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Sunday April 25, 2010No. 7 Baseball Takes Series Over No. 4 Arkansas, 2-1

Gainesville, Fla.

Freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) delivered a one-out single into right field to score freshman pinch runner Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) from second base with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth as No. 7 Florida (28-11/12-6 SEC) edged No. 4 Arkansas (33-8/13-5 SEC), 2-1, in the rubber match of the weekend series on a rainy Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The game was delayed at the outset for two hours and 27 minutes.

 

“Anytime you win a series, whether it is home or away, you've got to feel good about it,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. ‘Like I've said all along, this series is no more important than the next one, LSU. I don't think in this league you can get too high or too low. You've just got to stay even keel.”

 

With the teams deadlocked at a run apiece, freshman Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) poked a one-out single up the middle off senior Mike Bolsinger (4-2) and was replaced by Dent on first base. Senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2-for-4) sent the right-hander’s next offering into right field for two runners aboard, bringing Zunino to the plate. The freshman stroked an 0-1 pitch into shallow right field and Dent was called safe at home plate to give the Gators their first series victory over the Hogs since the 2006 season and improve O’Sullivan to 22-3 in regular-season series at home during his three-year tenure. Florida has now claimed five of its six conference series this spring and trails No. 5 South Carolina (32-8/14-4 SEC) by two games in the race for the SEC crown.

 

“I did too much and was too big on the swing, but was lucky that it dropped,” Zunino said. “I didn’t see anything, looked at the ball and by the time I looked back, the umpire signaled safe. It was huge since it keeps us close to the top of the SEC.”

 

Johnson pitched brilliantly, holding one of the league’s most potent offenses scoreless over a career-high seven innings in which he gave up three hits. The southpaw registered a career-high nine strikeouts, the most by a Florida pitcher since Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) had nine against Tennessee on March 20, 2009. Junior Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) (2-0) worked two innings and picked up the win after yielding a game-tying homer in the eighth.

 

Johnson retired the first seven Arkansas hitters of the contest before plunking sophomore James McCann with one down in the third inning. Freshman Matt Vinson followed with a single into left field for two runners aboard before Johnson picked McCann off second base. Redshirt sophomore Collin Kuhn (2-for-4) singled up the middle and junior second baseman Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) made a diving stop on a ball hit by sophomore Bo Bigham and threw over to first to end the inning.

 

Sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) opened the scoring by starting the bottom of the fourth with a homer off freshman left-hander Randall Fant that cleared the right-field fence. It was his eighth round-tripper of the season, fifth in league play. After sophomore Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-3) extended his hitting streak to nine games with a one-out double, Fant struck out den Dekker and was replaced by freshman D.J. Baxendale. Over 3.2 innings, Fant totaled five K and gave up three hits. Baxendale had Zunino fly out in foul territory to strand the runner.

 

After junior Andy Wilkins drew a four-pitch walk to begin the fifth, Johnson retired the next three batters in the stanza, including two via strikeout. The southpaw set down five-consecutive Hogs before sophomore Zack Cox roped a two-out double down into the right-field corner in the sixth. Johnson had junior Brett Eibner fly out to preserve the slim one-run margin.

 

In the bottom of the inning, the Gators had back-to-back two-out singles by freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Pigott. However, Baxendale had den Dekker fly out to left center, where Eibner made a sliding catch to keep the deficit at a run.

 

Bolsinger replaced Baxendale, who threw 2.1 scoreless innings, prior to UF’s turn in the seventh and put the Gators down in order. Chapman took over for Johnson to start the eighth and surrendered a solo homer to Kuhn into the left-field bleachers with two down to even the game at 1-1. Junior third baseman Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) committed a costly error on a grounder by Bigham, leaving the runner on second base. Chapman had Cox fly out to Adams to keep the contest tied. 

 

Junior Monk Kreder singled with one down in the ninth but was forced at second on a fielder’s choice by Wilkins thanks to a great scoop of Smith’s relay throw to Adams. Wilkins was thrown out on a close play at second base on a pick-off and a run-down to close the frame, setting the stage for Zunino’s heroics.

 

The Gators return to action on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against defending national champion No. 5 LSU (32-9/11-7 SEC). The game will begin at 8 p.m. and be carried live on CSS and in Gainesville on Cox Channel 21.

 

Game Notes

·          Florida won a series after dropping game one for the first time since posting back-to-back wins at Auburn on April 11-12, 2009.

·          The Gators are now 5-3 in one-run games this season.

·          UF improved to 3-1 at home this year against top-five squads (8-5 victory over No. 4 Florida State on March 16, 2-1 series triumph over No. 4 Arkansas).

·          Brian Johnson’s previous high of five strikeouts came at Miami (Fla.) on March 6.

·          Twelve of Preston Tucker’s 23 career home runs have come with no one on base.

·          The two runs were the fewest that Florida has scored in a win since a 2-1 decision over Florida Gulf Coast on March 11, 2008.

 

-UF-

 

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