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Friday May 7, 2010No. 4 Baseball Claims Opener At Alabama, 9-3

Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Florida freshman right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) twirled seven shutout innings and all nine starters contributed a hit as the fourth-ranked Gators (32-11/16-6 SEC) defeated Alabama (28-18/9-13 SEC), 9-3, on Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The victory matched UF’s season-best winning streak of six games and kept head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club one game behind league-leading South Carolina (36-9/17-5 SEC), a 13-9 winner at Kentucky.

 

Randall (6-3) claimed his fourth-straight win by yielding eight hits, with three strikeouts and a walk. Freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-4) drove in three runs, freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) went 3-for-5 with two runs and two doubles and freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-5, two RBI) connected on his team-best 14th homer. The Gators also turned a season-high four double plays.

 

UF seized a 2-0 lead in the first inning with four hits off Tide sophomore Adam Morgan (5-3). Fontana led off the game with his ninth double and was sacrificed to third on a bunt by junior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville , Ga.). Morgan retired sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-6) on a pop-up behind the plate in which the hurler made the catch before Maddox ricocheted a single off the lefty’s arm that brought across Fontana. Sophomore Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) increased his hitting streak to 12 games with a base-hit into center field and senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2-for-5) delivered an RBI single to drive in Maddox. Pigott advanced to third and den Dekker moved to second on the throw before Morgan had junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) fly out to strand the runners.

 

Senior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (1-for-2, two runs) started the second with a single to right field and Zunino raised his hitting streak to eight games with a base-hit to give the Gators runners on the corners. Alabama turned a double play on a grounder hit by Fontana, with Pigott scoring on the play, for a 3-0 lead. Smith roped his second double of the campaign but was left aboard when Tucker grounded out.

 

Junior Josh Rutledge (2-for-5) and senior Clay Jones (2-for-3) opened the home part of the fourth with consecutive singles before Randall had junior David Kindred fly out to center field. The right-hander then induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play by junior Brett Whitaker to end the threat.

 

Florida tacked on three more runs on three hits and a pair of walks in the fifth to build a 6-0 advantage. Maddox launched a towering homer over the scoreboard in left field with one down. Daniel Pigott then drew a walk and den Dekker followed with a push bunt for two runners on base, ending the night for Morgan (4.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R). Following a double steal, junior Jason Townsend retired Adams and issued a two-out walk to Jonathan Pigott to load the bases. Zunino then rifled a two-run single through the right side of the infield to balloon the lead to six runs.

 

The Crimson Tide threatened again in the bottom of the frame by loading the bases with one out, only to be kept at bay by Randall. Freshman Andrew Miller reached on a leadoff error by Adams and moved around the bases on back-to-back one-out singles by senior Cal Tinsley and sophomore Taylor Dugas. Randall answered by catching sophomore Jon Kelton looking on strikes and had Rutledge line out to center, where den Dekker made a sprawling catch to close the stanza.

 

Zunino lofted a sacrifice fly to straightaway center field in the seventh to plate Adams for a 7-0 margin. Adams had opened the inning with his seventh double and moved over on a bunt by Jonathan Pigott. Zunino collected his third sac fly to score his teammate.

 

Florida expanded the lead to 9-0 with a two-out RBI double in the ninth by Fontana and a pinch-hit single by sophomore Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) off freshman Adam Windsor. Daniel Pigott had drawn a walk with one down and came around to score on Fontana’s third hit and second two-bagger of the night. McMahan stepped to the plate and sliced a base-knock through the left side of the infield that brought in Fontana with the ninth run. 

 

Down to its last three outs, Alabama tallied three runs on three hits and a couple of Gator errors to close within 9-3. Freshman Andrew Miller belted his first career home run off sophomore Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) to start the frame and help the Crimson Tide avoid being shut out in an SEC game at home for the first time since 1992. Over one inning, Larson allowed three hits and a run. Freshman Michael Heller (Bradenton, Fla.) surrendered a pinch-hit single up the middle to senior Cody Trotter and plunked freshman Brett Booth before being replaced by freshman Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.). Dugas singled into center field and Trotter was able to score UA’s second run when den Dekker bobbled the ball for an error. Another miscue by sophomore Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) loaded the bases with none out and prompted another pitching change. Junior Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) caught Rutledge looking on strikes but then hit Jones to bring in Booth with the third run. The southpaw finished off the contest with strikeouts of Kindred and freshman Brandt Hendricks.

 

The Gators held a 16-13 edge in hits, with five players turning in multiple-hit efforts. Sophomore left-hander Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (7-2, 2.92) will start tomorrow’s second meeting between the squads at 4 p.m. ET against junior righty Jimmy Nelson (5-1, 3.90). The game will be carried live on Sun Sports as the SEC Game of the Week.

 

Game Notes

·          The Gators took the series opener in Tuscaloosa for the first time since a 4-3 decision on May 12, 2006.

·          All nine of Florida’s starters had at least one hit.

·          UF established a season-high by turning four double plays, eclipsing the three on April 3 against Vanderbilt.

·          Eight of Austin Maddox’s 14 homers have come with no one on base.

·          The Gators totaled seven hits in the first two innings and began the game 7-for-10 (.700).

 

-UF-

 

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