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Saturday February 19, 2011No. 1 Baseball Downs USF, 4-1

Gainesville, Fla.

No. 1 Florida (2-0) used strong pitching and solid defense to clinch its weekend series with a 4-1 victory over USF (0-2) in front of 4,994 fans at McKethan Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) gave up one run on seven hits in six innings in his season debut for the win, while junior relievers Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) and Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) threw three scoreless frames to secure UF’s 10th-straight triumph over the Bulls.


With the Gators holding a 2-1 lead in the seventh, Toledo came out of the bullpen with two down and the bases full and benefitted from a tremendous diving play by sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) on a ball hit by junior Sam Mende that saved potentially two runs and instead ended the inning with a force play at second base. UF tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the frame on a two-out infield single by junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-3) that scored classmate Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) and the hosts completed the scoring in the eighth on a fielder’s choice by sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) that brought across senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.). Toledo allowed two hits over 2.1 innings to register his first career save.


 “I thought Hudson (Randall) pitched really well,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He gave up one (run) in the first but we bounced back to score one in the bottom half. I thought that set the tone for the rest of the game and we grabbed the momentum right back, but that’s vintage Hudson Randall. It was just an outstanding effort on his part. He threw a lot of strikes and our guys played great defense behind him. The play by Nolan (Fontana) up the middle was outstanding, it was a game-changer there.”


“Tommy (Toledo) was really good,” O’Sullivan continued. “He threw strikes and put the ball on the ground. Tommy’s a great competitor and leader on our team and it was great to get him back out there tonight.”


The Bulls broke the ice in the first inning on an RBI grounder by redshirt junior Todd Brazeal. Senior Jonathan Koscso had ripped a one-out base-hit through the left side of the infield and Mende followed with a double to straightway center field for a pair of runners in scoring position. After Brazeal’s grounder plated Koscso, Randall made freshman Jimmy Falla (3-for-4) his second strikeout victim to strand the runner.


Florida answered with the equalizer in the home part of the frame on a fielder’s choice by sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-4) that plated Fontana. Fontana had opened the inning with a single into right off senior Andrew Barbosa (0-1) and was sacrificed to second by Adams. Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) had a liner to short that Mende misplayed for an error, leaving runners on the corners, and Maddox picked up his second RBI of the year on a grounder that forced Tucker at second base.


UF seized a 2-1 lead in the third when Pigott came across as Adams hit into a 4-6-3 double play. In his first at bat of the season, Pigott started the inning with a double down the left-field line and Fontana legged out an infield single for runners on the corners and his sixth hit of the series. Barbosa induced a double play from Adams that also erased Fontana but Pigott’s run put the Gators in front.


Randall had retired nine-consecutive Bulls until Brazeal singled with one down in the fourth and Falla followed with another base-hit into left field. After the right-hander struck out freshman Chad Taylor, senior Junior Carlin (2-for-4) punched a single into center field. Senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) fired a bullet to sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) to nail Brazeal at the dish and preserve the 2-1 margin.


Although USF freshman James Ramsay had a two-out double into the right-field corner in the fifth, Randall responded by setting Koscso down on strikes for his fifth K.


After Smith led off the Gator fifth with a single and Pigott popped up a sacrifice attempt, Fontana beat out an infield hit for two runners aboard. Barbosa caught Smith stealing third for the second out but then uncorked a wild pitch that enabled Fontana to reach third base. The southpaw prevented further damage by fanning Adams to end the inning.


Randall retired the first two Bulls in the sixth before yielding a triple to right field by Falla. The right-hander finished his afternoon by whiffing Taylor to keep the Gators ahead, 2-1. Over six innings, Randall scattered seven hits, allowed one run and recorded six strikeouts without issuing any walks.


“I was just trying to get my feet wet this first game,” Randall said. “They took a different approach today and were swinging on the first pitch. They hit five first-pitch hits - that was my weakness today. Yesterday, they were really patient, so that caught me off-guard today. Luckily, the defense was there for me, and we got the ‘W’.”


Maronde took over for Randall prior to the seventh and foiled Carlin’s leadoff bunt attempt before surrendering back-to-back singles by redshirt junior Andrew Longley and redshirt junior Luis Llerena. The reliever struck out Ramsay but then walked Koscso to fill the sacks. Toledo was summoned from the bullpen and induced a grounder by Mende that Fontana snagged and flipped over to Adams at second base to force Koscso.


Junior Jimmy Moran replaced Barbosa (6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 K) in the bottom of the inning and McMahan sliced a one-out single into left field. After McMahan advanced to second on a passed ball, Smith moved him to third with a grounder. Pigott singled to shortstop and narrowly beat the relay throw by Mende, enabling McMahan to score for a 3-1 Gator advantage.


In the eighth, Falla had a one-out single before Toledo caught Taylor looking on strikes. Carlin kept the inning alive with a base-hit through the right side for a couple of Bulls on base but Toledo had Longley fly out to Pigott in left to end the threat.


Johnson provided Florida with another insurance run in the eighth with a fielder’s choice that increased the margin to 4-1. Adams greeted reliever Carlin with a leadoff single and took second on a wild pitch. A single by Maddox left UF with runners on the corners and Johnson’s grounder to the pitcher scored Adams when the Bulls could not complete the double play. Toledo retired the side in order in the ninth to end the contest. USF held an 11-10 advantage in hits, led by three from Falla and a pair by Carlin.   


The Gators and Bulls will conclude the weekend series tomorrow at 1 p.m. with a pair of freshmen on the hill: righty Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) for the hosts and lefty Nick Gonzalez for the visitors. The series has drawn 10,151 fans to McKethan Stadium for the first two games, prompting O’Sullivan to acknowledge, “The first two games have been outstanding. We have had over 10,000 people and I think we have a chance to break a three-game series record for attendance so I’ve got to tip our cap to our fans who did a great job again today.”


Game Notes

·         Brian Johnson’s career-high hitting streak of 11 games dating back to last season ended with an 0-for-3 performance.

·         The Gators did not commit any errors for the second-straight game.

·         Nolan Fontana has started the season 7-for-9 (.778) and Josh Adams is 3-for-6 (.500).

·         Ben McMahan served as UF’s designated hitter and was 1-for-3 with a run scored.

·         Tommy Toledo’s most recent relief appearance came at the NCAA College World Series against UCLA on June 19, 2010.

·         Hudson Randall made his first career start versus USF after appearing out of the bullpen in game two of the clubs’ season-opening series last February, when he allowed one hit over 1.1 innings.

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