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Thursday May 13, 2010No. 4 Baseball Hosts Georgia In Final Home Series

Gainesville, Fla.

No. 4 Florida (34-12/17-7 SEC) completes the league portion of its home schedule by welcoming Georgia (14-33/3-19 SEC) to town for three games at McKethan Stadium. The Gators are tied with No. 7 South Carolina (38-11/17-7 SEC) for the top spot in both the overall and Eastern Division standings with two series remaining.

 

Start times for this weekend’s series are at 8 p.m. on Friday (ESPNU), 1 p.m. on Saturday (CSS/Cox Cable Channel 259 in Gainesville) and 1 p.m. on Sunday (GatorVision Online). UF’s seniors will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday.

 

Sophomore left-hander Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (8-2, 3.19) will oppose UGA junior righty Justin Grimm (2-7, 5.66) in game one of the series. In the most recent league statistics, Panteliodis ranks eighth in ERA (3.19) and opposing batting average (.235) and 11th in innings pitched (67.2). His eight wins equal the most by a Gator pitcher since Patrick Keating had eight in 2008. Panteliodis has worked at least five innings in all 10 starts this season and is 4-2 with a 3.86 ERA in his eight SEC starting assignments. The lefty is 5-1 with a 2.29 ERA at McKethan Stadium, with 26 strikeouts and seven walks in 35.1 innings.

 

In a matchup of righties on Saturday, freshman Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (6-3, 2.94) will oppose Bulldog senior Jeff Walters (1-6, 9.27). Randall is fifth in the conference with a 2.94 ERA in overall games and is third in

league games with a 2.47 ERA. He claimed his fourth-straight win with seven shutout innings at Alabama last Friday night.

 

Freshman southpaw Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (4-2, 3.74) will face Georgia sophomore RHP Michael Palazzone (4-5, 8.77) in Sunday’s finale. Johnson is 3-0 with a 2.34 ERA at home, with victories over USF (5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R), Vanderbilt (5.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R) and No. 9 LSU (6.1 IP, 9 H, 3 R).

 

Florida has claimed seven of its eight SEC series and the team’s 17-7 record in league play at this point is better than the 16-8 (2009) and 13-11 (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), No. 9 LSU (3-0) and Alabama (2-1). This stretch of six-straight weekend triumphs in conference play is the longest for the Orange and Blue since the league went to a 30-game regular-season format starting in 1996. The most league games that the Gators have won is 21, in both 1988

(21-6) and 1998 (21-8).

 

In its last outing, Florida handed Sun Belt Conference leader Florida Atlantic a 7-3 setback on Wednesday night. Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) tied the Gators’ single-season record for homers by a freshman with his 16th

to even the game in the third, senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) put the hosts in front with a two-run shot in the fifth and freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) provided insurance with a two-run blast in the seventh. Senior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) (3-0) tossed four scoreless frames to collect the win and the trio of sophomore Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.), sophomore Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) and junior Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) each threw one scoreless inning as Florida improved to 24-3 at home on the season.

 

Last year, Florida recorded a three-game sweep at No. 6 Georgia over May 1-3, 2009, to move into a tie atop the SEC standings with No. 3 LSU and No. 7 Ole Miss, as all three clubs had 16-8 league marks. The Gators have taken the series from the Bulldogs three years in a row and have captured the last four series held in Athens. UF entered the weekend trailing Georgia by one game in the Eastern Division and left town with a two-game lead. Billy Bullock finished all three games, collecting two saves and a victory. Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) went 7-for-16 (.428) with five RBI, four runs and a pair of homers, none bigger than a three-run jack in the ninth inning on Sunday that put the Gators in front. Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) was 6-for-14 (.429) against Georgia, with three RBI in the opener and three hits in the finale. Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) batted .417 (5-for-12) with four runs and four walks and Avery Barnes raised his hitting streak to 11 games by going 7-for-17 (.412) with five runs and a pair of stolen bases. Florida turned in a .328 (41-for-125) batting average in the series, with eight homers, two doubles and a triple, and was a perfect 8-for-8 on the basepaths.

 

In the opener which was completed after Saturday’s regularly-scheduled game, Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) delivered a two-out RBI single in the 11th inning to score Barnes with the winning run in the 10-9 victory. UF overcame deficits of 8-0 in the third inning and 9-7 in the eighth to notch the win. Barnes went 4-for-7 and Tucker was 3-for-6 with a pair of runs. The Gators clubbed four homers, matching a season high, with Tucker, Barnes, Pigott and Mike Mooney going yard.

 

In game two, Bullock retired all six batters he faced Florida edged UGA, 7-6. At the time, the victory moved the Gators into a first-place tie in the East with the Bulldogs. Bullock registered his ninth save in relief of starter Anthony

DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.). Eight of Florida’s nine starters contributed a hit in the win, while Teddy Foster (1-for-4) and Buddy Munroe (2-for-4, two RBI) each homered.

 

Down three runs entering the ninth, Florida staged another remarkable comeback to complete a weekend sweep of the Bulldogs with a 10-8 triumph on Sunday afternoon. Trailing 7-5 after a passed ball allowed Mooney to score, Tucker cranked a go-ahead, three-run homer off Cecil Tanner and Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) later provided insurance with a two-run single. Keating kept the Bulldogs off the board for the final two outs in the eighth before Bullock took the mound in the ninth. The righty surrendered a solo shot to Lyle Allen with one down for a two-run margin. Bullock then rebounded to have pinch hitter Johnathan Taylor ground out before catching Levi Hyams looking on a curve ball to end the game and pick up his second save in two days. UF tallied six runs on five hits in the final stanza for its 21st come-from-behind victory last spring.

