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Wednesday March 10, 2010No. 6 Baseball Blanks Illinois State, 8-0

Gainesville, Fla.

Freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (4-for-5) drove in a career-high six runs, highlighted by his first grand slam, as No. 6 Florida (9-2) completed a two-game sweep of Illinois State (4-7) with an 8-0 victory on Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium. Maddox was 5-for-9 (.556) in the series with three extra-base hits and tallied nine RBI.

 

Sophomore Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) (1-1) earned his first win of the campaign with 5.1 strong innings in which he registered a season-high six strikeouts and gave up one hit. The trio of freshman Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.), freshman Michael Heller (Bradenton, Fla.) and sophomore Justin Poovey (Granite Falls, N.C.) permitted one hit over the final 3.2 innings to nail down the Gators’ first shutout since 12-0 triumph over Eastern Michigan on Feb. 24, 2009.

 

“A shutout is hard to get against anybody,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “You have to play good defense and obviously not walk anyone and be around the strike zone. When a team uses multiple pitchers like we did, that’s quite an accomplishment and I’m happy about the way the guys pitched tonight. Anthony (DeSclafani) is going to play a lot of big games for us this year and did a really good job tonight. I wanted to get him out there and didn’t want him to sit any longer.”

 

After freshman JD Learnard (0-1) retired the first two Gators of the game, sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) drew a walk and Maddox extended his hitting streak to eight games for runners on the corners. The righty had junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville , Fla.) (2-for-5) force Maddox at second with a grounder to end the inning.

 

Freshman Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) gave Florida a 1-0 lead with a two-out single in the second that was both his first career hit and first career RBI. Freshman Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) earned a free pass with one down, swiped second base for his fourth theft and moved to third on a grounder by freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.). Dent singled into left to bring across Washington and senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2-for-3, two runs) followed with a base-hit up the middle to raise his hitting streak to 20 games.

 

Freshman Brett Thaden walked to begin the fifth and was sacrificed to second by sophomore Matt Mirabal. DeSclafani struck out redshirt junior Ryan Court and then had junior Josh Colon fly out to right field. Over his 5.1-inning stint, the righty yielded only a first-inning single and had six strikeouts, one shy of his career best set against Florida Atlantic on March 4, 2009.

 

The Gators added another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Maddox but left the bases loaded. Redshirt senior Kenny Long took over for Learnard (4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R) prior to the home part of the fifth and surrendered a leadoff double to den Dekker, who now has eight multiple-hit outings in 11 games. Freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) pushed his teammate to third with a grounder and Tucker was walked intentionally for the third time in the series. The move backfired when Maddox deposited an RBI single into right field to provide UF with a 2-0 lead. Adams punched a single into right field to load the bases and Long rebounded to have sophomore pinch hitter Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) pop up to second base before striking out senior pinch hitter Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.).

 

Rodriguez replaced DeSclafani with one down in the sixth and yielded a two-out double into right center to redshirt sophomore Kevin Tokarski (2-for-4). The southpaw stranded the runner by having senior Anthony Ruffolo fly out to left.

 

Following another intentional walk to Tucker that loaded the bases with two out in the sixth, Maddox bashed his first career grand slam into the trees overlooking left field for a 6-0 advantage. Zunino poked a leadoff single off junior reliever Matt Werderitch (1.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R) and stole second base before Dent walked. A sacrifice bunt by den Dekker advanced the runners into scoring position before Fontana lined out sharply to second base for out number two. Tucker was issued an intentional free pass again to fill the bags and Maddox connected on a 1-2 pitch for his team-leading fourth homer and a six-run cushion. It was the Gators’ first grand slam since Jonathan Pigott went deep at Auburn on April 11, 2009.

 

“I guess that has been my job all year, to protect Preston (Tucker) because he had such a big year last year,” Maddox said. “It doesn’t really surprise me that they’re pitching around Preston because he did well last year. I’m a freshman so I still have to prove myself.”

 

Florida closed the scoring with two runs in the eighth, courtesy of an RBI double by Maddox and a wild pitch. den Dekker started the frame with a walk from redshirt senior Jim Sajewich and went to third when Fontana’s grounder was misplayed by Colon for an error. Maddox cranked his third double to bring across den Dekker for a 7-0 lead and Sajewich uncorked an errant pitch that enabled Fontana to score the game’s final run.

 

Rodriguez worked a career-high 1.1 innings and matched his personal-best of two strikeouts before being replaced by Heller. The righty retired all four batters he faced and Poovey retired the side in the ninth to secure Florida’s third-straight win. UF out-hit the Redbirds by an 11-2 margin.

 

The Gators return to action on Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the opener of a weekend series against Charleston Southern (5-8). Sophomore lefty Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (3-0, 1.93) will make his second start of the season and oppose Buccaneer junior right-hander Anthony Markham (0-1, 9.26).

         

Game Notes

·          The Gators improved to 7-0 at home this season.

·          Florida was 11-for-11 on stolen bases against Illinois State.

·          Matt den Dekker’s 20-game hitting streak matches Matt LaPorta (3/23-5/4/07) and Felix Martinez (3/18-4/18/84) for the seventh-longest in school history. Tim Olson holds the record of 29 games set between 3/5-4/22/00.

·          Cody Dent made his first career start at second base.

·          All four of Kamm Washington’s stolen bases this season have come in the past two days.

·          Preston Tucker’s nine-game hitting streak ended with a 0-for-2, three-walk performance, while Nolan Fontana’s eight-game streak ended with a 0-for-5 outing.

·          Austin Maddox was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and notched his first career four-hit game.

 

-UF-

 

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