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Thursday April 1, 2010No. 8 Baseball Hosts East Rival No. 17 Vanderbilt

Gainesville, Fla.

No. 8 Florida (18-6/4-2 SEC) will host No. 17 Vanderbilt (23-4/4-2 SEC) for three games at McKethan Stadium this weekend. Friday’s opener will be at 6:30 p.m., Saturday’s contest will be at 4 p.m. and Sunday’s finale will be at 1 p.m. The final two meetings between the Gators and Commodores will be televised live on Sun Sports. This will be UF’s first of five series against an East foe, as they have played Mississippi State and Ole Miss from the West to begin the 10-week SEC grind.

 

Sophomore Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (5-1, 2.03) will oppose Vanderbilt sophomore right-hander Sonny Gray (4-2, 2.25) to begin the series, with 2010 Winter Olympic Gold Medalist and former Gator Steve Messler set to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Panteliodis has worked at least seven innings in his last three starts and is 2-1 with a 2.08 earned run average. He threw seven scoreless frames against Charleston Southern on March 12, with five strikeouts, five hits and a walk. The southpaw claimed the Gators’ league opener versus Mississippi State on March 19 (7.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 K, 2 BB) and endured his first loss at Ole Miss on March 26 (7.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 8 K, 0 BB).

 

Freshman left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-1, 3.42) will face Commodore junior Taylor Hill (3-1, 2.55) in the second game of the set. In his two SEC starts, Johnson is 1-0 with a 0.77 ERA and has held opponents to a .214 clip. The lefty captured the finale at Ole Miss by holding the Rebels to an unearned run over 5.1 innings.

 

The series will wrap up with freshman righty Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (2-2, 5.00) meeting VU sophomore right-hander Jack Armstrong (3-0, 4.70). Randall will be making his sixth start and has 18 strikeouts in 27.0 innings. He suffered the loss in relief on Tuesday night against No. 4 Florida State and made his last start in game two at Ole Miss.

 

Freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) leads Florida in batting average (.382), RBI (33), multiple-hit games (13), multiple-RBI games (10), doubles (nine), homers (seven) and slugging percentage (.676). He has started all 24 games in four different spots: designated hitter (13), first base (five), third base (five) and catcher (one). Maddox enters the Vanderbilt series on an eight-game hitting streak in which he is 14-for-35 (.400) with 12 RBI, seven runs, four doubles and three homers. He batted .429 (6-for-14) in the series at Ole Miss and has a stretch of five-straight games with multiple hits.

 

Sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) is hitting .359 with 20 RBI, seven doubles and four homers, senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) has a .343 average with team-highs in runs (29), stolen bases (10) and triples (two) and sophomore Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) is at .323 overall and .500 (8-for-16) in league action.

 

Freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) has started all 24 games at shortstop and has yet to make an error in 102 chances. Not only is he hitting .321 overall, Fontana is tied for the team lead with 18 walks and paces the club with a .465 on-base percentage.

 

Ten of the last 13 series between Florida and Vanderbilt series have resulted in sweeps The Gators have collected seven wins and the Commodores have three during that span. UF swept in 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2008 and VU claimed all three games in 1997, 2003 and 2007. Over the last 13 encounters, Vandy has posted a 2-1 margin in 2006 and 2009 and Florida won by a similar count in 2000.

 

This weekend’s series with Vanderbilt will continue a challenging stretch against ranked teams for the Gators. UF dropped two of three at No. 17 Ole Miss last weekend before falling to No. 4 FSU. Florida is 4-5 (.444) against Top-25 teams this season. 

 

The Gators dropped Sunday’s rubber game at Vanderbilt in the teams’ series between April 3 and 5 last season in Nashville. The Orange and Blue extended its league winning streak to seven games with a come-from-behind 8-4 victory in the opener before the Commodores claimed the series with 4-3 and 16-9 triumphs. With Florida trailing by a 4-3 score in the seventh on Friday, Tucker (3-for-5, three RBI) smacked a two-out, two-run double off Mike Minor to seize the advantage. UF added three more insurance runs and southpaw Tony Davis did not allow a hit over 3.1 scoreless innings with a career-high four strikeouts to earn the decision. The top six batters in the UF lineup contributed multiple-hit outings as the Gators matched a then-season high with 18 hits.