 

During Georgia’s last trip to Gainesville, the Gators rebounded from a 7-4 loss on April 25, 2008, to claim the final two games of the series by identical 7-2 margins. UF ended a three-series SEC slide and handed the Bulldogs their first conference series loss of the campaign. On the weekend, Florida was 30-for-99 (.303) with eight extra-base hits (six doubles, two homers) and was 6-for-6 on stolen bases. Adams was 4-for-11 (.367) with four runs, a two-run homer and two walks and den Dekker was 4-for-11 (.367) with three runs, three stolen bases, two runs and two walks.

 

Keating matched his then-career-high of six strikeouts and improved to 8-0 by working 6.2 innings in the finale in which he yielded seven hits and two runs. At the time, the righty was 7-0 in seven SEC starts with a 2.68 ERA. Josh Edmondson worked 2.1 scoreless innings to collect his second save. Brandon McArthur roped a three-run double in the third stanza to open the scoring. It marked the first time since 1998 that the Gators defeated the Bulldogs at home by four or more runs in back-to-back games.

 

Stephen Locke crafted the first complete game of his career to help Florida even the series on Saturday. The lefty scattered eight hits, including seven singles, and was helped by three Gator double plays in the 7-2 win. den Dekker was 3-for-3 and scored twice and became the first UF player with three thefts in a game since Jonathan Tucker versus Vanderbilt on March 27, 2004.

 

Home-field advantage in the Florida-Georgia series hasn’t meant much in recent years, as the Gators have emerged victorious from their last four visits to Athens (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009) and posted a 10-2 (.833) mark and the Bulldogs had back-to-back sweeps in the Sunshine State under their belts (2004, 2006) before falling in the final two games at McKethan Stadium in 2008.

 

Florida and Georgia have each played Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt during league play. Georgia dropped two of three to the Tigers, Rebels and Bulldogs, was swept by the Hogs and Vols and lost the only matchup with the Commodores for a cumulative record of 3-13 (.188). Florida has posted a 13-5 (.722) record following sweeps of the Tigers and Bulldogs, series wins over the Hogs, Vols and Commodores and a series loss to Ole Miss (2-1). UF does not face Auburn and UGA misses Alabama.

 

Gator Bytes

*Kevin O’Sullivan is 5-1 (.833) against Georgia, 2-1 (.667) in Gainesville and 3-0 (1.000) in Athens.

*O’Sullivan has compiled a 26-15 (.634) record against SEC East squads and is 15-3 (.833) at home.

*The Gators have not dropped an SEC series to a divisional opponent in Gainesville since 2008, when Tennessee took two of three games in the final series of the campaign (6-5, 2-20, 7-11). UF is 6-0 in series at home versus East teams under O’Sullivan.

*Besides freshman Mike Zunino’s 11-game hitting streak, senior Matt den Dekker enters the weekend on an nine-game run in which he is 20-for-40 (.500) with 11 RBI, 10 runs and six stolen bases and freshman Brian Johnson is on a career-high seven-game skein in which he is 9-for-20 (.450) with nine RBI, six runs and two grand slams.

*Freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (.293, 19 RBI) has committed one error in 207 chances and ended a 40-game homerless drought with a two-run blast in the seventh against Florida Atlantic. He leads the squad with 36 walks, 22 in league action.

*Versatile freshman Austin Maddox, who has started games at designated hitter (17), third base (17), first base (11) and catcher (one), leads the Gators in RBI (57), multiple-RBI games (17), homers (16) and doubles (15). He needs one more dinger to eclipse Jason Dill’s freshman record of 16 homers that was set in 1998. Preston Tucker 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.

*Opponents are 22-for-36 on stolen-base opportunities against the Gators, while Zunino has thrown out 10 of 29 runners.

*Florida clubbed seven homers during the series at Alabama and three more versus Florida Atlantic and has 64 on the year to rate sixth in the league. Oddly enough, the squad has 34 jacks at home and 30 away.

*UF was 12-for-13 on the basepaths at Alabama and is now second in the SEC with 72 thefts in 96 chances. Senior Matt den Dekker is 18-for-23 to lead the team and needs five more stolen bases to match Jim Watkins (1978-79) for fifth on the school’s career list with 65 SB.

*Last Saturday, den Dekker became the fi fth Gator to reach 200 runs scored in his career. With 203 over the past four years, he trails Mark Ellis (240), Brad Wilkerson (239), David Eckstein (222) and Mark Kiger (212) on the school’s all-time list.

*den Dekker has played in 217 games to rank 10th at Florida and will soon pass Brandon McArthur (218, 2005-09) and Ned Brigham (219, 1986-89). His 203 starts are seventh, while Jeff Corsaletti (207, 2002-05) occupies the sixth spot.

*With 241 hits, den Dekker needs six more to crack the top 10 - Ben Harrison (247, 2001-04) and with 146 RBI, he needs four more to match the duo of Brian Rose (2000-03) and Jason Dill (1998-2001) for ninth. den Dekker is also tied for sixth in career sacrifice flies (12), is sixth in strikeouts (149) and ranks seventh in at bats (779) and hit-by-pitches (24).

*Junior LHP Kevin Chapman is 2-0 with a team-low 1.32 earned average in 23 appearances covering 33.0 innings. He is tied for second in the SEC with eight saves. Over his last three outings, Chapman has tallied seven K in three innings without allowing any hits or runs.

*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 (two), as well as sophomores Greg Larson (two) and Nick Maronde (one).

*Barfield threw a season-high four scoreless innings to collect the victory over FAU and is now 5-1 in his two-year career at Florida.

*Florida’s bullpen is 12-2 with 13 saves and a 4.53 ERA in 184.2 innings, its starters are 22-10 with a 3.81 ERA in 222.1 innings.

 

-UF-

 

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