Sunday February 27, 2011No. 1 Baseball Sweeps Boston College, 7-2
No. 1 Florida (7-0) finished off a three-game sweep of Boston College (2-4) with a 7-2 victory on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium in front of 4,213 fans. The Gators continued their best start since the 2002 club shot out of the gates with 11-straight wins.
Freshman Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (2-0) gave up one run on five hits and had five strikeouts over 5.1 innings to earn the decision. The right-hander had started his collegiate career with 10.1 scoreless innings until allowing an RBI single to junior Anthony Melchionda (2-for-4) in the sixth inning. Sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) was 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and two runs, matching his career high for hits.
“We built ourselves a 5-0 lead and with our pen and with the way we are throwing the ball, I like our chances,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I thought we did squander some at-bats and I think Karsten (Whitson) retired seven in a row but we have to do a better job at tacking on one more run here and there because you never know what run is going to come back to help or haunt you.”
On the play of Zunino, O’Sullivan commented, “There is so much on his plate with calling games and handling the pitching staff that anything that he gives us offensively is obviously a plus. We have him hitting right there in the middle of the order for a reason because last year he was hitting the ball as hard as anyone on the team and today was a great day for him.”
UF broke through for four runs on three hits in the second inning against BC senior righty John Leonard (1-1), highlighted by an RBI single by sophomore Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.), a two-run triple by sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) and a sacrifice fly by senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.). Zunino started things off with his second double and was sacrificed over by junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-3). A four-pitch walk to junior Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) left runners on the corners and Washington legged out an infield hit to third base that scored Zunino with the game’s opening run. Fontana rifled his first triple of the season into the right-field corner to clear the sacks and Adams drove in his teammate with his second sac fly of the year to straightaway center field.
The Gators increased their lead to 5-0 in the third inning on a two-out infield single by Pigott after sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) had smacked a one-out triple to deep center field.
Junior Marc Perdios (2-for-4) singled through the left side to begin the fourth for the Eagles’ first hit off Whitson. Melchionda stroked a one-out single into right field for a couple of runners aboard and a fielder’s choice by senior Mike Sudol erased Melchionda but left runners on first and third with two down. Whitson answered with a strikeout of junior Andrew Lawrence to preserve the 5-0 lead.
Perdios and sophomore Matt Watson (2-for-4) collected back-to-back one-out singles in the sixth and Whitson uncorked a wild pitch to advance both runners. Melchionda followed with a base-hit up the middle to put the Eagles on the board and prompt a pitching change. Junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) replaced Whitson (5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 5 K, 1 BB) and struck out both Sudol and Lawrence to strand the runners.
“I think my mind-set going into every game is that it’s not about the strikeouts,” Whitson said. “It’s about going out there and I have to keep the ball in the zone and let my defense work behind me. Today I only had four or five strikeouts, but I wasn’t even worried about that. I was worried about pitching.”
Senior Matt Hamlet and freshman Tom Bourdon notched consecutive one-out singles off junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) in the seventh before the right-hander induced a fielder’s choice by junior Brad Zapenas that forced Bourdon at second base for out number two. Zunino then gunned down Zapenas attempting to steal second to end the inning. It was the first stolen-base attempt against the Orange and Blue this season.
Senior Nate Bayuk took over for Leonard (6.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R) prior to the home part of the seventh and issued a lead-off walk to senior pinch hitter Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.). Smith moved into scoring position with his first stolen base and went to third on a grounder by Adams, however, Bayuk had junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) pop up to hold the margin at 5-1.
Sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) greeted junior reliever Mike Dennhardt with a single to open UF’s eighth and scored on Zunino’s second homer of the campaign into the left-field bleachers for 7-1 score. After Larson threw two scoreless frames, giving up three hits, Maddox took over on the hill. Sophomore Rob Moir had a pinch-hit single with one down and scored on a pinch-hit RBI double by sophomore Matt McGovern to finalize the scoring at 7-2. Maddox caught junior pinch hitter Spenser Payne looking on strikes and had Bourdon fly out to end the contest.
The Gators return to action on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against No. 8 Florida State (7-0) in the first of four regular-season meetings between the Sunshine State rivals as part of the Florida Four held at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. USF (1-4 entering today’s action) will tangle with Miami (Fla.) (4-3) to begin the event at 4 p.m.
On playing Florida State and Miami this week, O’Sullivan said, “That’s what this profession is all about. We have the chance to play two clubs that have a great history. Florida State got the best of us last year and we’re looking forward to having better results this year but if you can’t get excited for Florida-Florida State or Florida-Miami, then you’re probably in the wrong program.”
The UF-FSU game will be carried on the Bright House Sports Network and be aired in Gainesville on WLUF-TV, channel 6 on the Cox Communications’ cable system. 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.
· Florida increased its winning streak at McKethan Stadium to 21 games.
· The second-inning output of four runs equaled the most runs UF has scored in a frame this year, most recently in the seventh against Florida Atlantic on Feb. 22.
· With a season-high two triples, the Gators had their most three-baggers since the NCAA Gainesville Regional against Oregon State on June 5, 2010 (two).
· Sophomore Nolan Fontana had his fourth career triple in the second inning and sophomore Brian Johnson had his second career triple in the third.
· Senior Josh Adams’ season-opening hitting streak ended at six games with a 0-for-3 performance.
· Daniel Pigott went 2-for-3 and leads the Gators with a .591 (13-for-22) batting average.