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Thursday May 6, 2010No. 4 Baseball Back On the Road At Alabama

Gainesville, Fla.

Riding a five-game winning streak following a sweep of defending national champion No. 9 LSU, No. 4 Florida (31-11/15-6 SEC) visits Western Division rival Alabama (28-17/9-12 SEC) for three games this weekend. The Gators were rained out Tuesday against Bethune-Cookman and face a Crimson Tide club that is 20-4 (.833) at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

 

Freshman righty Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (5-3, 3.30) will start the series opener on Friday night against UA sophomore left-hander Adam Morgan (5-2, 5.79). The game will be carried live on CSS and be shown in Gainesville on Cox Channel 259 at 7:30 p.m. In his last outing, Randall limited No. 9 LSU to one run over eight innings and was supported by an offense that totaled 11 hits. He established a career high with seven strikeouts and scattered seven hits while working eight innings for the second time this year. The righty went the same distance during the rubber game at Tennessee on April 11 which the Gators won, 9-1. Twice named as the SEC Freshman of the Week, Randall will be making his team-leading 11th start.

 

Left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (4-2, 2.90) will be on the hill for the Gators on Saturday at 4 p.m., live on Sun Sports, versus Tide junior right-hander Jimmy Nelson (5-1, 3.90). The southpaw picked up the victory on the mound to complete the sweep of LSU and batted .429 (3-for-7) at the plate during the series, earning SEC Freshman of the Week recognition for the second time. Johnson worked 6.1 innings in the finale, giving up nine hits and three runs (two earned), with four strikeouts and zero walks. He also belted his first career grand slam to highlight the Gators’ five-run fourth inning as part of a 2-for-4, career-high four-RBI effort. On the season, he boasts a 35:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio and is tied for the team lead with three wins in conference play, where he is 3-1 and with a team-best 1.80 ERA.

 

Sophomore left-hander Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (7-2, 2.92) will oppose an Alabama pitcher to be announced in the series finale on Mother’s Day at 3 p.m. Panteliodis is tied for second in the SEC in wins (six) and ranks seventh in both opposing batting average (.226) and (2.92). The left-hander has worked at least five innings in all nine of his starts and boasts a 47:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

 

Florida has claimed six of its seven SEC series and the team’s 15-6 start to league play is better than the 13-8 (2009) and 12-9 (2008) efforts during Kevin O’Sullivan’s first two seasons at the helm. UF finished 17-13 and was the runner-up in the East in 2008 and claimed the division title last year with a 19-11 mark that was one game back of league co-champions LSU and Ole Miss.

 

Since dropping two of three games at No. 17 Ole Miss, the Gators have taken league series from No. 17 Vanderbilt (2-1), Tennessee (2-1), Kentucky (2-1), No. 4 Arkansas (2-1) and No. 9 LSU (3-0). This stretch of five-straight weekend triumphs in conference play is the longest since the 2005 Gator squad claimed five in a row on its way to a 20-10 performance and the program’s most recent SEC crown.

 

Last season, Florida claimed all three meetings against Alabama at McKethan Stadium from March 27-29. The Orange and Blue had a .382 (42-for-110) batting average against the Crimson Tide and totaled 10 extra-base hits (five doubles, three triples and two homers). UF came from behind to collect victories on Friday (11-4) and Saturday (9-8) and completed its first sweep of UA since April 1-3, 1994, with a 10-7 win on Sunday. Brandon McArthur was 6-for-11 (.545) and the trio of Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (7-for-14), Buddy Munroe (5-for-10) and Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (4-for-8) each hit .500 versus Alabama. Florida’s bullpen corps played a crucial role, notching all three victories, collecting two saves and registering a 1.69 earned run average after allowing just three runs over 16.0 innings to the SEC’s top hitting team.

 

The Gators overcame a 4-0 deficit with 11 unanswered runs to take Friday’s opener. The hosts plated three runs with two out in the seventh, keyed by a double from Munroe (3-for-4, three runs, two RBI) and a go-ahead two-run single by McArthur (2-for-4). UF then erupted for six more runs in the eighth, featuring a three-run double by Tucker (3-for-4). Clint Franklin (Orlando, Fla.) threw four scoreless innings of one-hit ball before Billy Bullock retired all six batters he faced to pick up the save. The righty entered the game in the eighth with two runners aboard and the

Gators clinging to a 5-4 lead and later recorded two strikeouts when the Crimson Tide had a pair of men in scoring position.

