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Saturday April 3, 2010No. 8 Baseball Takes Series Over No. 17 Vandy, 7-3

Gainesville, Fla.

Double-threat freshman Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) helped No. 8 Florida (20-6/6-2 SEC) clinch its weekend series against No. 17 Vanderbilt (23-6/4-4 SEC) with a 7-3 victory on Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium in front of 3,684 fans. The left-hander (3-1) held the Commodores scoreless for the first 5.2 innings and permitted just one run to pick up his second conference win and was 3-for-3 with a run.

 

“Brian Johnson’s performance today was really good, although he didn’t have his best breaking ball in the first two innings,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He started throwing strikes after the second inning and the most important thing is that he gave us a chance early on. We kept the momentum and he put zeros up after that. I’m not saying he had his best stuff today, but he battled.”

 

“It’s probably the easiest game ball we have given out all year, as he was 3-for-3 at the plate. It was just a matter of time before we started letting him swing the bat, we wanted to give him four or five starts first in order to concentrate on the pitching side of things before easing him in. This was the weekend to do it.”

 

The Gators grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second on sophomore Daniel Pigott’s (Ormond Beach , Fla.) first homer of the season. Johnson had helped himself with a one-out single into right-center and Pigott (1-for-4, three RBI, two runs) launched his first dinger since April 15 of last year against Stetson over the right-field fence off junior Taylor Hill (3-2).

 

Sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (1-for-1, three walks) expanded the Gators’ advantage to 3-0 with a one-out double into the right-field corner in the third. Freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) drew a leadoff walk but was erased at second base on a fielder’s choice by senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs). Tucker followed with his eighth two-bagger to score den Dekker all the way from first base.

 

Johnson retired six-straight Commodore hitters before issuing a two-out walk to senior Brian Harris in the fifth and a single to sophomore Jason Esposito. A passed ball by freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) advanced both runners into scoring position before Johnson had senior Andrew Giobbi (2-for-4) line out to second base to end the frame.

 

UF increased its lead to 4-0 in the fifth on a two-out throwing error by Harris. den Dekker singled through the left side of the infield with one down and moved to second on a wild pitch from Hill. Tucker earned a free pass for two runners aboard and freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) hit a grounder to second that forced Tucker at second base. In trying to turn an inning-ending double play, Harris’ relay throw went past first base, allowing den Dekker to come across with the fourth run.

 

Sophomore Aaron Westlake (3-for-4, two RBI) opened the sixth with a base-hit and Johnson responded by having freshman Connor Harrell ground into a 5-4-3 double play, one of a season-high three turned by UF on the day. Sophomore Joe Loftus then connected on his fourth homer to right center to narrow the gap to 4-1 and prompt a pitching change. Over 5.2 innings, Johnson yielded seven hits and a run, with one strikeout and a walk. Sophomore Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) had sophomore Riley Reynolds ground out to close the inning.

 

The Gators answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning on a fielder’s choice by Pigott and a two-run single by Zunino to take a 7-1 lead. Junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) singled up the middle to start things off and Johnson collected his third hit of the afternoon for runners on the corners with none out, ending Hill’s time on the mound. The righty gave up eight hits and six runs (five earned) over five-plus innings, with three K and three walks. A grounder by Pigott off freshman reliever Corey Williams forced Johnson at second base and brought home Adams for a 5-1 margin. The three RBI matched Pigott’s career high for the third time. Freshman Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) rifled a one-out double down the left-field line for a pair of Gators in scoring position and Zunino delivered a two-run single for his first career SEC hit to build a six-run cushion.  

 

Tucker walked to begin the bottom of the seventh and Maddox slammed a ball off Williams’ knee which knocked the lefty out of the game. Sophomore Navery Moore walked Johnson with two down and uncorked a wild pitch for a couple of runners in scoring position. The reliever rebounded to strike out Pigott to keep VU’s deficit at six runs.

 

In the eighth, Giobbi ripped a leadoff double to left field and went to third on a passed ball. Westlake cranked his fifth homer to left field to pull the Commodores within 7-3 and force a pitching move. Sophomore Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) took over for DeSclafani (1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R) and registered the final six outs to complete the contest.

 

In a matchup of right-handers, freshman Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (2-2, 5.00) will face sophomore Jack Armstrong (3-0, 4.70) in tomorrow’s finale at 1 p.m. The game can be seen live on Sun Sports.

 

Game Notes

·          The Gators improved to 21-3 (.875) in regular-season home series under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

·          Florida captured its eighth-straight home game and is now 17-1 (.944) at McKethan Stadium this year.

·          Brian Johnson had his first career extra-base hit with a double to start the bottom of the fourth and set a personal best with three hits.

·          Mike Zunino broke a 0-for-21 drought to begin SEC action with a two-run single in the sixth.

·          Austin Maddox’s hitting streak ended at nine games with a 0-for-4 performance.

·          Preston Tucker reached base in all four of his plate appearances.

·          The Florida defense committed no errors for the 14th time this season (12-2) and turned a season-high three double plays.

 

-UF-

 

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