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Friday March 11, 2011No. 1 Florida Handles Rhode Island To Begin Series, 11-5

Gainesville, Fla.

Sophomore left-hander Brian Johnson (4-0) worked a season-high seven innings and No. 1 Florida (12-2) used a four-run second, a three-run fifth and a three-run eighth to down Rhode Island (7-4), 11-5, in the opener of a three-game series at McKethan Stadium on Friday night. The victory was the 100th for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan at home, where he is 100-20 (.833) in his fourth year. It was also the Gator skipper’s 200th game at Florida and he improved to 135-65 (.675).

 

“I really liked our approach offensively,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought we were aggressive, and we stung some balls tonight. Eight of the nine starters had hits, it was good to see. Hopefully we’re finding our groove, and that’s our role as a coaching staff. We want our team to learn from their mistakes and hopefully get ready for conference play.”

 

The Gators grabbed a 4-0 lead in the third inning on four hits and a couple of URI errors. Junior Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) opened the stanza with his first extra-base hit of the season, a double into the left-field corner off redshirt junior Chris Pickering (2-1). Freshman Tyler Palmer (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) followed with a bunt single for his first collegiate hit and Pickering made an errant throw over to first base, scoring McMahan and allowing Palmer to reach third. A walk to sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) left runners on the corners and junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-5, two runs) roped an RBI double into the gap in left center to bring home Palmer. Pigott now has eight multiple-hit outings in his 13 starts this season. Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) increased UF’s lead to 3-0 with a single that brought home Fontana and a throwing error by junior shortstop Mike LeBel allowed Pigott to come in with the fourth run.

 

Johnson retired the first 11 Rhode Island batters before yielding five two-out hits in the fourth inning, including a pinch-hit RBI single by redshirt junior Dan Haverstick and run-scoring singles by junior Milan Adams and redshirt sophomore Pat Fortunato (2-for-4) that closed the gap to 4-3. After senior Tom Coulombe singled into left, senior Kyle Borden (2-for-4) delivered a base-hit into center for two Rams aboard. Haverstick smacked a 2-2 offering into right field to drive in Coulombe and end Johnson’s scoreless streak at 20.2 innings to begin the season. Junior Ty Muller drew a walk to load the bases and Adams pulled the Rams within two with a single up the middle. Fortunato stroked a single into left field that scored Haverstick but Muller was thrown out at the plate on a perfect relay from Pigott to third baseman Palmer to sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) to keep the Gators in front.

 

Florida countered with an RBI single by Zunino (2-for-4) and a two-run double by senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (1-for-5, three RBI) in the fifth to build a 7-3 lead. Tucker was hit by a pitch to start the frame and went to second on a base-hit by senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) (2-for-4, three runs). Zunino sliced a single into center to drive in Tucker and Adams cleared the bases with his second double of the campaign down the left-field line.

 

Sophomore Mike Bradstreet replaced Pickering (5.0 IP, 8 H, 7 R) in the home part of the sixth and he set down the Gators in order. Sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-5) began the home part of the seventh with his second double and Smith was hit by a pitch before Zunino’s bunt forced Maddox at third base. After the Gators executed their first double steal of the year, Adams had an RBI grounder to score Smith for an 8-3 cushion.

 

“Everyone is kind of finding their role within the lineup,” Adams said. “A guy gets on, move him over, hit him in type of thing and that’s just going to be our focus the rest of the season. When someone gets on, we’re going to try and get that guy in. We have been working really hard the last couple of days and everybody’s feeling good about their swing, so it was definitely good to see. We’re going to need that the rest of the season.”

 

Over seven full innings, Johnson allowed six hits and three runs, with five strikeouts and a walk. Borden cranked his fourth homer in the eighth off junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) to bring the Rams within 8-5. Redshirt junior Jeff Cammans had singled with one down and moved into scoring position with a stolen base before Borden sent a 1-1 offering into the left-field bleachers for the first runs yielded by DeSclafani this season. The right-hander rebounded with a strikeout of sophomore pinch hitter Kevin Stenhouse for his second punch-out of the inning.

 

The Gators used three two-out singles in a row in the bottom of the eighth to finalize the scoring at 11-5. Pigott reached on a dropped pop-up by LeBel, took second on the play and later moved to third on a failed pickoff attempt by redshirt sophomore reliever Rob Curran. Maddox came through with a run-scoring single, swiped second for his first career stolen base and came home on Smith’s second hit of the night. After Smith had taken second on the relay throw home, Zunino deposited a Texas Leaguer into shallow left center to give the hosts a six-run margin. Junior Justin Poovey (Granite Falls, N.C.) completed the contest with a perfect ninth.

 

The teams will play again tomorrow at 4 p.m., with sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (1-0, 1.00) opposing Ken Graveline (2-1, 4.96). 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 improved to 3-0 all-time against Rhode Island.

·         The Gators were hit a season-high four times tonight.

·         UF did not commit any errors for the eighth contest this season, while URI had four errors.

·         Brian Johnson’s 20.2 scoreless innings is third all-time at Florida, behind Kelly Prior (30 innings, 1966) and Marc Valdes (21 innings, 1993).

·         Daniel Pigott extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games with a first-inning single.

·         Tyler Palmer made his second-straight start at third base and was 1-for-3 with a run scored.

 

                                                                                                    

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