 

Pigott’s drag bunt single with two down in the bottom of the ninth scored Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) from third base with the winning run as the Gators capped off a remarkable comeback to post a 9-8 triumph on Saturday. After trailing 7-0 in the seventh and 8-2 entering the final frame, UF sent 11 batters to the plate and scored five runs with two outs to clinch the series victory in dramatic fashion. Florida tallied seven runs on five hits and capitalized on three Tide errors in the decisive stanza…Tucker had two hits in the ninth and finished 3-for-5 with three RBI.

 

All nine starters had at least one hit and six players turned in multiple-hit efforts in Sunday’s 10-7 victory. Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) had a career-high 4.1-inning relief stint in which he retired the fi rst eight Alabama hitters he faced and registered five strikeouts. Tony Davis finished the eighth and recorded one out in the ninth before Bullock set down a pair of Crimson Tide batters to collect his sixth save. Clayton Pisani went 2-for-4 with three RBI and belted a go-ahead solo homer in the fourth.

 

After splitting the first two games at Western Division foe Alabama over May 9-10, 2008, Florida suffered a difficult 8-7 loss in Sunday’s rubber game. McArthur and Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) were each 6-for-14 (.429) against the Crimson Tide.

 

On Sunday, McArthur belted his first homer since Feb. 9, 2007, and matched a season high with three RBI. UF held a 7-2 lead with two outs in the eighth before the Tide countered with five runs in that frame to tie the score. Although right fielder Riley Cooper robbed Matt Bentley of a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, pinch runner Jeff Texada scored from second base with the winning run on the sacrifice fly. Patrick Keating received his second-straight no-decision after working 7.1 innings in which he scattered seven hits and was charged with four runs (three earned). Cole Figueroa went 3-for-5, scored three runs and clubbed his seventh homer.

 

Stephen Locke hurled his second career complete game to help the Gators to a 6-2 win on Saturday. The left-hander scattered seven hits and gave up one earned run...He surrendered six singles and one double and went the distance on 96 pitches. McArthur and den Dekker were each 3-for-5 as UF exceeded its win total from 2007 with its 30th victory.

 

Down to its final strike in the top of the ninth on Friday, Florida used a bases-loaded, two-run single by Avery Barnes to seize a 6-5 lead. However, the Tide answered with a two-run walk-off double in the home part of the inning by pinch hitter Del Howell to grab a 7-6 decision.

 

Florida-Alabama Series Tidbits

*Alabama leads the series, 54-45, including 29-15 in Tuscaloosa.

*The home team has emerged victorious in the last five series, including four by 2-1 margins (2005, UF; 2006, UA; 2007, UF, 2008).

*Florida has dropped its last two series at Sewell-Thomas Stadium (L, W, L in 2008 and W, L, L in 2006) since rebounding from a game-one defeat to claim the final two meetings between May 7 and 9, 2004.

*Since 1995, the Gators have lost six of the seven series played in Tuscaloosa.

*Last year’s sweep by UF marked the first time a squad claimed all three encounters since the Crimson Tide accomplished the feat in Tuscaloosa from April 5-7, 2002 (4-1, 7-2, 6-5).

*Florida has captured the last four sets in Gainesville (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009) since dropping all three games during the 1999 season.

*Five of the last eight meetings have been decided by two runs or less, with UA taking three of them.

*The teams have not played an extra-inning affair since the Tide notched a 7-5 win in 10 innings to salvage the finale of the series at McKethan Stadium on May 6, 2007.

 

Gator Bytes

*Kevin O’Sullivan is 4-2 (.667) against Alabama, 1-2 (.333) in Tuscaloosa and 3-0 in Gainesville.

*In his three years at Florida, O’Sullivan is 80-19 (.808) at McKethan Stadium, 25-29 (.463) at opponents’ stadiums and 2-9 (.182) at neutral sites.

*The Gators are an even 8-8 away from home this season, 5-4 (.556) in the SEC. UF dropped two out of three games at No. 17 Ole Miss but collected 2-1 series wins over Eastern Division rivals Tennessee and Kentucky.

*The last time that Florida won three SEC road series in a season was in 2007, defeating Auburn (3-0), Georgia (3-0) and LSU (2-1).

