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Sunday February 21, 2010Zunino's 10th-Inning Single Lifts No. 7 Baseball Over USF, 7-6

Gainesville, Fla.

Watch Postgame Interviews (Zunino, DeSclafani, den Dekker, Panteliodis, O’Sullivan) - FREE


Freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) delivered a walk-off single down the right-field line in the 10th inning as No. 7 Florida (3-0) completed a sweep of USF (0-3), 7-6, on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The Gators had rallied to force extra innings with three runs in the ninth, including the tying run on a two-out fielding error by sophomore shortstop Sam Mende.  


After Gator sophomore Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (2-0) struck out junior Ryan Lockwood with runners on the corners to end the top of the 10th, sophomore Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) led off the bottom of the frame with a walk from junior Kevin Quackenbush (0-1). Senior Jandy Rosabal (Miami, Fla.) went down trying to bunt a third strike and freshman Kamm Washington ( Boynton Beach, Fla.) (3-for-3) collected his third hit of the afternoon for two runners on base. Quackenbush had freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-4) fly out to left field, setting the stage for Zunino’s heroics. The rookie, who came in as a defensive replacement behind the plate in the seventh, had struck out twice before coming through with the game-winner on a 0-1 count to bring across Thompson.


“The first thing they talk about in baseball is that you have to hit the ball in-between the right two people,” Zunino said. “When you get the hit, it’s never the one you hit the hardest. You take it and we laugh about it in batting practice, those are the ones coaches call game-winners. It comes down and happens like that, how ironic. It feels good getting my first winning hit in college and it was a great ball game to be a part of. Our team stayed up the whole time and never lost confidence.”


 “It was a heck of a game, I am proud of our team,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It’s hard to simulate a situation like that in practice or scrimmages so it’s really good for our players to go through a close game and learn to come from behind. (Reliever) Justin Poovey did a great job. He settled things down for us and gave us a chance to get back in the game. It was good to get him out there and for him to do so well.”


Trailing 3-1, USF plated five runs on five hits in the eighth to take a 6-3 lead. Junior Junior Carlin (2-for-5) opened the stanza with a bunt single and Mende followed with a walk before junior Stephen Hunt (2-for-4) roped a double into left field to trim his club’s deficit to 3-2. Sophomore Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) took over for sophomore Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) (0.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R) and surrendered a game-tying infield single to junior Jonathan Koscso (2-for-5) and a go-ahead single up the middle by junior Eric Sim (3-for-5) to move the Bulls in front, 4-3. Redshirt freshman Sean Buckley smashed a pinch-hit double off the left-field wall for a 5-3 advantage to chase Larson (3 H, 2 R) and leave runners on second and third. Freshman Jimmy Falla (3-for-4, two RBI) lofted a sacrifice fly off sophomore Justin Poovey (Granite Falls, N.C.) into right field to bring across Sim with the sixth run. Poovey uncorked a wild pitch to push Buckley to third, fanned freshman Chad Taylor and then walked Lockwood before having Carlin pop up.


Down to their final three outs, the Gators scored three runs in the ninth and tied the game on a fielding error to provide free baseball for the fans. Senior Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla.) drew a pinch-hit walk with one down and Washington followed by smashing a single off senior Teddy Kaufman’s leg. Fontana stroked a single into right field to load the bases and prompt a pitching change, as Quackenbush replaced Kaufman (1.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER). The righty struck out Zunino and senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2-for-5) came through with a two-run single on a 2-2 pitch to pull the Gators within 6-5. Senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) walked to fill the bags and an error by Mende on sophomore Preston Tucker’s (Tampa, Fla.) grounder tied the game at 6-6. Quackenbush had freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) ground out to extend the contest.


Florida had opened in the scoring in the first inning on a two-out, two-run infield single by sophomore Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) and an RBI single by junior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) to take a 3-0 lead. den Dekker led off with a single into right field to raise his hitting streak to 12 games, one shy of his career high. Adams followed with a walk and a grounder by Tucker advanced his teammates into scoring position. Junior Andrew Barbosa struck out Maddox before Pigott legged out an infield hit and beat the relay throw over to first base. Running with two outs, both den Dekker and Adams scored on Pigott’s first hit of the campaign. After Pigott stole second base, Smith delivered his first hit as a Gator into right field for a three-run advantage.  