 

Vanderbilt evened the series on Saturday with a 4-3 triumph in front of a capacity crowd of 3,700 fans at Hawkins Field. The Commodores capitalized on all three Gator errors in the contest and broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh with an RBI fielder’s choice by Steven Liddle that brought across Alex Hilliard, who had reached on a leadoff miscue. Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) pitched 5.1 innings, giving up four hits and one earned run.

 

The hosts overcame a 9-2 deficit with 14 consecutive runs to win the series on Sunday, 16-9. Tucker notched then-career-highs in RBI (five), runs (three) and homers (two) on his way to a 3-for-4 outing. Stephen Locke worked a then-season-high five innings and registered six strikeouts but was not involved in the decision. Tucker was 6-for-13 (.462) on the weekend with eight RBI, Brandon McArthur was 5-for-11 (.455) and the duo of Avery Barnes and den Dekker was each 5-for-13 (.385). The Gators batted .313 on the weekend and were 11-of-13 on the basepaths, including a 4-for-4 showing by den Dekker and a 3-for-3 effort by Barnes. After being perfect in the field on Friday, Florida committed six errors in the final two games and surrendered 10 unearned runs in game three.

 

In the teams’ last meeting in Gainesville, the Gators came through with three dramatic victories to secure a third-place finish in the SEC standings between May 15 and 17, 2008. Trailing 6-4 in the eighth inning on Thursday, Florida used a pair of two-out, two-run homers to post an 8-6 win. After pinch hitter Bryson Barber had tied the game by sending a four-bagger off the foul pole in right field, Barnes singled into right field. McArthur followed with a two-run jack to left center to provide the winning margin.

 

On Friday, UF trailed 3-0 in the fourth before Clayton Pisani ripped a two-run double. Cole Figueroa clubbed a three-run homer in the fifth and Patrick Keating struck out All-American Pedro Alvarez with the tying run at second base to preserve the 5-4 victory.

 

In a roller-coaster finale on Saturday that featured a combined 31 hits, 25 runs, eight doubles, seven homers and five stolen bases, the Gators used a walk-off single with two down in the 11th by Jon Townsend to collect a 13-12 win. Florida trailed by scores of 5-0 and 7-1 before taking an 8-7 lead in the sixth on a solo homer by Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla.). Vanderbilt countered with a four-run eighth to grab an 11-8 advantage before the Orange and Blue answered with four runs of its own in the home part of the inning to regain a one-run margin. The Commodores sent the game to extra innings with an unearned run in the ninth.

 

UF head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and Vandy skipper Tim Corbin served together on Jack Leggett’s staff at Clemson. Corbin was with the Tigers between 1994-2002, while O’Sullivan was at the ACC school from from 1999-2007 before coming to Gainesville.

 

With a 15-1 (.938) start to the home slate, O’Sullivan sports a 72-17 (.809) record at home. The three wins over Mississippi State between March 19-21 pushed the Gators to 20-3 (.870) in regular-season series under his tutelage at McKethan Stadium.

 

In their most recent action, the Gators fell to No. 4 Florida State, 7-2, on Tuesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 9,276 fans at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The Seminoles took advantage of a season-high five UF errors that led to five unearned runs to take a 2-1 advantage in the regular-season series. The clubs will meet again on April 13 in Tallahassee.

     

Sophomore Brian Busch (4-0) twirled 4.1 scoreless innings and totaled six strikeouts to earn the win in relief of junior Geoff Parker (4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER). Thompson provided the Gators with a 2-1 lead in the second inning with his first homer since May 16, 2009, against Kentucky and Maddox raised his hitting streak to eight games by going 2-for-4.

Randall was on the hook for the loss after giving up an unearned run on one hit in 2.1 innings. It was the first time all season that a member of the Gator bullpen suffered a defeat after a 7-0 start. Senior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) worked two innings, allowing three hits and an unearned run, in his first start since April 21, 2009, versus Florida Gulf Coast.

 

Despite a season-high five errors against Florida State, the Gators have committed a league-low 20 errors in 24 games and boast a .978 fielding percentage that ties Ole Miss for the best in the league. UF has played flawless defense in 13 of 24 contests this spring and sports an 11-2 (.846) mark in those contests.

