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Friday April 24, 2009No. 22 Baseball Claims Opener Over USC, 9-4

Gainesville, Fla.

Senior Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) (3-0) captured his third-straight start as No. 22 Florida (29-14/11-8 SEC) opened its weekend series with a 9-4 victory over South Carolina (27-16/9-10 SEC) on Friday night at McKethan Stadium. Over a season-high 8.1 innings, the southpaw yielded six hits and two earned runs and matched his season best of six strikeouts. Freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) was 2-for-4 and notched two RBI, while senior Teddy Foster (Jacksonville , Fla.) belted a two-run homer to extend his hitting streak to eight games. All nine starters contributed at least one hit to lift the Gators to their third win in a row.

 

“That’s why we went with Stephen (Locke) tonight,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He wasn’t particularly sharp in the first three innings, but made great adjustments and did exactly what number-one pitchers do. He shut them down and held them scoreless from the fourth to the beginning of the ninth, and settled in and gave us a chance to score some runs."

 

“I did all right, other than the second and third innings where I kept falling behind in the count,” Locke said. “You can’t do that with good hitters and they made me pay in the ninth, when I fell behind. I just have to keep throwing fastballs and stay ahead. Every week, my arm keeps feeling better. Tonight it was hard getting in a groove, but once I did, I was happy with my efforts. As long as I work quickly and throw strikes, good things are going to happen.”

 

The Gamecocks drew first blood in the second with an unearned run but left the bases full. Junior Justin Dalles (2-for-4) opened with a single and moved to second on a grounder by sophomore Parker Bangs. A passed ball by Foster on ball four to junior Bobby Haney pushed Dalles to third base and Locke uncorked a wild pitch to bring across the game’s first run. After Locke struck out sophomore Scott Wingo, junior shortstop Mike Mooney (Loxahatchee, Fla.) threw away sophomore Whit Merrifield’s grounder for runners on the corners. Junior DeAngelo Mack was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Locke had a fielder’s choice by junior Nick Ebert force Merrifield at third base to end the frame. 

 

USC increased its lead to 2-0 in the third, helped by another Florida error. Freshman Jackie Bradley, Jr., drew a leadoff walk and Locke committed a fielding miscue on senior Andrew Crisp’s sacrifice attempt for a pair of runners aboard. A grounder by Dalles moved both runners over and another grounder by Bangs scored Bradley.

 

The Gators were able to cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning for a 2-1 count. Mooney (2-for-3, three runs) began the stanza with a single through the right side of the infield and was able to take third on a fielder’s choice by senior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) when Haney misfired on a relay to second base. With two out, Barnes broke for second and Mooney was able to come across before his teammate was tagged out in a run-down. 

 

UF seized a 4-2 lead in the fifth with three runs on two hits that did not leave the infield. Foster and Mooney drew back-to-back walks from sophomore Sam Dyson (6-3) to start the inning and the Gators tied the game on a bunt by Barnes that went into no man’s land and resulted in a base-hit, scoring Foster. Freshman Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) moved his teammates over with a sacrifice bunt and Tucker delivered a chopper in front of the plate to bring in Mooney. Sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) executed a sacrifice bunt to score Barnes for a 4-2 advantage.

 

Foster launched a two-run blast in the sixth that put Florida up by a 6-2 margin. Junior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) led off with a single up the middle and Foster followed with his third round-tripper over the right-field fence.

 

The Gators tacked on three more runs with two down in the eighth to build a 9-2 cushion. Dyson departed after seven innings in which he allowed nine hits and six runs (five earned), with four strikeouts and three walks. Bangs registered a pair of strikeouts before surrendering a double into left field by Mooney. Following an intentional walk to Barnes, freshman Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) delivered a pinch-hit RBI single to give the Gators a five-run lead. Tucker then greeted sophomore reliever Will Casey with an RBI single through the right side of the infield and an errant pickoff throw soon after by Casey allowed Thompson to come home for a 9-2 Gator lead.

 

Merrifield started the ninth with his eighth homer into the left-field bleachers and Ebert cranked his 15th dinger with one down to close the gap to 9-4. Junior Billy Bullock (Balm, Fla.) replaced Locke and recorded the final two outs to finish the contest, including a game-ending punchout of Crisp. Florida held a 13-6 advantage in hits and each club committed three errors.

 

UF will send freshman right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) (4-1, 2.75) to the hill in tomorrow’s second game of the series at 4 p.m. against Gamecock lefty Nolan Belcher (2-2, 4.25).

 

Game Notes

·          With Stephen Locke’s 38th career start tonight, the senior moved into a tie with Rob Bonanno (1991-94) for the eighth-most starts in school history.

·          The four runs put up by South Carolina was its lowest output in Gainesville since the Gators defeated the Gamecocks, 6-1, in Gainesville on March 27, 2005.

·          Teddy Foster’s two-run dinger in the sixth extended the catcher’s career-high hitting streak to eight games. During the streak, the senior is 12-for-25 (.480) with 11 RBI and nine runs. Foster has also reached base safely in the last 10 games he has played in.

·          Despite batting in the ninth spot, Mike Mooney is 11-for-18 (.611) with eight runs scored over his past five games.

·          Avery Barnes (2-for-4) and Josh Adams (1-for-4) extended their hitting streaks to six games each.

·          Matt den Dekker has recorded a hit against South Carolina in all eight-career games versus the Gamecocks.

·          UF’s 10-game defensive streak of not committing multiple errors ended. The streak was the longest this decade for the Gators.

·          Tonight’s victory snapped a three-game losing streak against South Carolina and was the first win for the Gators in Gainesville against the Gamecocks since a 9-8 win on April 7, 2007.

·          The five-run victory was the largest versus South Carolina at McKethan Stadium since a 6-1 triumph on March 27, 2005.

·          Out of Florida’s 29 victories, 18 (including 7 of its 11 SEC wins) have been from the come-from-behind variety.

·          Florida has defeated South Carolina on Friday night in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1997 and 1998.

·          The 13 hits against the Gamecocks were the most for the Gators against South Carolina since totaling 14 in a 13-4 rout at McKethan Stadium on April 13, 2003. South Carolina’s hit total of six marked the lowest for the Gamecocks since tallying five in a 6-1 defeat on March 27, 2005.

·          Preston Tucker has reached base safely in 14-straight games.

·          The game time of 2:33 was the shortest SEC game for the Gators since March 20 versus Tennessee (2:09).

 

-UF-

 

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