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Wednesday April 8, 2009Tucker's 11 RBI Power No. 22 Baseball Over UCF

Gainesville, Fla.

Florida freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) tied the SEC single-game record and established a school mark with 11 runs batted in to lift the No. 22 Gators (21-11) to a 16-3 win over UCF (11-22) on Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium. The rookie first baseman cranked grand slams in both the fifth (right field) and seventh (center field) innings, sandwiched around a three-run bomb in the sixth to left center. 


With a 3-for-4 effort tonight, Tucker is an eye-popping .833 (10-for-12) with 20 RBI and six homers over the past three games. His 11 RBI matched the league record total by Jason Nappi of Mississippi State in a 2008 game against UAB and surpassed the previous Gator mark of 10 shared by Avery Barnes (vs. Tennessee, 5/18/07) and Adam Davis (vs. Tennessee, 4/30/05).


Tucker became the third player in SEC history to belt a pair of grand slams in a single outing, along with Roger Miller of Georgia (1987) and Frank Baldasare of Auburn (1968). In addition, he became just the seventh Florida player to hit three homers in game, joining Brian Leclerc (vs. Florida A&M, 2/15/05), Ryan Shealy (vs. Ole Miss, 3/15/02), Pat Osborn (vs. Winthrop, 2/16/02), Greg Catalanotte (vs. Charleston Southern, 3/24/98), Brad Wilkerson (vs. Mercer, 1/30/98) and Mark Ellis (vs. USF, 5/7/97).     


"Preston has been a natural hitter since day one,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He gives us an added dimension of power, something that we haven't had a whole lot of. All of his home runs were impressive. That one down the right-field line in the fifth I think hit Keys (a dorm across the street from the stadium). The second one was opposite field and that's something we've been working on. The third one was a laser; it didn't get 10 feet off of the ground."

“I’ve been seeing the ball great and felt pretty good coming into tonight,” Tucker said. “I didn’t think that I would have a night like this. Everything is working out. I’ve never done that (hit three home runs) before, so I’ve never had the emotional high you get when you hit three home runs in a game. I’m still in awe.


“I knew a lot of guys were joking, trying to get me to hit another one (in my third at bat). It was a sigh of relief when I hit the third one but the first one was the best. We were down 3-1 at the time and I was just trying to get the team the lead.”


UCF senior Colin Arnold (2-for-4) and freshman Beau Taylor (2-for-3) opened the game with consecutive singles off freshman Justin Poovey (Granite Falls, N.C.) before the right-hander had junior Shane Brown hit into a 6-4-3 double play and senior Brandon Romans ground out.


The Gators threatened in the second but were kept at bay by junior Austin Hudson. Tucker drew a leadoff walk but was forced out at second base on a fielder’s choice by sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.). Although senior Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) (2-for-4) roped his sixth double down the left-field line for a pair of runners in scoring position, Hudson struck out freshman Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) and had senior Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.) foul out to the catcher.


The Knights grabbed a 3-0 lead in the third on a double by Taylor and a two-run single by Romans. Junior Kyle Mills was plunked with one down and needed to be replaced by freshman pinch runner Jake Huxtable. Arnold singled to center and Taylor sent a two-bagger into left to open the scoring. UF cut down Arnold at the plate on a fielder’s choice by Brown but Romans delivered an RBI single to clear the bases and prompt a pitching change, as freshman Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) replaced Poovey (2.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R).   


Florida got on the board in the bottom of the frame on a triple by senior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) that brought across junior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), who had reached on a fielder’s choice. Barnes’ team-leading fifth triple raised his hitting streak to seven games.


Huxtable reached on an infield hit to start the fifth and moved to second on a wild pitch with one down. After Panteliodis (1.2 IP, 1 H) hit Taylor, freshman Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) (3-1) had Brown tap into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. DeSclafani picked up the win by tossing 2.1 scoreless innings in which he permitted one hit.


Tucker cranked his first career grand slam with two down in the fifth to give the Gators a 5-3 lead. Foster was plunked by sophomore reliever Evan Stobbs to start the frame and was sacrificed to second by junior Mike Mooney (Loxahatchee, Fla.). den Dekker earned a free pass from Stobbs and UCF called junior Cory Weech (3-1) in from the bullpen. The righty struck out freshman Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) and issued a two-out walk to Barnes to load the bases. Tucker stepped to the plate and launched a towering blast over the right-field fence for his team-high fifth homer to put the Gators on top. It marked the third-straight game with a round-tripper for the rookie and his third-straight outing with at least four RBI.


The Gators put the game out of reach with six runs on four hits and UCF error in the sixth. McArthur started the inning with his second double of the game and scored when Foster’s grounder was misplayed by senior shortstop Eric Kallstrom. Mooney doubled to left field for a pair of runners in scoring position and den Dekker coaxed a walk from freshman D.J. Hicks to load the bases. Freshman Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) ripped a pinch-hit single to score Foster and Barnes followed with a sac fly into left to increase UF’s margin to five runs. Tucker then cleared the bases with a three-run shot over the wall in left center for an 11-3 bulge.


McMahan connected on his first career homer off senior Caleb Graham to open the home part of the seventh to help the Orange and Blue build a 12-3 lead. It was also his first RBI of the campaign. den Dekker singled and sophomore Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) singled for runners on the corners. Following a walk to junior pinch hitter Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.), Tucker jacked his second grand slam of the night to straightaway center field to finalize the 16-3 score.


The Gators (7-5) resume Southeastern Conference action on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Auburn (22-10/6-6 SEC). First pitch from Plainsman Park will be at 7 p.m.


Game Notes

·          Florida’s 13-game home winning streak is its longest since the Gators won 14-straight games at McKethan Stadium from February 21-March 14, 2004. 

·          Matt den Dekker’s streak of 29 consecutive stolen bases ended when he was thrown out at third base in the first inning. The last time he had been caught was during the 2007 SEC Tournament by South Carolina.

·          The Gators’ 13-run win is their largest in the series against UCF and was their largest margin of victory for this year. 

·          UF tied the most HRs hit in a game under Coach O’Sullivan since they did it last against Vanderbilt on May 17, 2008. 

·          The Gators have scored 10 or more runs in 10 of their 22 twenty-one home games this season.

·          The win by Anthony DeSclafani gives the Gator bullpen 13 of the team’s 21 wins this season. 

·          Preston Tucker has hit a home run in three-straight games to become the first player to accomplish the feat since Avery Barnes from April 26-May 2, 2008.

·          Before tonight, the last time a Gator player hit three homers in a game was Brian Leclerc against Florida A&M on Feb. 15, 2005.




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