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Saturday May 15, 2010No. 4 Baseball Rallies To Edge Georgia, 4-3

Gainesville, Fla.

A bases-loaded sacrifice fly by freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) in the bottom of the ninth enabled No. 4 Florida (35-12/18-7 SEC) to pull out a 4-3 victory over Georgia (14-34/3-20 SEC) in front of a season-high 5,363 fans on Friday night at McKethan Stadium. Down 3-2 entering the final frame, the Gators capitalized on a pair of Bulldog errors and scored twice without any hits to earn the win. UF kept pace with No. 7 South Carolina (39-11/18-7 SEC) on top of the league standings, as the Gamecocks nipped No. 10 Arkansas (38-12/16-9 SEC) in Fayetteville, 3-2.

 

Freshman right-hander Cooper Moseley (0-4) took over on the mound to begin the home part of the ninth and induced a grounder by Florida freshman Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-for-4). However, UGA freshman third baseman Todd Hankins committed a throwing error that allowed Johnson to reach base. With sophomore pinch runner Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) inserted into the game, sophomore Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) laid down a bunt that sophomore catcher Carson Schilling fielded and threw down to second base. Weitzel was ruled safe at second and Pigott reached on the fielder’s choice before junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance his teammates. Moseley overthrew first base, enabling Weitzel to come around and tie the game, Pigott to reach third and Adams to occupy second. Following an intentional walk to sophomore Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) that filled the bags with none out, Zunino lofted a sacrifice fly into left center to score Pigott with the winning run. It was Zunino’s fourth sac fly and marked the third time this year he has notched a walk-off RBI (game-winning singles against USF on Feb. 21 and No. 4 Arkansas on April 24).

 

“You got to tip your hat to Justin Grimm,” said Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “That’s the best game anyone has thrown against us all year. It almost felt suffocating since he just kept coming at us and pitching to both sides. There was just one leadoff walk, he just kept attacking. There’s not much you can do about it but it comes down to bunts, who can defend it and who can execute it. That’s what it came down to in the ninth.”

 

“When we’re home, we try to play for the tie and unfortunately for them and fortunately for us, they didn’t handle the ball,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s what it comes down to and there’s going to be other games like this in Regional and Super Regional that you’re going to have to put it down and execute it or defend it.”

 

Sophomore Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (3-1) tossed a career-high four innings out of the bullpen to register the victory by keeping Georgia scoreless on two hits. The loss spoiled a tremendous pitching effort by Bulldog junior right-hander Justin Grimm, who limited the Gators to a couple of runs on six hits over seven innings. Senior Justin Earls retired Florida in order on 10 pitches in the eighth before Moseley took over.

 

“I felt good,” Larson said. “I kept the ball down, my off-speed pitches were working and the defense behind me played well. Nolan (Fontana) and (Daniel) Pigott made great plays behind me in the last inning. There is definitely a lot more pressure in every pitch. You can’t miss with a ball up, that could be the difference in a ballgame. I’m starting to get on top of the ball a lot better the past couple weeks. I’m trying to get on top of it and it really helped me out.”

 

Johnson provided the Gators with a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a two-out RBI single off Grimm. Senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) had extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a one-out infield single and moved into scoring position with his 19th stolen base. With two down, den Dekker swiped third base to match his career-high of 20 set in 2008 and freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) was hit for runners on the corners. Johnson raised his hitting streak to eight games with a base-knock into left center that brought home den Dekker.

 

Zunino (1-for-3) delivered an RBI single in the second for a 2-0 advantage for UF. Thompson singled up the middle with one out and swiped second base before Zunino increased his hitting streak to 12 games with a single into left field.

 

The Bulldogs plated three runs on three hits in the fourth off sophomore lefty Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) to seize a 3-2 lead. Hankins led off with an infield hit and went to third on sophomore Levi Hyams’ 12th double of the season. Hankins scored on a passed ball by Zunino and sophomore Zach Cone earned a free pass for runners on first and third. Freshman Kyle Farmer (2-for-4) tied the game with an RBI single into right field and Cone later scored on freshman Brett DeLoach’s fielder’s choice after Farmer was forced at second and the Gators tried to complete the double play with a relay throw over to first base. Panteliodis had redshirt freshman Kevin Ruiz fly out and Zunino gunned down DeLoach attempting to steal second to end the frame.

 

After Panteliodis plunked Hyams to begin the sixth, he was replaced by Larson. Over five-plus innings, the lefty allowed four hits and three runs. On his first pitch, Larson induced a 5-4-3 double play by Cone. The reliever caught DeLoach looking on strikes to close the stanza.

 

Adams earned a leadoff walk in the seventh, Grimm’s first of the game, and was sacrificed to second by Thompson. Grimm answered by having Zunino pop out in foul territory and Fontana fly out to center. The righty yielded six hits and two runs over seven innings, with six strikeouts and a walk.

 

Each team totaled six hits, while Georgia had the game’s three miscues. 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) at 1 p.m. live on CSS and in Gainesville on Cox Channel 259. 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.

 

Game Notes

·          Tonight’s crowd of 5,363 was the highest of the season and the eighth-largest all-time at McKethan Stadium.

·          Florida now has 12 come-from-behind victories and three walk-off wins.

·          The triumph marked the first time since a 12-6 decision on April 26, 2002, that Florida collected a series-opening win over Georgia in Gainesville.

·          The Gators have recorded six-consecutive victories over the Bulldogs.

·          Matt den Dekker had multiple stolen bases in a game for the 16th time in his career and the fourth time this year.

·          Alex Panteliodis has worked at least five innings in all 11 of his starts this season.

·          UF played error-free baseball for 24th time this spring and improved to 19-5 when committing zero errors. 

 

-UF-

 

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