else.
"I had a decent fall. It wasn't anything spectacular, though," Shore said. "I just wanted to pitch in some midweek games, maybe weekend relief, something like that, with the goal to eventually start, and pitch in some important games. In the end, I just wanted to help out the team in anyway I could."
Come spring, the Gators didn't waste any time showing some confidence in the talented freshman. After facing Maryland opening weekend, the Gators played host to UCF in midweek action. There, Shore was granted the first start of his college career. He was impressive, striking out four, walking no one and allowing just a run (unearned) on three hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Shore, who has a fastball anywhere from 88-92, along with a good 79-80 mph changeup, made starts against Arkansas (to begin SEC play) and on the road against Texas A&M before the Gators proceeded to move him to the No. 2 spot in the weekend rotation the next two weekends against LSU and Kentucky in a ploy to protect him a little bit.
The Gators realized after the UK series Shore needed to be the front-line guy in the weekend rotation.
"He was just really consistent to start the year. I tried like heck to keep him in the Saturday role. But during a time we weren't playing really well, we went up to UK, and he pitched very good against a good offensive club," O'Sullivan said. "After that, we just quit trying to protect him. We made the decision to start running him out there on Fridays each week, and with him doing that, and Harrison Bader back, we kind of got things rolling."
The righty was outstanding the rest of the season. He ended the year with a 2.16 ERA in 95 2/3 innings, along with 68 strikeouts and 20 walks, teams hitting him at a .241 clip. In SEC play, Shore tallied a very impressive 2.08 ERA in 65 innings, along with 41 strikeouts and 14 walks. Interestingly enough, Shore had one of his rockiest innings of his first season in the opening game of the Gainesville, Fla., Regional against College of Charleston. Shore allowed three runs to the Cougars in the first inning, but ended his outing with four shutout frames.
"What he did last year was pretty remarkable, especially his performance in the NCAA Regional. For a freshman, in that situation, to settle in and throw four shutout frames after such a rocky first, that was impressive to me," O'Sullivan said. "There's a sense of comfort with a guy like that leading your rotation moving forward."
Despite his terrific freshman season, Shore has a few items on his list of improvements between now and the 2015 season. For instance, he'd like to improve his fastball command, something he believes tapered off toward the end of '14. Meanwhile, he also wants to evolve into more of a three-pitch guy, hoping to make serious strides with his slider going into next spring.
Shore already has accomplished something special at Florida, but he's got some unfinished business the rest of the way.