Friday March 4, 2011No. 1 Baseball Takes Opener From No. 24 Miami, 8-3
Sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) threw five scoreless innings and No. 1 Florida (8-1) raced out to an 8-0 lead through four innings on its way to an 8-3 victory over No. 24 Miami (4-5) on Friday night in front of 4,587 fans at McKethan Stadium. It was the opener of the teams’ weekend three-game series.
Johnson (3-0) matched his career high of nine strikeouts and has yet to yield a run in 17 innings this season. The southpaw was supported by an offense that featured a season-best 3-for-3, three-RBI performance by senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) and a two-run homer by sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-5).
“Good teams find a way to not lose two or three games in a row,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Last year, there were only a handful of times we lost two in a row, and we didn’t lose three in a row. That’s what good teams do. You’re not going to go undefeated obviously, but you want to be able to bounce back after a tough game Tuesday night (vs. Florida State). The guys bounced back tonight.”
After Johnson had struck out five-consecutive batters, UM freshman Shane Rowland drew a two-out walk in the second inning and junior David Villasuso (2-for-4) reached on a fielding error by sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.). Johnson stranded the runners with a punch-out of junior Nathan Melendres to end the inning and match his season high for K set on Opening Night against USF on Feb. 18.
In the bottom of the frame, the Gators used five two-out singles, two walks and a wild pitch from freshman Bryan Radziewski (1-1) to take a 4-0 lead. With two down, sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) and junior Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) came through with consecutive singles and junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) ripped a base-hit up the middle to drive in Zunino. Adams brought home McMahan with a single into center field and Pigott alertly took third base on relay throw home. A four-pitch walk to Fontana filled the bags and Radziewski uncorked a wild pitch to score Pigott with the third run and advance both Adams and Fontana. Another free pass to senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) re-loaded the sacks and junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) roped an RBI single to plate Adams with the fourth run. However, Fontana was thrown out at the plate by Melendres to close the frame.
Sophomore Zeke DeVoss opened the third with the Hurricanes’ first hit off Johnson, an infield single, but was erased on a fielder’s choice by sophomore Stephen Perez. The Gators turned a nifty 4-6-3 inning-ending double play on a ball hit by freshman Brad Fieger, as Adams flipped the ball to Fontana covering the bag and the 2010 Golden Glover fired a bullet to first base as he was falling down.
Adams boosted Florida’s margin to 6-0 in the third with a two-run, two-out single into left field. The Gators had loaded the bases on a lead-off single by Johnson, Zunino reached on an error by junior third baseman Harold Martinez and Pigott drew a two-out a walk. Adams cashed in with a bloop single that scored Johnson and Zunino, doubling his season RBI total to four.
Although junior Rony Rodriguez (2-for-3) started the fourth with a double, Johnson set down the next three Hurricanes, striking out Rowland to close the stanza for his eighth K. Soon after, Maddox ballooned UF’s lead to 8-0 with his first homer of the season, a two-run shot into the left-field bleachers with Smith aboard. Following a walk to Johnson, Radziewski (3.1 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 5 ER) was replaced by freshman Sam Abrams (3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R).
Villasuso began the fifth with a double and then Johnson retired the next three Miami batters, including a strikeout of Perez that equaled his career high of nine established on April 25, 2010, against Arkansas. Over five scoreless innings, Johnson gave up three hits and a walk.
“I thought Brian was really sharp in the first two innings,” O’Sullivan acknowledged. “In the second, he walked Shane Rowland left-on-left with two outs and threw about 10 more pitches that inning. Quite honestly, his line was really good, but he wasn’t as sharp as he’s been. That tells you how good he is: even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’s able to have good results. I was awfully proud of the way he battled tonight.”
In the sixth, Rodriguez had a one-out single off senior Matt Campbell (Tampa, Fla.) before the reliever fanned Martinez. Sophomore Michael Broad (2-for-4) sliced a single into left field for a pair of Hurricanes aboard and Rowland earned a walk to load the bases. Campbell kept Miami scoreless with a strikeout of Villasuso.
Freshman Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) followed Campbell (1.0 H, 2 H, 2 K) to the hill and put a zero on the board in the seventh with one hit and a walk. However, the Hurricanes collected four-straight hits off freshman Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) in the eighth that resulted in three runs and narrowed the gap to 8-3. After Martinez and Broad opened the inning with singles, sophomore Cade Kreuter smacked a pinch-hit double into right center to score both of his teammates and end Florida’s scoreless streak of 13.1 innings dating back to the third inning on Tuesday night against No. 5 Florida State. Kreuter took third on a wild pitch and scored on a base-hit by Villasuso. Junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) came out of the bullpen and had freshman Dale Carey and DeVoss pop up before inducing an inning-ending grounder by Perez. Larson registered a pair of strikeouts in the ninth and wound up retiring all six UM hitters he faced. The Gators held a 12-10 advantage in hits, as the trio of Adams, Maddox and Tucker contributed multiple-hit outings.
In a matchup of right-handers, sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (1-0, 1.64) will oppose sophomore E.J. Encinosa (0-1, 6.00) tomorrow at 3 p.m., live on Sun Sports. 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.