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Friday March 19, 2010No. 6 Baseball Takes SEC Opener, 7-2, Over MSU

Gainesville, Fla.

Sophomore Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) worked a career-high 7.1 innings and No. 6 Florida (14-3) broke open a 2-1 game with a five-run sixth inning to defeat Mississippi State (11-7), 7-2, in the SEC opener for both teams on Friday night at McKethan Stadium. The southpaw (5-0) allowed four hits and two runs, with three strikeouts and a walk. Freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-4) poked a two-run double and belted a solo homer, while sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) homered for the third game in a row.

 

“(Alex) Panteliodis was around the plate tonight,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I think getting two runs in the first inning gave him a lot of confidence. There were some hard hit balls tonight but I thought we played really good defense, the outfield especially. (Matt) den Dekker did a real nice job tracking down deep fly balls and Tyler Thompson made two plays in left field that saved at least six bases. When we put the ball across the plate and play good defense, I like our chances.”

 

“I have got to give it to my defense, they helped me out a lot by taking care of a lot of deep fly balls and hard hit ground balls,” Panteliodis said. “I just have to give credit to my teammates tonight, especially Thompson for saving me twice today.”

 

Maddox helped the Gators draw first blood with a two-run double in the first inning off freshman Kendall Graveman (1-1). Junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) walked on four pitches with one down and Tucker followed with a single through the right side of the infield. Maddox roped Graveman’s next pitch into right center for his team-leading sixth double to drive in both of his teammates and open the scoring. Although freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) earned a free pass for two runners aboard, freshman Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

 

Junior Nick Vickerson pulled MSU within 2-1 in the third with his second homer of the campaign. His solo shot cleared the wall in right center and was the first dinger allowed by Panteliodis this year. Junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) later robbed SEC home run leader Connor Powers (0-for-4) of a game-tying homer to end the inning by reaching over the wall to make the grab.

 

Adams’ bid for a round-tripper in the home part of the inning was snatched away on a leaping play at the left-field fence by senior Jet Butler.

 

In the fourth, junior Ryan Collins (2-for-4) delivered a one-out double that bounced off the chalk on the right-field line but was erased at third base on a fielder’s choice by Butler. Butler hit the ball right back to Panteliodis, who caught Collins in a run-down as he tried to move over to third. Panteliodis then fanned junior Jonathan Ogden to end the frame.

 

The Gators put their first two runners on base in the fifth but came away empty-handed. Thompson started the inning with a single up the middle and freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) was hit by a pitch before a fielder’s choice by senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) forced Zunino at second and enabled Thompson to occupy third. Graveman induced an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play by Adams to preserve the 2-1 margin.

 

Florida plated five runs on three hits in the sixth, highlighted by back-to-back homers by Tucker and Maddox, to build a 7-1 advantage. Tucker connected on his third homer in as many games to right center and Maddox blasted his team-leading fifth four-bagger into the left-field bleachers. It was the second time this season that Gators had homered in consecutive at bats, as Zunino and den Dekker accomplished the feat on March 12 against Charleston Southern. Following Fontana’s second of three walks, Graveman (5.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 BB) was replaced by sophomore Caleb Reed. Washington was plunked and junior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Thompson smacked a two-run single into center field for a 6-1 cushion and stole second with one out for a pair of runners in scoring position. Soon after, den Dekker lofted his first sacrifice fly of the year to left field for a six-run cushion.

 

Junior Wes Thigpen began the eighth with his first homer to left field to narrow MSU’s deficit to 7-2. Panteliodis departed after having freshman Sam Frost ground out. Sophomore Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) notched a pair of strikeouts and recorded the final five outs of the game for UF, which held a 7-5 advantage in hits.

 

Freshman left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (1-1, 5.52) will start tomorrow’s second game at 7 p.m. against Bulldog freshman righty Chris Stratton (2-2, 2.95). The contest will be carried on CSS and air in Gainesville on Channel 15 of the Cox cable system.

         

Game Notes

·          Tonight was the first meeting between the Gators and Bulldogs since March 16-18, 2007, when MSU took two of the three encounters.

·          Florida has out-scored opponents, 29-5, in the sixth inning this year.

·          Alex Panteliodis captured his fifth-straight decision and totaled six wins all last season.

·          Austin Maddox posted his team-leading seventh multiple-RBI game of the year.

·          The Gators did not commit an error for the third game in a row and was perfect in the field for the 10th time in 17 games.

·          Kevin O’Sullivan improved to 2-1 in SEC openers (7-1 win over Auburn on March 14, 2008; 11-4 loss at Arkansas on March 13, 2009; 7-2 win over Mississippi State on March 19, 2010).

·          Nolan Fontana had three walks in an outing for the third time this year.

·          Preston Tucker extended his hitting streak to six games.

 

-UF-

 

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