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Saturday April 17, 2010No. 7 Baseball Clinches Series At Kentucky, 6-3

Lexington, Ky.

Sophomore reliever Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (2-1) threw 3.2 scoreless and hitless innings and sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) drove in three runs to lift No. 7 Florida (25-9/10-4 SEC) to a 6-3 victory over Kentucky (21-14/4-10 SEC) on Saturday night. The triumph secured the Gators’ first series win at Cliff Hagan Stadium since 2004. After allowing a leadoff double in the fourth, UF’s pitching staff held the Wildcats without a hit until there were two outs in the eighth and the hosts stranded 14 runners in the ballgame.

 

The Gators took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI single by senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) off freshman southpaw Taylor Rogers (4-4). Freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (3-for-5, two runs) had raised his hitting streak to seven games with his team-leading 12th double and was sacrificed to third on a bunt by senior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.). den Dekker delivered a base-hit into right field to break the ice.

 

In the bottom of the inning, Kentucky capitalized on a hit by a pitch and three-consecutive walks by freshman Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) to even the score. Redshirt senior Marcus Nidiffer was plunked with one down and was erased at second base on a fielder’s choice by Cory Farris (1-for-3, two runs), who later stole second. As junior Taylor Black took ball four to finish his plate appearance, Farris swiped third base. A free pass to junior Chris Bisson loaded the bags and sophomore Chad Wright earned a free pass on four pitches to allow Farris to walk home with the tying run. Randall induced an inning-ending grounder by redshirt senior Gunner Glad that forced Bisson at third base.

 

Freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-4) helped Florida re-claim the advantage with a solo shot over the wall in left center to begin the third. It was his third round-tripper of the season.

 

Maddox opened the fourth with his team-leading 11th homer to give UF a 3-1 lead. It was his second dinger of the series and bounced off the scoreboard overlooking left center field. Of Maddox’s 11 homers, seven have come in conference activity and he leads the Orange and Blue in batting average (.370) and RBI (41).

 

The Wildcats loaded the bases with none out in the fourth but pushed across just one run to close the gap to 3-2. Farris led off with a double into left center, Black was hit and Bisson drew a walk to end the night for Randall. Over three-plus innings, the righty issued a career-high five walks, allowed three hits, hit two batters, yielded two runs and notched a pair of strikeouts. Larson had Wright ground to junior third baseman Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.), who stepped on third and threw over to Tucker for a double play, bringing home Farris. Larson stranded Bisson by having Glad ground out.

 

Florida squandered a golden opportunity in the sixth after having the bases full with one out. Maddox doubled high off the wall in right field for his second two-bagger of the night to start the frame and Jonathan Pigott’s sacrifice bunt was fielded by Rogers, who was unable to throw Maddox out at third base. With runners on the corners and one down, Rogers muffed Smith’s check-swing grounder for an error, loading the sacks full of Gators. Rogers worked out of the jam by striking out junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) and having Zunino fly out to right.

 

Freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) began the seventh with a double down the right-field line, the fifth-straight inning that the Gators started with an extra-base hit. Sophomore Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) advanced Fontana to third with a sacrifice bunt and Tucker followed with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field for a 4-2 UF lead. After working 6.2 innings and giving up eight hits and four runs, with four strikeouts, Rogers was replaced by sophomore Braden Kapteyn. The righty had Maddox ground out to complete the frame.

 

Larson retired the first two hitters in the home part of the stanza before Smith committed an error on Kapteyn’s grounder to keep the inning alive. Redshirt senior Keenan Wiley drew a walk and Nidiffer was hit by a pitch to load the bases and prompt a change on the mound. Over a career-high 3.2 innings in relief, Larson did not allow any hits and matched his personal best of three strikeouts. Sophomore Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) came out of the bullpen and whiffed sophomore pinch hitter Michael Williams to preserve the Gators’ two-run margin.

 

Wright delivered Kentucky’s first hit since the fourth inning with a two-out single into left field in the bottom of the eighth, causing another pitching change. Senior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) replaced Maronde (1.0 IP, 1 H, 2 K) and had Glad fly out to close the inning.

 

Tucker provided the Gators with some breathing room by cranking a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth to deep right field for a 6-2 lead. Kapteyn had set down the first two hitters of the inning before Daniel Pigott legged out a bunt. Tucker stepped to the plate and blasted his fifth homer for a four-run advantage.

 

With the Wildcats down to their final three outs, sophomore Andy Burns (2-for-3) greeted junior Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) with a leadoff homer, his 11th of the season, to finalize the margin at 6-3. Florida held a 10-6 advantage in hits, with three doubles and three homers. The teams will conclude the series tomorrow at 1 p.m.

 

Game Notes

·          Florida’s last series win in Lexington occurred in 2004, when the Gators collected a three-game sweep from March 26-28 by scores of 8-4, 17-6 and 8-1.

·          The Gators have now claimed back-to-back road series victories in league play, defeating Eastern Division rivals Tennessee and Kentucky.

·          Matt den Dekker’s 11th stolen base of the season in the second inning was the 53rd of his career, moving him into 10th on the school’s all-time list.

·          Austin Maddox totaled his 17th multiple-hit game and six of his 11 homers have been solo.

·          Jonathan Pigott had two sacrifice hits, while Daniel Pigott chipped in with one.

 

-UF-

 

 

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