Friday February 18, 2011No. 1 Baseball Takes Opener Over USF, 7-2
Sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) fired six scoreless innings and poked a pair of doubles as No. 1 Florida raised the curtain on the 2011 campaign with a 7-2 victory over USF in front of 5,157 fans at McKethan Stadium in the season opener for both teams on Friday. Johnson faced the minimum of 18 batters, yielded two singles, registered six strikeouts and retired the final 10 Bulls he encountered. He was supported by a Gator offense that totaled 13 hits, tallied three runs in the third and four more in the fifth to post its ninth-straight victory over USF.
“We had a great crowd tonight,” said fourth-year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “I thought the crowd was outstanding and I want to thank all the fans for coming out. It was a Regional-type atmosphere. We had our home fans behind us and it was electric. Facing a really good pitcher like (Randy) Fontanez, everyone was anxious and uptight a little bit so it’s always nice to get the first one out of the way.”
Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) went 3-for-5 with three RBI, highlighted by a two-run homer in the fifth, while sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (4-for-5) collected a career-high four hits and scored twice. On the mound, the trio of Johnson, junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) and freshman Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) held the Bulls scoreless for eight innings before the visitors played two runs in the ninth off junior Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.).
The Gators opened the scoring with three runs on five hits off senior right-hander Randy Fontanez (0-1) in the third inning. With one down, freshman Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) singled into center field in his first collegiate at bat, Fontana followed with a base-hit into right field and senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) singled to load the bases. Soon after, Tucker broke the ice with an RBI single into left that plated Powers and sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) lofted a fly ball to the warning track in right field that resulted in a sacrifice fly and brought across Fontana with the second run. Johnson then helped his own cause with a double into right center that scored Adams, raising his hitting streak to 11 games dating back to last season.
“I think Powers got that thing started with the first-pitch hit and it opened the door to Fontana the second time through,” O’Sullivan said about the third-inning rally. “Fontana got one on the first pitch, then Adams got one on the first pitch and we made adjustments. That’s what good teams have to do against a good pitcher.”
UF added four more runs in the fifth on a two-run homer by Tucker and a two-out, two-run single by senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) to build a 7-0 cushion. Fontana drew a leadoff walk, moved into scoring position with the Gators’ first theft of the season and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Adams. Tucker stepped to the plate and tagged a 1-1 offering by Fontanez over the fence in right center. A two-out double by Johnson, his second two-bagger of the night, ended the night for Fontanez (4.2 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 3 K). Sophomores Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) and Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) earned back-to-back free passes from senior Doug Wagner to fill the bags. Smith roped a hot shot down to third that ricocheted off senior third baseman Jonathan Koscso, enabling both Johnson and Zunino to score.
After Johnson kept the Bulls off the board for six full innings, DeSclafani retired the side in order in the seventh on a strikeout and two grounders. In the eighth, USF used consecutive singles by redshirt junior Todd Brazeal (3-for-4) and a flare into right field by junior Daniel Rockhold off Crawford before the righty fanned freshman Jimmy Falla and senior Junior Carlin and had freshman Chad Taylor fly out to left field.
With USF down to its final three outs in the ninth, freshman James Ramsay belted a one-out homer and Brazeal roped a two-out RBI double into left center to finalize the margin at 7-2. Florida held a 13-7 advantage in hits and neither team committed any errors.
“It felt great to play another team, and give USF credit. They’re a great team, seeing them come battling back at the end,” Johnson said.
Saturday’s matchup at 4 p.m. will have sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (8-4, 3.24 in 2010) pitching for the hosts against Bulls’ senior lefty Andrew Barbosa (8-2, 2.40 in 2010).
· The crowd of 5,157 spectators marked the 23rd time since McKethan Stadium opened in 1988 that the Gators drew in excess of 5.000 fans.
· The Gators improved to 56-40-1 (.582) on opening day, including 36-20-1 (.640) at home.
· Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan improved to 4-0 in season openers.
· Florida claimed its 16th-consecutive contest at McKethan Stadium.
· Preston Tucker delivered his second career homer versus USF.
· Freshman Zack Powers drew the start at third base and batted ninth. He was 1-for-3 and scored a run.
· Florida now leads the all-time series, 50-23.
· Senior second baseman Josh Adams made his fourth start in a row on Opening Day.