Friday May 15, 2009No. 11 Florida Clinches East With 10-3 Win Over UK
No. 11 Florida (37-17/18-10 SEC) secured its first SEC Eastern Division title since 2005 with a 10-3 victory over Kentucky (27-25/11-17 SEC) on Thursday night at McKethan Stadium. It was the SEC-leading 19th divisional crown for the Gators and came in head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s second season.
Senior left-hander Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) (4-1) worked 7.1 innings for his fourth league win, sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (3-for-5) had two-run singles in both the fifth and sixth innings and senior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) was 4-for-5 with three runs. UF remained a game behind league leader No. 2 LSU (40-14/19-9 SEC), which edged Mississippi State in Starkville, 5-4. The start of the series opener between the Gators and Wildcats was delayed for 93 minutes because of weather issues.
“Winning the SEC East was one of our goals,” O’Sullivan said. “Everybody knows how tough this league is with Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt; you can go on and on. It’s a tough league and any time you can get a divisional championship we have to be happy with that. I congratulated them on that, but our job isn’t done. We’re playing for a ring; we want to be SEC regular-season champions. We’re fighting to host an NCAA Regional and put ourselves in position for a Super Regional.
“I was really happy with the way Stephen (Locke) bounced back today. Seven of the nine guys contributed with hits. Even a guy like (Preston) Tucker who didn’t have a hit had two RBI. We’re getting production from everybody top to bottom. We played great defense once again.”
Kentucky put its first two runners of the game aboard against Locke but failed to score. Freshman Chad Wright (3-for-4) legged out an infield single to lead off and freshman Andy Burns blooped a single into shallow left field before sophomore Chris Bisson advanced both runners into scoring position with a grounder to second base. Locke had junior Gunner Glad line out to senior third baseman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.), who fired a bullet to second baseman Adams to complete the inning-ending double play.
The Gators plated the initial run in the bottom of the inning on a wild pitch by junior James Paxton (5-3) that scored Barnes. Barnes had singled through the right side and was sacrificed over by junior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-4). A grounder by freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (two runs, two RBI) nudged Barnes to third and he alertly raced home when a 1-2 offering to Adams eluded junior catcher Marcus Nidiffer.
Nidiffer provided the Wildcats with a 2-1 advantage with a two-out, two-run homer to right field in the second. Sophomore Chris Wade opened the frame with a single into right field and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior Keenan Wiley. Locke struck out freshman Braden Kapteyn but then surrendered Nidiffer’s eighth round-tripper.
Senior Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.) evened the game in the home part of the inning with his sixth homer, a two-run blast to right field.
The Gators erupted for three runs in the fifth, highlighted by a two-run single by Adams, to seize a 5-2 lead. Barnes reached on another infield hit with one down and went to second on a wild pitch. A base-hit into center field by Pigott moved Barnes to third and a fielder’s choice by Tucker plated the go-ahead run when Barnes beat the throw to the dish. UF then executed a double steal, with Tucker swiping second and Pigott taking third. The move paid off when Adams ripped a single up the middle to drive in both of his teammates.
The Orange and Blue put the game out of reach with five runs on four hits and a Wildcats error in the sixth to take a commanding 10-2 lead. Florida loaded the bases with none out on consecutive singles by freshman Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-3), junior Mike Mooney (Loxahatchee, Fla.) and Barnes. Paxton struck out Jonathan Pigott but then plunked Tucker to score Daniel Pigott for a 6-2 margin. Junior Clint Tilford replaced Paxton (5.1 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 6 K) and yielded a two-run single by Adams. A fielding error on the play by freshman left fielder Chad Wright enabled Tucker to score and junior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to give the hosts an eight-run cushion.
In the eighth, UK freshman Cory Farris led off with an infield hit, Wright singled up the middle and senior pinch hitter Chris McClendon drew a walk to fill the bags. Sophomore Chris Bisson lofted a sacrifice fly to left field to score Farris and end the night for Locke. Over 7.1 innings, the southpaw permitted eight hits and three runs, with four strikeouts and two walks. It was the fourth time in nine starts this season that Locke worked seven innings or more. Redshirt freshman Justin Poovey (Granite Falls, N.C.) induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play by Glad to keep the score at 10-3. The righty threw 1.2 scoreless innings to finish up the win. UF held a 14-9 edge in hits and played mistake-free baseball for the third-straight outing, the longest stretch of the season.
Freshman righty Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) (5-2, 3.81) will start tomorrow’s second game at 6:30 p.m. against Wildcat senior lefty Chris Rusin (6-4, 3.96). It will air live on GatorVision Online.
· Preston Tucker’s 67 RBI are the most by a UF player since Matt LaPorta had 79 in 2005 and is one short of matching Brad Wilkerson’s freshmen record of 68 established in 1996.
· Florida’s 12-straight victories versus SEC East opponents at home are a school record.
· Avery Barnes improved his career average versus Kentucky to .619 (13-for-21), with nine runs, three RBI and two stolen bases.
· The Gators have scored five runs or more in an inning in 19 of its 54 games this season.
· The Orange and Blue extended their errorless streak to three-straight games, its longest of the season. The last time the Gators went that long without making an error was a five-game streak from April 20-May 2, 2008. Florida betters their record to 14-2 (.875) when playing mistake-free baseball.
· The Gators improved its SEC home record to 11-2 (.846) on the season.
· Florida captured their first Friday night victory against Kentucky at home since a 10-9 thriller in Gainesville on April 1, 2005.
· Florida betters their record to 20-6-1 (.759) versus Kentucky this decade.
· Brandon McArthur moved into a tie with Ben Harrison (2001-04) for 10th all-time in games played at the University of Florida with 209. The third baseman also moved into a tie with Dave Majeski (1989-92) for sixth all-time in games started at the University of Florida with 202. The senior’s four at bats tonight give McArthur 739 career at bats, good for ninth place all-time in school history.
· Kentucky first-year head coach Gary Henderson returned to Gainesville after serving as an assistant coach for the Gators during the 1995-98 seasons.
· Josh Adams had his team-leading third four-RBI game with a 3-for-5 performance.
· Florida improves to 16-2 when scoring in the first inning, 27-2 when leading after six innings and 24-1 when scoring eight or more runs.
· Out of Florida’s 37 victories, 23 (11 in the SEC) have been from the come-from-behind variety.
· Stephen Locke recorded his 13th career quality start, easily the most by any Gator pitcher on the staff. In his last nine home starts since the beginning of the 2008 season, Locke has a 2.37 earned run average.