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Saturday April 24, 2010No. 7 Baseball Evens Series With No. 4 Arkansas, 8-2

Gainesville, Fla.

A six-run fourth inning helped No. 7 Florida (27-11/11-6 SEC) even its weekend series with No. 4 Arkansas (33-7/13-4 SEC), 8-2, on Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The victory snapped the Hogs’ 13-game winning streak and ended a seven-game slide for the Gators against the Hogs dating back to a 6-1 win on April 12, 2008. UF pulled back to within two games of the league leaders and the teams will play the rubber match of the series tomorrow at 1 p.m.

 

“Hudson (Randall) gave us a quality start and a chance to play outstanding defense,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “When you face a good pitcher like (Brett) Eibner, you have to take advantage of your opportunities. We had a big fourth and really swung the bat well, that’s what you have to do against great pitching.”

 

“We talked to our team yesterday about Arkansas’ great lineup 1 through 9. While everyone’s so concerned about (Zack) Cox, (Andy) Wilkins and Eibner, it’s the supporting cast that gets it done for them. There’s not really an easy out in the lineup, you’ve got to pitch well as Hudson did for us today.”

 

Freshman Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (4-3) scattered six hits over 5.2 innings without allowing any earned runs to notch the decision, while sophomore reliever Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) collected his second save by tossing 3.1 scoreless innings. Sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (1-for-4) came through with a two-run double and junior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) (2-for-5) belted a three-run homer during a fourth inning in which the hosts sent 10 batters to the plate.

 

Redshirt junior Travis Sample (2-for-4) began the third with Arkansas’ first hit off Randall, a single through the left side. The righty rebounded with a strikeout of redshirt sophomore Tim Carver and senior center fielder Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) made a phenomenal sliding catch in left center to rob sophomore James McCann (2-for-4) of extra bases. One inning earlier, den Dekker’s sprawling grab on the warning track deprived junior Monk Kreder of at least a double. A two-out passed ball pushed Sample into scoring position before Randall had redshirt sophomore Collin Kuhn fly out to center.

 

The Gators capitalized on a dropped fly ball with two down in the bottom of the inning to draw first blood. Freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) poked a two-out double off junior Brett Eibner (3-3) and the righty had Smith loft a ball into right center. Both center fielder Kuhn and sophomore right fielder Bo Bigham converged on the ball but neither made the catch, enabling Fontana to score the initial run.

 

Bigham started the fourth with a base-hit and stole second with two down before Eibner drew a walk after a 10-pitch at bat. Randall stranded the runners by having sophomore Zack Cox line out to Smith at third base.

 

Florida sent 10 batters to the plate and exploded for six runs on six hits in the home part of the frame on a one-out double by Zunino, a two-out RBI single by junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) and a three-run jack by Smith to build a 7-0 lead. Freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) stroked a leadoff single into right field and freshman Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) followed with his second double of the season for a pair of Gators in scoring position. Eibner fanned den Dekker and Zunino smashed his fourth double off the left-field wall to bring across both of his teammates. After fouling off several two-strike pitches, Adams sliced a base-knock into left that plated Zunino for a four-run cushion. Fontana kept the inning going with a Texas Leaguer into shallow center for runners on the corners, ending the afternoon for Eibner (3.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER). Smith cranked sophomore Geoffrey Davenport’s first pitch into the left-field bleachers for his third homer and a seven-run margin. 

 

“We needed to win this afternoon,” Zunino said. “We definitely didn’t want to fall to 0-2 at home in a series so we just tried to do everything we could to get a win. We tried to be more aggressive and squared some more balls up.”

 

In the fifth, Arkansas had runners on first and third following a double by Carver and an infield single by McCann. However, Randall induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play on a grounder by Kuhn to keep the Hogs off the board.

 

Arkansas tallied two unearned runs in the sixth to narrow the gap to 7-2. Bigham started the stanza by reaching on a fielding error by Smith, advanced on a grounder by junior Andy Wilkins and came home on Eibner’s eighth double. An infield hit by Kreder left runners on the corners and prompted a pitching change. Larson replaced Randall (5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 K) and yielded an RBI single to Sample before having a ground ball from Carver force Sample at second to end the inning.

 

Sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) delivered a two-out double in the bottom of the stanza to finalize the 8-2 margin. Adams started things off with a base-hit into right field and was sacrificed over by Fontana. After Adams took third on Smith’s grounder, Tucker bashed his 11th two-bagger off the left-field wall.  

 

Florida held a 12-9 advantage in hits, as Fontana and Smith were a combined 4-for-9 with three runs and three RBI at the top of the lineup. Johnson (3-2, 3.47) will oppose freshman left-hander Randall Fant (3-0, 2.62) in tomorrow’s finale.

 

Game Notes

·          The Gators improved to 19-3 at McKethan Stadium and 6-3 in game two of a weekend series.

·          Florida’s total of six hits in the fourth inning was one shy of its high in a frame this season – seven at Tennessee in the sixth on April 11.

·          The six-run fourth marked the ninth time this year that the Gators have scored five or more runs in an inning.

·          Preston Tucker stole second base in the first inning and is now 4-for-4 on the basepaths.

·          Nolan Fontana has back-to-back multiple hit games in the series.

·          Matt den Dekker’s stolen base in the fifth, his 13th of the year and the 55th of his career, moved him into a tie for eighth on the school’s career list.

·          Bryson Smith’s three RBI matched his season high for the third time.

 

-UF-

 

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