Wednesday June 2, 2010No. 4 Baseball To Open NCAA Regional Against B-CU
No. 4 Florida (42-15) will begin its 26th NCAA Tournament appearance beginning on Friday at McKethan Stadium against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Bethune-Cookman (35-20). The game will be carried live on DirecTV Channel 656 and DISH Network Channel 452. GatorZone will carry a live stream of the contest from FoxSportsFlorida.com.
The Gators drew the top seed at the double-elimination event and will meet the fourth-seeded Wildcats at 7 p.m. on the first day of action. Second-seeded Florida Atlantic (35-22) of the Sun Belt Conference will tangle with third-seeded Oregon State (31-22) from the Pac-10 Conference in the opening game at 1 p.m.
Sophomore Ali Simpson (6-1, 4.66) will start on the mound for Bethune-Cookman against a Gator pitcher to be announced. Over 65.2 innings and 13 starts, the left-hander has registered 63 strikeouts, permitted 33 walks and opponents are hitting .296 against him. He has not faced UF in his career.
This season marks the ninth time that McKethan Stadium has hosted NCAA Regional action and the second-straight year. The Gators have gone on to the College World Series from Gainesville on four previous occasions: 1991, 1996, 1998 and 2005. Florida is 25-9 (.735) on its own turf during NCAA play and swept the 2009 NCAA Gainesville Regional before falling to Southern Miss twice in the Gainesville Super Regional last season.
Considering past history, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the Gators will begin the NCAA Tourney in their home state. In its 25 previous Regional appearances, UF had been placed at sites within Florida 19 times (Gainesville-8, Coral Gables-7, Tallahassee-4). The squad has also traveled to North Carolina (1958, 1960, 1962), Minnesota (1977), Texas (2000) and Oklahoma (2004).
All 64 teams preparing for NCAA Regionals have the same destination in mind: Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series. The Gators have reached the “Promised Land” five times - 1988, 1991, 1996, 1998 and 2005. This will be the final tournament held at Rosenblatt before the venue shifts to downtown Omaha in 2011.
The SEC placed eight squads into the 64-team NCAA field, matching the ACC and the Pac-10 for the most bids. The Gators join Auburn, Arkansas and South Carolina as number one seeds who are hosting, while Alabama (Georgia Tech), LSU (UCLA), Ole Miss (Virginia) and Vanderbilt (Louisville) are seeded second at its respective site listed in parentheses. UF is the only member of the group which earned a national seed.
According to statistics guru Warren Nolan, Florida’s strength of schedule was third in the country, trailing the duo of Miami (Fla.) (40-17) and Alabama (37-22). The NCAA site had the Gators fourth in the Ratings Percentage Index and Boyd’s World ranked the SEC the best for conference RPI.
2010 marks just the second time that Florida has hosted NCAA Regionals in back-to-back seasons. After going 4-0 to capture the 1991 NCAA East Regional en route to the program’s second trip to the College World Series, the Gators went 1-2 in the 1992 NCAA East Regional.
The winners of the Gainesville and Coral Gables Regionals will meet in a best-of-three Super Regional from June 11-14 for the right to reach the College World Series. Miami (Fla.) (40-17) is the top seed and is hosting No. 2 Texas A&M (40-19-1), No. 3 FIU (36-23) and No. 4 Dartmouth (26-17).
With a program-best 22-8 finish in league play, the Gators have now captured an SEC-best 20 division championships and their 11 league championships are tied for third behind LSU (14) and Alabama (13). UF repeated as the East winner for the first time since taking three in a row from 1996-98. Florida has also won SEC crowns in 1952, 1956, 1962, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1996, 1998 and 2005.
Florida claimed nine of its 10 SEC series and the team’s 22 victories in league play was its highest total in school history, eclipsing 21 in both 1988 (21-6) and 1998 (21-8). 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.
After falling to eighth-seeded LSU in the opening round, 10-6, the top-seeded Gators rebounded to eliminate fourth-seeded Arkansas (5-4) and fifth-seeded Vanderbilt (5-2) to reach the semifinals of the event for the first time in five years. Needing to defeat seventh-seeded Alabama twice in order to advance to the title game, UF was ousted by a 5-2 score. The Tigers claimed their third-straight crown with a 4-3 victory in 11 innings over the Crimson Tide.