*Alabama is 7-2 (.778) at home in league play and has taken all three series it has hosted, downing No. 16 Vanderbilt (2-1), Auburn (2-1) and Mississippi State (3-0).

*Sophomore Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (.313) enters the weekend on a career-high 11-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .400 (16-for-40), with seven runs, five RBI, four doubles and two triples.

*Freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) has been one of Florida’s hottest hitters recently, putting together a seven-game hitting streak that has raised his average from .220 to .262. He is 11-for-26 (.423) with seven runs, seven RBI and three bombs during the skein.

*Versatile freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.), who has started games at designated hitter (17), third base (13), first base (11) and catcher (one), leads the Gators in RBI (50), multiple-RBI games (14,) doubles (13), and homers (13). He needs four more dingers to eclipse Jason Dill’s freshman record of 16 homers that was set in 1998. Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) set the single-season school record of 85 RBI last year, when he claimed the team’s Triple Crown with a .364 batting average, 85 RBI and 15 home runs.

*Freshman LHP Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) is 3-2 in league action with a 2.95 ERA. The righty is 1-1 with 6.00 ERA in three road starts: 1.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R at Ole Miss on March 27 (L); 8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 6 K at Tennessee on April 11 (W); 3.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 2 K at Kentucky on April 17 (ND).

*Freshman LHP Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) will be making his first road start since taking the loss in game two at Tennessee on April 10, when he gave up six hits and three runs over 4.1 innings to the Vols.

*The southpaw captured the finale at No. 17 Ole Miss on March 28 by holding the Rebels to an unearned run over 5.1 innings in UF’s 13-1 victory.

*In the league statistics released on Monday, sophomore lefty Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) ranked seventh in ERA (2.92) and opposing batting average (.226) and 12th in innings pitched (61.2). His seven wins are the most by a UF pitcher since Patrick Keating had eight in 2008. The last player to reach double-digit wins for the program was Alan Horne (10, 2005).

*Opponents are 22-for-35 on stolen-base opportunities against the Gators, while Zunino has thrown out nine of 28 runners.

*UF is 60-of-83 on the basepaths and is tied for fourth in the SEC in thefts. Senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) is 16-for-20 to lead the team and needs one more stolen base to match Aaron Davidson (2000-02) for sixth on the school’s career list with 59 SB.

*Junior LHP Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.), who made 11 appearances last year and 30 total in his career entering this season, is 2-0 with a team-low 1.45 earned average in 20 appearances covering 31.0 innings. He is second in the SEC with eight saves.

*Led by 11 from Billy Bullock, Florida totaled 13 saves in its 42 victories in 2009. UF has 13 saves already this year from four players: Chapman (eight), senior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) (two), as well as sophomores Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (two) and Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) (one).

*Florida’s bullpen is 11-1 with 13 saves and a 4.61 ERA in 168.0 innings, its starters are 20-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 204.0 innings.

*Left-handed batters are 4-for-21 (.190) against Barfield, who has collected both of his wins in league action (Vanderbilt, April 2; Kentucky, April 16).

*den Dekker is batting .371 (26-for-70) and Tucker is hitting .344 (31-for-90) with runners on base, with den Dekker at .378 (17-for-45) and Tucker at .348 (16-for-46) with RISP.

*den Dekker (.410) and Daniel Pigott (.379) and are the most effective starters with two outs, while sophomore Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) is 6-for-11 (.545) with two down in an inning. Maddox leads the Gators with 23 two-out RBI and sophomore Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) is 3-for-4 (.750) as a pinch-hitter. Weitzel has seven hits in his last 15 at bats (.467).

*Leadoff batters are 0-for-15 against freshman lefty Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.), who boasts a 1.62 ERA in 10 appearances over 16.2 innings.

*The Orange and Blue enjoy a 292-189 scoring advantage, led by a 50-28 disparity in the sixth inning and a 43-10 cushion in the fourth frame.

*Scoring first, the Gators are 22-3 (.880) and their opponents are 8-9 (.471).

*UF is 24-2 (.923) when having more hits than its foe and 6-9 (.400) when out-hit.

*The Gators are 2-7 (.222) when their opponent scores in the opening stanza and hold a 27-23 margin in the fi rst inning thanks to the seven-run outburst versus USF on April 21.

 

-UF-

 

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