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Friday February 25, 2011No. 1 Baseball Clinches Series Over Boston College, 9-3

Gainesville, Fla.

No. 1 Florida (6-0) plated three runs in the seventh to snap a 3-3 tie en route to a 9-3 victory over Boston College (2-3) on Friday night. The Gators’ 20th-straight win at McKethan Stadium secured the weekend series, which will wrap up on Sunday at 1 p.m. Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) was 3-for-4 with a homer and drew a bases-loaded walk with one down in the seventh that brought in senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) with the winning run. Freshman Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) (1-0) earned his first collegiate win, while sophomore starter Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) permitted one run in five innings of work.

 

“It was a good ballgame, I compliment their starting pitcher (Eric Stevens) for his first collegiate start,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He did a nice job, mixed his pitches and threw strikes. Their infield defense was really good, they made some outstanding plays tonight and they didn’t give us much the first half of the game or so.”

 

“Boston College is well-coached, they’re in the ACC, and they have quality pitching. It was a good test for us but it’s still early in the season. We’re going to go through some things and get better as we go along but it was a good test for us for sure.”

 

 “I think that this close game was good for us,” Tucker said. “Our hitters responded just the way our coaches wanted us to, and I think we had a lot of pep in the dugout right after their two-run inning.”

 

In the first inning, UF senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) extended his season-opening hitting streak to six games with a one-out single off freshman Eric Stevens and Tucker followed with a base-hit into center field for two runners aboard. However, Stevens worked out of jam by setting down sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) on a fly-out and had sophomore Brian Johnson’s (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) grounder force Tucker at second base.

 

Tucker opened the scoring with a two-out solo homer in the third into the left-field bleachers. It was his second homer of the season and increased his team-leading RBI total to eight. Tucker has four multiple-hit games already this season in six outings and is 13-for-25 (.520) with an .880 slugging percentage.

 

Randall retired the first nine BC hitters of the game before yielding a lead-off single in the fourth to junior Brad Zapenas (2-for-4, two RBI). Following a line-out by sophomore Matt Watson to sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.), junior third baseman Jeff Moyer (Winter Garden, Fla.) made a tremendous defensive stop and relay throw to beat junior Anthony Melchionda. With Zapenas in scoring position at second base, Randall had senior Mike Sudol ground out to end the frame.

 

Junior Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) (2-for-2) provided the Gators with a 2-0 lead in the fourth with a two-out RBI single. Johnson (3-for-5, three RBI) started the inning with a single into left and was sacrificed over on a bunt by junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-4). Moyer advanced Johnson with a grounder to first base and McMahan drove in his first run of the season with a base-knock just beyond the reach of third baseman Melchionda.

 

The Eagles cut the deficit in half in the fifth on an RBI grounder by senior Garret Smith that brought across junior Andrew Lawrence, who had begun the stanza with a double to straightaway center field. Lawrence took third on a grounder by sophomore Matt McGovern and come home on Smith’s grounder to second base. It was the first run scored by BC in the series and just the second run allowed by Florida’s starting pitchers in 31.2 innings this year. The Eagles notched back-to-back two-out singles by senior Matt Hamlet and freshman Tom Bourdon before Fontana made a diving stab on Zapenas’ liner to end the inning.

 

Randall departed after five full innings in which he gave up four hits and one run, with four strikeouts and zero walks. Junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) induced a lead-off grounder by Watson in the sixth that Fontana scooped up but an error on McMahan allowed the runner to reach. After the left-hander had Melchionda ground into a 4-6-3 double play, Sudol delivered a two-out double into left field. Maronde stranded the runner by having junior pinch hitter Marc Perdios ground out.

 

Stevens allowed seven hits and two runs over five innings and was replaced by junior Kyle Prohovich (0-1). Tucker led off UF’s sixth with his third hit of the night and went to second on a balk. Prohovich had Johnson line out and uncorked a wild pitch with two down that pushed Tucker to third. On a very close play at first base, Pigott legged out an infield single to give Florida a 3-1 advantage.  

 

BC knotted the game at 3-3 in the seventh on a clutch two-out, two-run triple by Zapenas. McGovern had started the inning with a bunt single, ending the night for Maronde (1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R). Smith greeted junior reliever Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) with a single into right field and the right-hander had Hamlet bunt strike three foul for the first out. Gibson was summoned from the bullpen and caught Bourdon looking on strikes before surrendering a three-bagger to Zapenas into left center that tied the game. The Gators preserved the 3-3 tie when freshman third baseman Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) pulled off the hidden ball trick and caught Zapenas wandering off third base.   

 

On the Gators’ execution of the hidden ball trick, O’Sullivan said, “They do it all the time in practice and the impressive thing is that it was two freshmen – (Daniel) Gibson on the mound and (Zack) Powers trying to pull it off – and it did change the momentum. Gibson was extremely fired up and obviously it’s not going to happen very often but it certainly changed the momentum of the game.”

 

The Gators countered with four-straight walks and a pair of RBI singles in the bottom of the inning to seize a 6-3 lead. Smith and Fontana earned consecutive free passes with one down and both advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch by Prohovich. A walk to Adams filled the bags and prompted a pitching change, as junior Matt Brazis took over for Prohovich (1.1 IP, 2 H, 4 R, 3 BB). The reliever walked Tucker to bring in Smith and Maddox followed with a single through the left-side that plated Fontana for a 5-3 margin. Moments later, Johnson ripped a single into center to score Adams to make it six-consecutive Gators reaching base. Brazis prevented further damage by striking out Pigott and having Powers fly out to left field.

 

A one-out walk to Melchionda and a single to Sudol in the eighth caused another pitching change, with junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) replacing Gibson (1.0 IP, 2 H) on the hill. The righty fanned sophomore pinch hitter Rob Moir and had McGovern ground out.

 

Florida tacked on three more insurance runs in the home part of the frame on a pinch-hit double by sophomore Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) and a two-out, two-run single by Johnson that boosted the lead to 9-3. Sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) had drawn a lead-off walk from redshirt freshman Matt Alvarez and scored all the way from first base on a pinch-hit double by Washington. After Washington’s two-bagger, Fontana and Adams each walked to load the bases and cause another call to the bullpen. Freshman Steve Green retired Tucker and Maddox but then surrendered a base-hit through the left side by Johnson that scored Washington and Fontana to close the scoring.

 

Junior Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) retired the side in the ninth and registered two strikeouts as Florida improved to 6-0 for the first time in O’Sullivan’s tenure. The hosts also held a 14-9 advantage in hits.

 

The Gators and Eagles will conclude the series on Sunday at 1 p.m., with freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (1-0, 0.00) on the mound against BC senior RHP John Leonard (1-0, 0.00). For all of the latest information on Florida baseball, log on to http://www.gatorzone.com/baseball/ or, for up-to-the-minute updates, follow the team’s Twitter account @GatorZoneBB at www.twitter.com/GatorZoneBB

 

Game Notes

·         Florida started 6-0 for the first time since the 2002 club opened the year with an 11-0 mark.

·         The Gators drew a season-high eight walks.

·         Junior Jeff Moyer made his first start of the year at third base.

·         UF’s starting pitchers have allowed two runs in 32 innings for a 0.56 earned run average, with 33 strikeouts and two walks.

·         Both sophomore Nolan Fontana and junior Preston Tucker scored twice apiece.

 

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