Senior outfielder Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) was the lone Gator chosen to the SEC’s All-Tournament Team. Over the four games at Regions Park, he led the squad with four RBI, tied for the top spot with three runs and was 4-for-15 (.267). A second-team All-SEC recipient, he paces the club in batting average (.355), hits (78), runs (58), stolen bases (21-for-26) and triples (two).
den Dekker went 2-for-5 and collected three RBI during the Gators’ first-round encounter with LSU. He delivered a two-run double in the fifth and led off the eighth inning with his 12th round-tripper of the campaign. den Dekker walked and scored in the win over Arkansas and had a single and came across the plate to keep the Orange and Blue alive against Vanderbilt. He went 1-for-3 and had a run-scoring grounder in the setback to Alabama.
The Gators were supposed to meet Bethune-Cookman on May 4, but heavy rains and unplayable field conditions forced the game to be wiped from the books and it was not able to be rescheduled.
In the teams’ last meeting, a two-run, walk-off single by Teddy Foster capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth as UF nipped Bethune-Cookman, 8-7, on May 29, 2009, at the NCAA Gainesville Regional. With Florida down to its final three outs and down by two runs, Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (3-for-5, two runs, two RBI) opened the final frame with a single through the left side. Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) drew his second walk of the game and den Dekker stroked an RBI single into right field to score Tucker for a 7-6 count. Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) was walked intentionally to load the bases with one out and Foster sliced a 3-1 offering into right to plate Adams and den Dekker with the tying and winning run, respectively. After the Orange and Blue trailed 4-0, Patrick Keating threw three scoreless innings with four strikeouts to keep the hosts within striking distance. The win also enabled UF to reach the 40-win plateau for the 18th time in school history, first since the 2005 club went 48-23.
With a 28-3 (.903) start to the home slate, O’Sullivan sports an 85-19 (.817) record at home. The sweep of Georgia between May 14-16 pushed the Gators to 24-3 (.889) in regular-season series under his tutelage at McKethan Stadium.
With the 9-3 conquest of North Florida on May 18, the Orange and Blue moved to 12-4 (.750) against in-state opponents this season, with four wins against USF, two against Miami and one apiece versus FAU, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida State, Jacksonville, UNF and UCF. The Gators fell three times to the Seminoles and once to the Hurricanes.
The Gators have committed 50 errors in 57 games and boast a .977 fielding percentage that is second in the league behind Alabama (.978). UF has played flawless defense in 26 of 53 contests and sports a 21-5 (.808) mark in those games. However, the team has at least one error in its last six outings, the longest stretch of the year. The Orange and Blue ranked 11th in the SEC with a .966 clip last season and the school’s best fielding percentage of .968 was set in 1997.
*Kevin O’Sullivan is 3-0 against Bethune-Cookman, 2-0 during the regular season and 1-0 in NCAA play.
*O’Sullivan has a 3-4 (.429) NCAA Tournament mark, going 0-2 at the 2008 Tallahassee Regional, 3-0 at the 2009 Gainesville Regional and 0-2 at the 2009 Gainesville Super Regional.
*Florida’s 42 wins match its victory total from last season, when it finished 42-22.
*The Gators have split two postseason meetings with Florida Atlantic, both during the 2003 Coral Gables Regional. The Owls notched a 4-3 victory in the opening round on May 30 and Florida rebounded with a 22-14 triumph the following afternoon.
*UF is 28-3 (.903) at McKethan Stadium and sports a 17-1 (.944) record at night.
*The Orange and Blue has a 10-game winning streak at home since an 8-3 loss to Arkansas in the opener of the teams’ weekend series on April 23.
*The trio of sophomore Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (9-2, 3.38), freshman RHP Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (7-3, 2.90) and freshman LHP Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (5-4, 4.41) are a combined 13-2 (.867) with a 2.42 ERA at McKethan Stadium this season.
*Florida’s last seven games have been on the road, three at South Carolina and four at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
*Versatile freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.), who has started games at third base (24), designated hitter (17), first base (14) and catcher (one), leads the Gators in RBI (66), multiple-RBI games (19), homers (17) and sacrifice flies (five). Current sophomore 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.
*Tucker is hitting a team-high .389 (14-for-36) over the past 10 games and has eight runs, seven RBI and five extra-base hits (three doubles, one triple and a homer).
