Wednesday May 13, 2009No. 11 Gators Close Regular Season Against UK
With the seeding for next week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament still to be decided, No. 11 Florida (36-17/17-10 SEC) will host Eastern Division rival Kentucky (27-24/11-16 SEC) for three games at McKethan Stadium during Fan Appreciation Weekend. The Gators and Wildcats will meet at 6:30 p.m. on both Thursday (FSN Florida) and Friday (GatorVision Online) and complete the series at 4 p.m. on Saturday (Sun Sports).
The Gators enter their final weekend holding a two-game lead on Georgia (35-17/15-12 SEC) for the East title. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club is one game behind league leader LSU (39-14/18-9 SEC). UF has not claimed a division crown or the overall SEC Championship since 2005. Alabama (36-15/17-9 SEC) is a half-game behind the Tigers, while Ole Miss (37-15/17-10 SEC) joins Florida in a tie for third place.
All six league series this weekend have postseason implications since none of the eight seeds for Hoover have been finalized. LSU is at Mississippi State, Alabama is at Auburn, Ole Miss is at Arkansas, Tennessee is at Vanderbilt and Georgia is at South Carolina.
A pair of left-handers will tangle in the opener, as senior Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) (3-1, 5.08) will face Wildcat junior James Paxton (5-2, 5.30). Locke suffered the loss last Friday during a 5.1-inning stint at No. 3 LSU and is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three home starts this spring.
Rookie right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) draws the start in game two against UK southpaw Chris Rusin (6-4, 3.96). DeSclafani will be making his ninth start of the year and has a 3-1 ledger with a 4.54 ERA in his starts, with a 32 strikeouts and eight walks. Three of his five wins this season have come in league action (Alabama, Auburn, Georgia).
The Wildcats will send freshman RHP Alex Meyer (1-4, 5.27) to the hill on Saturday versus a Florida pitcher to be announced.
The Gators dropped two of three games in Lexington over the weekend of April 18-20 last year. Florida overcame a 6-0 deficit and had a 7-6 lead in the eighth before Kentucky used a five-run spurt to collect an 11-7 win on Friday. Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.) improved to 7-0 by notching Saturday’s 13-7 victory over the Wildcats. The ’Cats used a bases-loaded walk in the 10th to seize a 3-2 win in the finale.
Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) returned to the lineup after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against North Florida on April 2 and was 5-for-9 (.556) at UK. Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) went 5-for-6 in game two of the series, becoming the first Florida player since Jeff Corsaletti on March 22, 2005 versus UCF, to have a five-hit outing. Barnes contributed a 3-for-5 effort on Sunday and led the Orange and Blue with a .563 (9-for-16) clip.
Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) hit a go-ahead two-run homer on Friday to give UF a 7-6 lead in the seventh and belted a game-tying two-run jack in the sixth in the finale. On the weekend, he was 4-for-10 (.400) and drove in seven runs. In his weekend starting debut last year, Locke set a career high with eight strikeouts over 6.2 innings on Sunday after being charged with Friday’s defeat.
In Kentucky’s most recent visit to Gainesville, the Gators rebounded from a 9-2 setback in the series opener on April 20, 2007, to take the final two games at McKethan Stadium, 10-7 and 5-4. After Rusin fired a complete game on Friday night, UF used a five-run fourth inning on Saturday to build an 8-2 lead. UK clawed back to within 10-7 in the ninth before falling short, a result that halted the Gators’ five-game slide in SEC play.
Pinch hitter Chris Petrie snapped a 4-4 tie with a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth to help UF to a 5-4 win on Sunday. It was his only at bat of the series. The Wildcats had rallied with two runs in the top of the frame and the SEC’s travel curfew meant that the contest would end after the completion of the inning. Lost in the shuffle was an outstanding pitching effort by RHP Billy Bullock (Balm, Fla.), who limited Kentucky to five hits and one run over five innings. Cole Figueroa was 3-for-5 out of the leadoff spot and scored twice, while Brian Leclerc (3-for-4, two doubles) and Townsend (3-for-5, two RBI) powered the Orange and Blue’s offense.
In its last outing, Florida knocked off Jacksonville, 7-4, on Tuesday at McKethan Stadium to conclude the non-league portion of its schedule. Junior Mike Mooney (Loxahatchee, Fla.) snapped a 2-2 tie with a three-run homer in the fourth and den Dekker was 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and scored twice. Freshman Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (5-5) notched a career-high six strikeouts and earned the victory after working four innings on a pitch count. Bullock recorded his 11th save with a scoreless ninth, matching John Pricher (1992) for the fourth-most in a single season. Barnes’ career-high 15-game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-4 outing.
· The Gators are 3-1 in SEC home series this year and have posted a 10-2 (.833) mark, with sweeps of Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina and a 2-1 loss to Ole Miss.
· Florida has captured its last four series against Kentucky in Gainesville since losing two of three meetings in 1999 (3-0, 2001; 2-1 in 2003; 3-0 in 2005; 2-1 in 2007).
· Since reeling off a six-game winning streak in the series from March 26, 2004-April 7, 2006, UF is 4-5 in the last nine encounters.
· The Gators ended a four-game homerless drought on Tuesday, when Mooney cranked a three-run blast in fourth and sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) had a solo shot in the fifth.
· UF has not committed any errors in the last two outings, improving to 13-2 (.867) when playing mistake-free. The Gators have not gone three-straight games without a miscue all season.
· Freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) leads the Gators with 16 multiple-RBI games and is tied with Barnes for the top spot with 20 multiple-hit games. UF is 29-10 (.744) when the rookie starts at first base.
· Five returning players have matched or surpassed their home run totals from last season (Barnes, 8; Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.), 5; Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.), 5; Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.), 2; and Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.), 2. Adams (7) is just one dinger shy of matching his freshman year total after homering against Jacksonville.
· Bullock’s 11 saves are second in the SEC behind Auburn’s Austin Hubbard (12). Bullock’s save total is the most since Josh Fogg tied the school record with 13 in 1998.
· Tucker’s 65 RBI are the most by a UF player since Matt LaPorta had 79 in 2005 and he is three short of matching Brad Wilkerson’s freshman record of 68 established in 1996.
· Adams is batting .366 (26-for-71) against left-handers, while den Dekker has a .342 (27-for-79) clip and Barnes is at .319 (22-for-69).
· Florida has a .329 (28-for-85) average with the bases loaded, with 85 RBI and five grand slams. Tucker has driven in 17 runs and is 6-for-13 (.462) with the sacks full, McArthur is 5-for-11 (.455) with 11 RBI and Jonathan Pigott is 3-for-6 (.500) with 11 RBI.
· Opposing left-handed hitters are just 8-for-44 (.182) against junior southpaw Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla.), who has limited foes to a 4-for-39 (.103) average with two outs.
· Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson was an assistant at Florida during the 1995-98 seasons.
· Freshman Nick Maronde is from Lexington and attended Lexington Catholic High School, where he was a first-team all-state selection in 2008. The lefty helped his squad to the state championship in ‘06 with a spotless 14-0 record.