Sophomore right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) had retired 10 straight Bulls before plunking Hunt with two down in the fourth. Koscso reached on an infield hit for two runners aboard before the right-hander fanned Sim for his third strikeout.


Falla and Taylor notched back-to-back one-out singles in the fifth for USF to end the afternoon for DeSclafani. Over 4.1 innings in his season debut, the righty permitted four singles and registered four strikeouts. Junior Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) induced an inning-ending 1-4-3 double play from Lockwood to keep the Bulls off the board.


“Chapman’s double play ball was a great turnaround for the team,” DeSclafani said. “We always seem to end up getting hits together in the last inning.”


Freshman Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) made his collegiate debut on the hill to begin the sixth and struck out the first two batters he faced, Carlin and Mende. After a base-hit by Hunt, a passed ball by sophomore catcher Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) and a wild pitch enabled the runner to take third. Rodriguez had Koscso fly out to den Dekker to end the frame.  


Barbosa set down 12 Gators in a row until a two-out infield hit by Tucker in the sixth. Left fielder Carlin then made a sprawling catch on a liner by Maddox to close the frame.  


Sim greeted senior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) with a double to open the seventh before the righty caught redshirt freshman Alex Mendez looking on strikes. Falla closed the gap to 3-1 with a double off the left-field wall before Barfield retired Taylor on a fly ball to center field. Maronde had Lockwood fly out to close the inning.  


Prior to the home part of the seventh, junior Matt Stull relieved Barbosa, who scattered five hits, gave up three runs and totaled four strikeouts in six innings of work. Pinch hitter Thompson drew a leadoff walk but was forced at second base on a grounder by sophomore pinch hitter Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.). Washington delivered a pinch-hit single for two Gators on base and Fontana walked to fill the sacks. Stull rebounded to strike out Zunino for the second out and Kaufman was summoned from the bullpen. The southpaw had den Dekker ground out, forcing Zunino at second base to preserve the 3-1 score.


Mendez started the 10th with a single into right center but was thrown out at second on Buckley’s bunt. Falla punched a single through the right side of the infield for a pair of runners aboard and a fielder’s choice by sophomore pinch hitter Todd Brazeal left runners on the corners and brought in a new Gator pitcher. Over 2.2 innings, Poovey gave up two hits and had one K and a walk. Panteliodis stranded the runners by striking out Lockwood and notched his second relief win of the season.


USF out-hit Florida, 14-11, as five different players chipped in with multiple-hit outings. The Gators continue their season-opening eight-game homestand on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against UCF. Florida will host Siena on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. before La Salle visits next weekend for three games.


Game Notes

·          Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan improved to 9-0 on opening weekends, as the Gators have swept Siena (2008), Louisville (2009) and USF (2010).

·          Today was UF’s first extra-inning game since a 10-9 win in 11 innings at Georgia on May 1, 2009.

·          Of the Gators’ 42 victories last season, 27 were come-from-behind.

·          UF has now defeated USF a school-record seven-straight times.

·          Florida starting pitchers this weekend, Tommy Toledo (3.1 IP on Friday), Brian Johnson (5.2 IP on Saturday) and Anthony DeSclafani (4.1 IP on Sunday) did not allow any earned runs in 13.1 innings.

·          The duo of sophomore catcher Ben McMahan and senior left fielder Jonathan Pigott each made his first start of the season.

·          Freshman Steven Rodriguez tossed a scoreless sixth in his first career appearance.

·          Bryson Smith singled in the first inning for his first hit at Florida and collected an RBI by driving in Daniel Pigott.

·          Pigott’s stolen base in the first frame was the Gators’ first theft of the year.

·          Nolan Fontana collected his first collegiate hit with an infield single in the second inning.

·          Pitchers Jeff Barfield, Nick Maronde and Justin Poovey, as well as catcher Hampton Tignor and infielder Jandy Rosabal made their 2010 season debuts today.

·          Matt den Dekker was 6-for-13 (.462) in the series and scored four runs, while Kamm Washington was 4-for-7 (.571) on his first weekend of action.

·          The Gators out-scored the Bulls by a 22-9 margin and out-homered USF, 5-0.



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