*On the seven-game road trip, junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) was 8-for-25 (.320) with eight RBI, three doubles and two walks.
*UF was just 1-for-3 on the basepaths during the SEC Tourney and is second in the SEC with 86 thefts in 115 chances. Senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) is 21-for-26 to lead the team and needs two more stolen bases to match Jim Watkins (1978-79) for fifth on the school’s career list with 65 SB.
*In game two at Alabama on May 8, den Dekker became the fifth Gator to reach 200 runs scored in his career. With 213 over the past four years, he trails Mark Ellis (240), Brad Wilkerson (239) and David Eckstein (222) on the school’s all-time list.
*den Dekker has played in 227 games to rank fifth at Florida, with Jeff Corsaletti (239, 2002-05) next on the chart. His 213 starts are third behind only Brian Duva (234, 1991-94) and Mario Linares (227, 1988-91).
*With 253 hits, den Dekker needs one more to pass Mark Kiger (253, 2000-02) for seventh and with 154 RBI, he needs four more to match Brian Leclerc (2004-07) for seventh. den Dekker is fifth in both strikeouts (153) and at bats (817), tied for sixth in career sacrifice flies (12), tied for seventh in home runs (32) and is eighth in hit-by-pitches (24).
*Junior LHP Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) is 3-0 with a team-low 1.31 earned average in 28 appearances covering 41.1 innings. He is tied for second in the SEC with 11 saves. Prior to this season, Chapman had pitched a total of 49.2 innings and made 30 appearances in his career.
*Led by 11 from Billy Bullock, Florida totaled 13 saves in its 42 victories in 2009. UF has 17 saves already this year from five players: Chapman (11), senior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) (two), sophomores Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (two) and Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) (one) and freshman Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) (one).
*Rodriguez notched his first career save by tossing two scoreless innings and allowing one hit in the elimination game against Vanderbilt last Friday night. Leadoff batters are 2-for-23 (.087) versus the southpaw this year.
*UF’s 17 saves are one shy of the team’s single-season best set in 1991 and equal the amount from 1992, 1996 and 2005.
*Florida’s bullpen is 16-2 with 17 saves and a 4.34 ERA in 232.1 innings, its starters are 26-13 with a 3.97 ERA in 269.2 innings.
*The Gators have a .308 batting average against left-handed pitchers and a .293 clip against right-handers.
*Thirty-two of Maddox’s 66 RBI have come with two out, while half of den Dekker’s 44 RBI are with two down. The senior’s career high of 48 RBI came during his sophomore season in 2008.
*Florida is 26-for-68 (.382) with the bases loaded with 79 RBI and three grand slams. Two have come from Johnson, who is 3-for-4 (.750) and has tallied 11 RBI with the sacks full. The dual threat was 5-for-9 (.556) at the SEC Tourney and became the first player from Florida with two doubles in a game during the tourney since Matt LaPorta accomplished the feat in 2005.
*The Gators’ season totals of 103 doubles and 71 homers are their most since 107 two-baggers and 74 round-trippers in 2007.
*Sophomore Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) (.324, 10 RBI) has been called on to pinch hit most frequently and is 4-for-12 (.333). He is 10-for-22 (.455) when hitting with two outs.
*Freshman catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) is expected to return to the lineup after sitting out the past five games with a thumb injury. He has started 44 games behind the plate and one as the designated hitter *The Orange and Blue enjoy a 388-261 scoring advantage, led by a 51-19 disparity in the third inning and a 49-21 cushion in the fourth frame. UF holds the advantage in each inning except the second, when foes have a 48-33 edge.
*The Gators are 31-4 (.886) scoring first and 11-11 (.500) when their opponents do. UF is 30-3 (.909) when having more hits than its foe and 9-12 (.429) when out-hit.
*UF is 3-9 (.250) when its opponent scores in the opening stanza and hold a 37-28 margin in the first inning thanks to the seven-run outburst versus USF on April 21.
*Florida is 9-3 (.750) in one-run games this season after going 8-7 (.533) in 2009 and 6-8 (.429) in 2008.
* The Gators are 36-0 leading after six innings, 40-0 leading after seven innings and 39-0 this year when leading after eight innings.
*Panteliodis’ nine wins are the most by a Gator since Alan Horne had 10 in 2005, when UF captured the SEC crown and advanced to the NCAA College World Series.