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Saturday March 12, 2011No. 1 Gator Baseball Overpowers Rhode Island, 12-4

Gainesville, Fla.

A seven-run second inning enabled No. 1 Florida (13-2) to clinch its weekend series with a 12-4 victory over Rhode Island (7-5) on Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. Sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) was 3-for-4 and scored twice out of the leadoff spot, while junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer to pace the Gators’ 14-hit attack. Sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (2-0) matched his season high of seven innings in which he gave up five hits and three runs (one earned) to pick up the win.

 

"We got a really good start out of Hudson,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He did his normal thing by throwing strikes. It was vintage Hudson Randall. We talked to our team about getting early leads and giving our starters a little bit of a cushion because we've had a lot of tough, tight games recently."

 

Tucker connected on his team-leading fourth homer in the first inning off senior Ken Graveline (2-2) with Fontana aboard for a 2-0 lead. Fontana had led off with a single into right field and moved into scoring position with his second stolen base with one down. Tucker sent a fly ball to right that senior Kyle Borden tracked to the fence but the ball bounced off his glove and out of the yard to open the scoring.

 

The Rams cut the deficit in half in the second inning on an RBI triple by redshirt junior Greg Annarummo off Randall. Senior Tom Coulombe started the inning with a bunt single and Tucker made a tremendous running catch on junior Mike LeBel’s fly ball for the first out. Annarummo roped a three-bagger to score Coulombe all the way from first base but Randall answered with consecutive strikeouts of junior Milan Adams and redshirt junior Dan Haverstick.

 

Florida pounded out a season-high seven hits and capitalized on four URI errors in the home part of the inning to take a 9-1 lead. Sophomore Mike Zunino’s (Cape Coral, Fla.) (1-for-3, two runs) grounder was misplayed once by third baseman Haverstick and then by redshirt junior left fielder Jeff Cammans, leaving him on third base. A grounder by junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) was mishandled by LeBel at shortstop as Zunino scored and senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) followed with a double for a pair of runners in scoring position. Freshman Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) collected his first career triple to left field that cleared the bases for a 5-1 lead. Fontana notched his second hit of the afternoon with an RBI single into right field and a five-run margin. A fielder’s choice by junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) would have forced Fontana at second base but redshirt sophomore second baseman Pat Fortunato dropped the relay throw. Tucker smoked a single into right field to load the bases and sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-5) had a fielder’s choice that brought across Fontana with the seventh run. Sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) roped a two-out RBI double that ballooned the score to 8-1, Zunino followed with a infield single and Thompson poked an RBI single to provide the hosts with an eight-run bulge.

 

URI plated a pair of unearned runs in the fourth on an RBI triple by LeBel (2-for-4, two RBI) and a run-scoring single by Adams to narrow the gap to 9-3. Coulombe reached on a one-out error by Powers at third base and scored on LeBel’s triple into left center. Adams delivered a two-out single through the right side to drive in his teammate.

 

Graveline surrendered 10 hits and nine runs, four of which were earned, with five strikeouts over five innings. Sophomore Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) expanded UF’s lead to 10-3 in the seventh with a pinch-hit triple off freshman Kevin Lee (1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R) that scored Zunino. Adams followed with a groundout that plated Washington with another run.

 

Randall tossed seven innings for the second-consecutive start before sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) allowed a two-out RBI single to LeBel in the eighth that scored Cammans. The Gators got the run back in the bottom of the frame when freshman center fielder Jeff Roy dropped junior Ben McMahan’s (Windermere, Fla.) fly ball and senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) came across. Smith had opened the inning with a single into center. Freshman Keenan Kish (Worcester, Pa.) made his collegiate debut in the ninth and struck out two of the three hitters he faced to complete the contest.

 

“Keenan Kish got out there and we were pretty excited for him,” Fontana said. “He pitched really well, he works his tail off and he’s a guy we are all behind. He got his opportunity and he did well.”

 

Florida held a 14-6 advantage in hits and Rhode Island committed six errors. The Gators and Rams will conclude the series on Sunday at 1 p.m., with freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (2-0, 1.76) facing URI redshirt senior Stephen Peterson (0-2, 8.59). 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

·         The Gators are now 11-1 at McKethan Stadium this year.

·         Daniel Pigott’s career-best hitting streak of 13 games ended with a 0-for-4 outing.

·         Hudson Randall worked the first 22.1 innings of the season before issuing any walks.

·         Florida has out-scored URI, 23-9, over the first two games.

·         Eight of UF’s nine starters had at least one hit today.

·         Nolan Fontana, Austin Maddox and Preston Tucker all turned in multiple-hit efforts.

·         Florida tied a season high with two triples and finished with five extra-base hits.

                                                                                                    

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