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Saturday May 8, 2010No. 4 Baseball Clinches Series At Alabama, 14-8

Tuscaloosa, Ala.

No. 4 Florida (33-11/17-6 SEC) used a pair of five-run innings to post a 14-8 win over Alabama (28-19/9-14 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Gators’ season-high seventh-straight triumph clinched UF’s sixth-consecutive SEC series and marked the team’s first series victory at Alabama since 2004 and just the second since 1995. The Crimson Tide had not lost a league series at home to an Eastern Division opponent since the Gators accomplished the feat in ’04, ending a stretch of 14-straight wins.

 

Freshman Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-for-3, two runs) belted his second grand slam, freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) clubbed a three-run shot and sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (3-for-5, two RBI) had a solo homer to support the pitching of sophomore left-hander Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (8-2), who worked into the seventh. Florida went 6-for-6 on the basepaths and has 11 stolen bases in 11 attempts over the two games.

 

The Gators used a sacrifice fly by freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) off junior righty Jimmy Nelson (5-2) to break the ice in the first inning. Senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (3-for-6, two runs) raised his hitting streak to seven games with a one-out single through the right side and went to third on a base-hit by Tucker. Maddox lofted his team-leading fourth sac fly into right field to bring across den Dekker, who became the fifth Gator in school history to score 200 runs.

 

The Crimson Tide put a pair of runners in scoring position against Panteliodis in the second courtesy of a one-out single by sophomore Jon Kelton and a two-out double down the right-field line by junior Brock Bennett (2-for-5). The left-hander pitched out of the jam by having sophomore Taylor Dugas (2-for-4) fly out to center field.

 

Florida exploded for five runs on three hits in the third, highlighted by a grand slam from Johnson, to build a 6-0 lead. Zunino led off the frame with a single into left to increase his hitting streak to nine games and freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) followed with a walk. After den Dekker popped up a sacrifice attempt, Tucker roped an RBI double off the wall in right center to bring home Zunino for a 2-0 advantage. Maddox earned a free pass from Nelson to load the sacks and Johnson blasted a 1-0 offering over the right-field wall for his third homer and second grand slam in as many games he has played. The rookie went deep in the fourth inning against No. 9 LSU last Sunday.

 

In the home part of the inning, senior Clay Jones (1-for-2, three walks) put Alabama on the board with his team-leading 14th homer to left field with one down. 

 

Florida plated five more runs on five hits in the fifth to increase its lead to 11-1. Tucker opened the inning with his ninth homer to give the Gators a 7-1 advantage. It was also his third hit of the afternoon and ended Nelson’s (4.0 IP, 7 R, 7 H) stint on the mound. Senior left-hander David Head took over an issued a one-out walk to Johnson before having sophomore Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach , Fla.) fly out. After Johnson moved to second on a balk and junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) walked, sophomore Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) stroked an RBI single into right field for an 8-1 count and another pitching change. Junior Brett Whitaker replaced Head (0.2 IP, 1 H, 3 R) and surrendered a three-run bomb into the trees overlooking left field by Zunino that resulted in a 10-run cushion for the visitors. It was the rookie’s seventh round-tripper and he is 4-for-8 in the series with six RBI.

 

Senior Cody Trotter connected on his second long ball of the campaign for the Tide to narrow the gap to 11-2 in the bottom of the fifth.

 

UA tallied a pair of runs on three hits in the seventh to close to within 11-4. The hosts began the inning with back-to-back singles from Dugas and junior Josh Rutledge (2-for-5, two runs) and a walk to Jones that loaded the bases. Junior Matt Campbell (Tampa, Fla.) was summoned from the bullpen for Panteliodis (6.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 5 K) and yielded a sacrifice fly by senior Jake Smith (1-for-4, four RBI) that scored Dugas with UA’s third run. Freshman Andrew Miller had an RBI single into right field that resulted in a seven-run deficit before Campbell answered with a strikeout of Trotter and induced an infield fly by Kelton that closed the inning.

 

den Dekker led off the eighth with his fifth double and a one-out walk to Maddox prompted another pitching change, as freshman Taylor Wolfe came in for Whitaker (2.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R). The Gators executed a double steal, with den Dekker taking third and sophomore Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) swiping second base. Soon after, junior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville , Ga.) drew a pinch-hit walk to load the bases. Pigott delivered a sacrifice fly to straightaway center field that plated den Dekker for a 12-4 lead. UF pulled off another double steal, with Weitzel advancing to third and Smith going to second and a throwing error by Bennett enabled Weitzel to come in with the 13th run. Adams ripped an RBI double to bring in Smith for a 14-4 count.

 

Alabama countered with four runs on four hits in the home part of the eighth to finalize the 14-8 score. After freshman Brett Booth (2-for-5) doubled and Bennett singled, Dugas lofted a sacrifice fly into center field. With two down and runners on second and third, senior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) replaced Campbell (1.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R). Smith raised his hitting streak to 16 games with a three-run homer to left field to bring the Tide within six runs.

 

Florida out-hit UA, 15-13, with den Dekker and Tucker a combined 6-for-10 with four runs. Johnson (4-2, 2.90) will oppose Tide junior RHP Nathan Kilcrease (3-2, 1.75) in tomorrow’s finale that starts at 3:05 p.m. ET.

 

Game Notes

·          The seven-game winning streak is the Gators’ longest since claiming eight in a row between April 21 and May 6, 2009.

·          Florida improved to 10-8 on the road this year and has won its last three road outings.

·          The Gators have taken series at Kentucky (2-1), Tennessee (2-1) and Alabama. The last time that Florida had captured three SEC road series in a season was in 2007 – Auburn (3-0), Georgia (3-0) and LSU (2-1).

·          The Crimson Tide dropped a league series at home for the first time this year after handling Vanderbilt (2-1), Auburn (2-1) and Mississippi State (3-0).

·          Alabama has now lost back-to-back home games for just the second time this year (7-1 to Auburn on April 4 and 11-4 to UAB on April 6).

·          Matt den Dekker ranks fifth on Florida’s all-time list in runs scored, behind Mark Ellis (240), Brad Wilkerson (239), David Eckstein (222) and Mark Kiger (212).

·          Daniel Pigott’s career-best 12-game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-4 performance.

·          Preston Tucker improved to 6-for-6 on the basepaths with a theft of second base in the first inning.

·          The five runs in both the third and fifth innings marked the 12th time this season that the Gators have scored five or more runs in a stanza.

·          UF notched six stolen bases, including a career-high two by Jerico Weitzel.

·          Alex Panteliodis has worked five innings or more in all 10 of his starts this year.

 

-UF-

 

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