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Tuesday April 7, 2009No. 22 Baseball Defeats Bethune-Cookman, 12-7

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) went 4-for-4 and drove in four runs to power the No. 22 Gators (20-11) to a 12-7 victory over Bethune-Cookman (15-16) on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium. He belted a two-run homer in the first inning and later snapped a 6-6 tie with a two-out RBI single in the sixth that put the hosts ahead to stay. Tucker is 7-for-8 (.875) over the past two games with nine RBI and three homers. Junior Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla.) improved to 4-0 with 2.1 innings of relief as UF improved to 22-0 all-time against the Wildcats.

 

“It’s good to get a win any time that you’re playing a tough Bethune-Cookman team,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Every year they make a Regional and are well-coached.”

 

“I’m just picking up pitches and hitting balls up in the strike zone that are early in counts,” Tucker said. “I’m getting those pitches to drive and seeing the ball a lot better. The coaches have been working with me a lot on hitting the ball early in the count. They told me to be aggressive and it is working.”

 

The visitors jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Senior Mark Brooks led off the game with a strikeout but reached first base on a wild pitch by senior Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.). Junior C.J. Lauriello (4-for-5) followed with a single for runners on the corners and junior Alejandro Jimenez grounded into a 4-6-3 double play that brought across Brooks.

 

The Gators used a pair of homers in the bottom of the first off B-CU junior Felix Machado to seize a 3-1 advantage. Freshman Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (1-for-3) socked his first career round-tripper with one down into the left-field bleachers and Tucker went opposite field for his fourth dinger with sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) aboard to move UF in front.

 

Florida tacked on another run in the second for a 4-1 margin. Senor Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) opened with a single through the left side and junior Mike Mooney (Loxahatchee, Fla.) was hit by a pitch. Mooney was returning to the lineup after missing the past 10 games. A one-out walk to junior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) loaded the bases and Pigott lofted his third sacrifice fly of the campaign to bring in McArthur. Machado worked into the third and gave up three hits and four runs, with four walks.

 

Bethune-Cookman loaded the bases in the third but came away empty-handed. Junior Patrick Jones earned a free pass with one down and the duo of Brooks and Lauriello delivered back-to-back singles to fill the sacks. Keating countered with a strikeout of Brown and had junior Jeremy Davis fly out to right field to keep the hosts up by three runs.

 

UF increased its lead to 6-1 in the fourth against junior Andrew Tilka on an RBI grounder by senior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) and a two-out single by Tucker. Freshman Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) opened the stanza with his third double and den Dekker legged out a bunt for runners on the corners before Barnes’ chopper to short plated Weitzel. Following a base on balls to Adams, his second of the game, Tucker roped a base-hit into center field to score den Dekker and notch his third RBI of the night.

 

A two-out single by Lauriello in the fifth closed the gap to 6-2 for the Wildcats. Senior Aaron Patterson reached on an error by Mooney and was sacrificed around the bases on successful bunts from Jones and Brooks. Lauriello registered his third hit off Keating to shallow center field to drive in his teammate.   

 

The Wildcats clawed back with four runs on five hits in the sixth to tie the game at 6-6. Jimenez and Brown started the inning with consecutive singles and Keating (5.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER) plunked Davis to load the bases with none out. Freshman Peter O’Brien roped a two-run single into left field to bring the visitors within two runs and senior Drew Clark laid down a sac bunt to give B-CU a pair of runners in scoring position and prompt a pitching change. Junior Clint Franklin (Orlando, Fla.) took over on the hill and set down sophomore pinch hitter Emmanuel Castro on a comebacker to the mound. However, Jones smashed a two-run double into left to knot the contest and chase Franklin. Davis entered the game and had Brooks ground out to preserve the stalemate.

 

In the home part of the sixth, the Gators answered with another two-out RBI single by Tucker to move back on top, 7-6. Pigott reached on a throwing error by freshman shortstop Jairo Acevedo with one down and Barnes’ infield hit ricocheted off sophomore pitcher Samuel Rodriguez (0-1) for two runners aboard. The righty buckled down to retire Adams but then yielded an infield single to Tucker to bring in Pigott with the unearned run. Freshman Roman Lancara was summoned from the pen and had junior Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.) pop up to the catcher.

 

UF erupted for five runs on four hits and two B-CU errors in the seventh, highlighted by a two-run single by Barnes, to build a 12-6 cushion. Mooney drew a walk with one down, junior Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.) had a pinch-hit single and den Dekker singled into right center to load the bases. Lancara (1.0 IP, 2 H, 3 R) struck out senior pinch hitter Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.) and was replaced by junior Justin Dahl. Barnes stroked a base-hit into left to score both Mooney and Pisani and an error on the play by Lauriello enabled den Dekker to scamper home. Barnes stole third and Adams earned a free pass before Dahl uncorked a wild pitch to bring across Barnes. Tucker came through with an infield hit and Adams was able to provide the Gators with a six-run lead when Dahl threw the ball away.

 

Davis singled into right center to start the eighth and sophomore Ryan Durrence sliced a one-out pinch-hit double down the left-field line to put the Wildcats in business. Acevedo’s RBI resulted in a 12-7 margin before Davis had Jones fly out to center.

 

Junior Billy Bullock (Balm, Fla.) issued a leadoff walk to freshman Jeremy Matos in the ninth and gave up Lauriello’s fourth single of the game. The righty walked Brown with one down to load the bags and had Davis hit into a game-ending double play. The Gators held a 12-11 advantage in hits, with Tucker, Barnes and den Dekker turning in multiple-hit outings. Florida hosts UCF (11-21) tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m. The Gators downed the Knights, 7-3, in Orlando on March 18. 

 

Game Notes

·          Over his last 11 games, freshman Preston Tucker is batting .513 (20-for-39) with 20 RBI, seven runs, three home runs, three doubles and a triple.

·          Florida’s 12-game home winning streak is the longest since the 2004 Gators won 14-straight games at the Mac between February 21 and March 14, 2004.

·          The home runs by Daniel Pigott and Preston Tucker in the first marked just the second time all season the Gators had two round-trippers in the same inning.

·          Florida improved its record to 9-1 when scoring in the first inning

·          UF’s starting pitchers have not received a decision in the last 13 games.

·          Since moving to the leadoff spot at UCF on March 18, Matt den Dekker is 21-for-56 (.375) with 21 runs, eight RBI and seven stolen bases.

·          Josh Adams has reached base safely in 30 out of 31 games this season, with the five-inning rain-shortened game versus Florida State on March 31 being the only game the third baseman did not reach base.

·          The Orange and Blue have scored 10 runs or more in nine of its 20 home games.

·          Mike Mooney made his first start since March 21 versus Tennessee and his first start at shortstop since March 13 at Arkansas.

 

-UF-

 

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