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Sunday March 21, 2010Maddox HR Helps No. 6 Baseball Sweep MSU, 4-1

Gainesville, Fla.

Freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) cranked a three-run homer in the eighth inning to lift sixth-ranked Florida (16-3/3-0 SEC) past Mississippi State (11-9/0-3 SEC), 4-1, on Sunday afternoon to complete a sweep on the opening weekend of SEC play at McKethan Stadium. It was the first sweep of the Bulldogs by Florida since May 3-5, 2002, and the first by the Orange and Blue over MSU in Gainesville since April 27-29, 2001. UF matched its season-high winning streak of five games in a contest that was delayed for 94 minutes at the outset due to heavy rains.

 

On the ninth pitch of his at bat against freshman right-hander Ben Bracewell, Maddox connected on his team-leading sixth round-tripper and sent it over the fence in right field. Junior Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) (1-0), who saved Saturday’s 5-4 victory, threw 2.1 scoreless innings and matched his career high of four strikeouts to earn the win. UF’s bullpen worked 3.2 innings without permitting a run and the Bulldogs stranded 13 runners, including 10 over the final four innings.  

 

“Any time you get a chance to sweep a team in this league you have to take advantage of it, because those chances don’t come around very often,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “We got an outstanding performance from Hudson Randall and the bullpen did a nice job. Once again, we played great defense. We are awfully excited that we were able to pull that one out today.”

 

“The rebound runs were huge in this game. Although we had many opportunities this weekend with runners on base, we could not get key hits so we have a lot of work to do in that regard. We just have to learn from our mistakes and we’ll get the staff together tomorrow and get back to the drawing board to address them. The bullpen was outstanding today and we need everyone to contribute as the season goes on. (Kevin) Chapman was tremendous and those two strikeouts by Jeff Barfield were huge to end the threat in the sixth inning. We made some pitches when we needed to.”

 

“I felt more comfortable seeing more pitches,” Maddox said. “I had a couple bad at bats early, made some adjustments, got up there, battled, got a good pitch and put a good swing on it. It was battle, that’s what you have to do as a hitter. Whenever you fall down 0-2, you have to battle and try to make the best out of what you can.”

 

Junior Wes Thigpen (2-for-4) opened the scoring for Mississippi State with a one-out homer to left field off freshman Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) in the second inning. It was his second dinger of the season and the series. 

 

The Gators countered with the tying run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by senior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.). Maddox reached on a throwing error by sophomore pitcher Nick Routt and moved to second with one down on a passed ball by Thigpen. Freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) singled into left field for runners on the corners and Pigott tied the game with a base-hit into left. Routt worked out of further trouble by setting down freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) on a fly out and sophomore Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) on strikes.

 

Prior to UF’s third at bat, sophomore Caleb Reed replaced Routt (2.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R) on the mound for the Bulldogs. The right-hander held the Gators without a hit until sophomore Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) opened the fifth with his second double of the season. Reed retired the next two batters before senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) drew a walk and freshman pinch hitter Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Reed had sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) fly out to the warning track in right field to keep the contest knotted at 1-1.

 

The Bulldogs had the bases loaded with one out in the sixth but could not move in front thanks to back-to-back strikeouts by senior reliever Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.). Senior Connor Powers (3-for-4) poked a one-out double to left and senior Jet Butler earned a free pass to end the afternoon for Randall. Over a career-high 5.1 innings in his SEC debut, the right-hander allowed four hits and one run and matched his career best of five strikeouts. Freshman Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) walked junior Ryan Collins to fill the bags and was replaced by Barfield. The right-hander came through with strikeouts of Thigpen and junior Jaron Shepherd to strand the runners and preserve the stalemate.

 

Barfield recorded the first two outs of the seventh before permitting a single to junior Nick Vickerson. Sophomore Justin Poovey (Granite Falls, N.C.) uncorked a wild pitch to push Vickerson to second, walked senior Luke Adkins and gave up an infield hit to Powers to load the bases before being taken out. Chapman fanned Butler to work out of the jam.

 

MSU threatened again in the eighth but came away empty-handed. Thigpen sliced a one-out single that caromed off the first-base bag into right field and senior Russ Sneed followed with a pinch-hit single for two runners aboard. Chapman had junior Jonathan Ogden line out to right field and freshman Sam Frost ground out to end the frame.

 

After Washington drew a one-out walk from Reed (0-2) in the home part of the stanza, Bracewell took over on the hill. Reed matched his career high of 5.1 innings and surrendered just one hit with three walks and a pair of strikeouts. Tucker greeted the new pitcher with a single into left field to raise his hitting streak to eight games for two runners on base. Soon after, Maddox launched a four-bagger over the right-field fence for a 4-1 Gator lead.

 

In the ninth, Vickerson struck out to begin the inning but reached first base on a wild pitch. After Adkins flew out to center field, Powers drew a walk to bring the tying run to the dish. Chapman struck out Butler swinging and had junior pinch hitter Cody Freeman fly out to right field to nail down the victory.        

 

The Gators will be back in action at McKethan Stadium on Wednesday, March 24, against Florida Gulf Coast (12-6/5-1 Atlantic Sun) at 6:30 p.m. UF heads to Oxford next weekend for a weekend series at No. 19 Ole Miss (15-5/2-1 SEC). MSU hosts Memphis on Wednesday before welcoming Georgia (8-12/0-3 SEC) to Starkville for three games.

         

Game Notes

·          The Gators swept their opening league series for the first time since handling Auburn between March 14-16, 2008 (7-1, 12-8, 6-2), in Kevin O’Sullivan’s debut season.

·          Florida moved to 14-1 at home and increased its winning streak to five games for the third time this year.

·          Hudson Randall also notched five strikeouts against Illinois State on March 9.

·          UF’s six hits were a season low and no player had multiple hits.

·          Florida did not commit an error for the fifth-consecutive game and the 12th time this spring.

·          It was the Gators’ first series win over Mississippi State since taking a 2-1 decision from May 13-15, 2005, in Gainesville (8-2, 2-1, 5-6).

·          Although UF was out-hit, 8-6, it has now captured four of the six games this season that the opponent has totaled more hits.

 

-UF-

 

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