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Thursday February 28, 2008Baseball Visits No. 8 Miami For Weekend Series

Gainesville, FL -

Florida (5-0) will make its first road trip of the season this weekend when it heads to Coral Gables to face No. 8 Miami (Fla.) (3-0). The Gators claimed both ends of a doubleheader on Wednesday against Eastern Michigan, 15-2 (7) and 16-8, while the Hurricanes kicked off their season by sweeping Cincinnati (3-1, 6-4, 8-0) last weekend.


Sophomore right-hander Kyle Mullaney (Jacksonville, Fla.) will start Friday’s opener at 7 p.m. against UM sophomore lefty Eric Erickson (1-0, 1.50 ERA). In his last outing, Mullaney did not receive a decision after yielding nine hits and six runs on opening night against Siena on Feb. 22.


In Saturday’s second game at Mark Light Field at 7 p.m., junior RHP Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.) (1-0, 0.00) will oppose Miami senior right-hander Enrique Garcia (0-0, 2.25). Keating combined with three relievers on a six-hit shutout of Siena last Saturday by scattering five hits and notching four strikeouts over 5.1 innings.


Freshman Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) (1-0, 3.60), coming off a five-inning stint last Sunday in which he captured his collegiate debut, will start Sunday’s finale at 1 p.m. against Hurricane rookie southpaw Chris Hernandez (1-0, 0.00). The game will be carried live on CSS.


The Gators have captured the last three regular-season series against the ‘Canes and also put together a stretch of seven-straight wins between Feb. 19, 2005-Feb. 18, 2007 that was their longest in a series which dates back to 1940. Florida collected 2-1 series triumphs in Gainesville in 2005 and 2007 and won all three meetings in its most recent visit to Mark Light Field in ’06.


Hosting Eastern Michigan in a double-dip on Wednesday, the Gators totaled 31 runs, 30 hits, 17 walks, 12 extra-base hits (five 2B, four HR, three 3B) and 10 stolen bases in downing the Eagles twice. UF banged out 18 hits in six at bats to cruise to a 15-2 win in the opener and then had 12 hits and 12 walks during a 16-8 victory in the nightcap.


With a sizzling .441 (30-for-68) average during the two games, there were many contributors to the Orange and Blue’s victories. Junior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) (6-for-9) and sophomore Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (4-for-6) tied for the top spot with a .667 clip, while Barnes and sophomore Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) scored six runs apiece. Eight players had at least two hits and the Gators scored at least four runs in five different frames.


After sitting out the Siena series, sophomore Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) wasted little time in making an immediate impact. The center fielder established a career high by driving in six runs in Wednesday’s opener, highlighted by his first career grand slam in the second inning and a two-run single in the fifth.


In his first start of the campaign to begin the twinbill with EMU, junior Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) worked five innings and registered four strikeouts while giving up four hits and two runs. The left-hander fanned the first two batters of the game to equal his season-high for K in 2007 and his four punchouts were his most since seven against Arkansas during the SEC Tournament on May 25, 2005.  


A 2.1-inning relief stint, in which he permitted two hits and a pair of unearned runs, resulted in junior J.K. LaCoste (Jacksonville, Fla.) picking up his first victory since March 8, 2006 versus UNC Greensboro. He added a career-high three strikeouts in his longest outing since going three innings in the 2006 season finale at home versus LSU. LaCoste made eight appearances out of the bullpen last season but did not receive any decisions.


The Gator bullpen has worked 22.0 of the pitching staff’s 43.0 innings this season and has compiled a 0.41 earned run average with 20 strikeouts and nine walks. Opponents are hitting .156 against Florida’s relievers.    


Florida’s 5-0 start is their best since the 2002 club reeled off 11 consecutive wins to start the campaign. The five-game winning streak is UF’s longest since an eight-game skein between March 23 and April 6, 2007.


Last season, UF extended its winning streak over Miami to a school-record seven games before falling in the finale, 10-7. The series victory marked the third-straight time that Florida had defeated UM, a feat it had never accomplished. In the opener, Bryan Augenstein limited Miami to three hits and zero earned runs over seven innings and the Gators took advantage of five errors to post a 7-2 win. The right-hander registered a season-high seven strikeouts and Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) (2-for-4, two runs, two RBI) snapped a scoreless tie with a home run in the fourth.    


On Saturday, UF sent 10 batters to the plate during a five-run fourth inning and used strong relief pitching to collect a 7-5 win. Keating notched his first career win, while David Hurst picked up his first save with 1.2 scoreless frames. Pigott delievered a pinch-hit, two-run single as part of the fourth-inning outburst, while Figueroa was 2-for-5 with two RBI and Townsend chipped in with two hits. Despite a pair of home runs and five RBI by Matt LaPorta, the Gators wound up on the short end of a 10-7 score on Sunday afternoon.


Former Gator catcher Joe Mercandante is in his fourth season as a member of the Hurricanes’ coaching staff. The Gainesville native earned a couple of varsity letters at UF during the 2002-03 seasons and appeared in 37 games, with a .312 (10-for-32) average and 19 runs batted in. Mercadante coached at his alma mater, P.K. Yonge High School, before heading to Miami.


The Gators completed a rare brooming of Miami at Mark Light Stadium between Feb. 17-19, 2006, by scores of 2-1, 4-1 and 11-10. UF had never been perfect against the ‘Canes in a three-game set and became the first team to take all three games in Coral Gables since Florida State accomplished the feat over April 12-14, 2002. In addition, UF was undefeated in the season series versus Miami for just the sixth time following 2-0 triumphs in 1948 (Gainesville), 1954 (Coral Gables), 1956 (Coral Gables), 1976 (Gainesville) and 1978 (Gainesville).





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