 

Gator Bytes

*O’Sullivan has a 4-3 (.571) mark against Vanderbilt and is an unblemished 3-0 in Gainesville.

*Over the last two seasons, the Gators have taken the opener of the series with the Commodores (8-6 on May 15, 2008; 8-4 on April 3, 2009).

*O’Sullivan is 14-8 (.636) is his tenure versus ranked teams at McKethan Stadium.

*Florida captured four of its five league series at home last season, defeating Tennessee (3-0), Alabama (3-0), South Carolina (3-0) and Kentucky (2-1), while falling to Ole Miss (2-1).

*The Gators will be facing the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week for the second-consecutive Friday night. Last week, Ole Miss junior left-hander Drew Pomeranz totaled nine strikeouts and gave up five hits and one run over 7.1 innings in the Rebels’ 3-2 triumph. VU sophomore righty Sonny Gray was honored by the league office on Monday after limiting Kentucky to four singles and zero runs as part of a 7-0 combined shutout during the series opener in Nashville.

*Starting third baseman Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) (.255, 11 RBI) has missed the past five games with an injured finger. Maddox has manned the hot corner in Smith’s absence.

*den Dekker is 10-for-12 on stolen base attempts this season and is 52-for-57 in his career. He is currently tied with Mark Kiger (2000-02) for 10th on the school’s all-time list.

*Before last Friday’s loss in the series opener to Ole Miss, the Gators had been 12-0 when a starter worked five or more innings. Panteliodis suffered his first defeat despite a 7.1-inning stint in which he allowed six hits and three runs, with a career-high 8 K.

*Last Saturday’s setback ended a run of 11-straight wins in which Florida lost after scoring first. The Gators seized a 2-0 lead in the first frame before Ole Miss countered with four runs in the home part of the stanza and cruised from there.

*Junior Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA and has collected four saves in 18.0 innings covering 11 appearances. The left-hander saw action in 11 games totaling 11.1 innings last season.

*Seven of UF’s 18 wins are of the come-from-behind variety. The Gators overcame an 8-0 deficit in the second inning to post a 13-8 win against FGCU on March 24. UF also trailed 8-0 at No. 6 Georgia in third inning on May 1, 2009, before notching a 10-9 victory in 11 innings.

*The Gator bullpen is 7-1 with eight saves and a 4.13 earned run average. Florida is 16-0 when leading after six innings and 17-0 when ahead after the seventh.

*UF’s eight saves this year are from four different relievers: Barfield (two), Chapman (four), sophomore Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) and Maronde.

*Twenty-four of UF’s 28 homers have come against right-handers. Vanderbilt’s weekend rotation consists of three righties.

*Opposing left-handers are 1-for-19 (.053) against Chapman and righties are 10-for-45 (.222). Leadoff hitters have not reached base in nine opportunities against freshman Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.).

*With runners on base, foes are 4-for-28 (.143) against Panteliodis and 4-for-23 (.174) versus Barfield.

*UF’s pitching staff has held opponents under six runs 18 times and the Orange and Blue is 16-2 (.889) in those games. Florida’s ERA in overall games is 3.97 and it has a 4.15 ERA in six SEC outings.

*The Gators are holding foes to a .229 (61-for-266) average with two outs and are hitting .288 (76-for-264) with two down offensively.  

*Freshman Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) is a sizzling 7-for-11 (.636) when leading off an inning, Maddox is 14-for-25 (.560), while junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville , Fla.) is 10-for-19 (.526). As a team, the Gators hit .438 (89-for-203) when beginning a frame.

*Twelve of den Dekker’s 18 RBI this year have come with two outs.

*UF holds a 171-107 advantage on the scoreboard, featuring a 32-9 disparity in the sixth inning and a 23-6 edge in the fourth stanza.

*Florida is 12-1 this season when scoring first and is 13-2 when out-hitting their opponent.

*Freshman Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.)  appeared twice during the series at Ole Miss and came through with a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning of game three before sophomore Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) clubbed a pinch-hit homer for his first career round-tripper.

*The Gators are 9-for-30 (.300) when pinch-hitting, led by Weitzel (2-for-3), Washington (2-for-4) and senior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (1-for-2).

*Thompson has been UF’s designated hitter the past two games and is 4-for-7 (.571) with three runs and a couple of RBI.

 

-UF-

 

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