Saturday April 2, 2011No. 3 Florida Downs Tennessee, 11-2, To Clinch Series
Sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) went 3-for-4 and matched his career high by driving in six runs as No. 3 Florida (23-5/6-2 SEC) clinched its weekend series with an 11-2 victory over Tennessee (19-8/2-6 SEC) on Saturday afternoon in front of 3,726 fans at McKethan Stadium. Fontana opened the scoring in the fourth with an RBI single, snapped a 2-2 tie with a two-run single in the sixth and had a bases-clearing triple to highlight a seven-run seventh for the Gators, who took the series from the Vols for the third-straight year.
Junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) retired all seven batters he faced over 2.2 innings to improve to 4-0 after taking over for sophomore starter Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) with two runners on base and a 2-2 score in the sixth. DeSclafani induced an inning-ending double play and then set down the Vols in order in both the seventh and eight h innings before freshman Keenan Kish (Worcester, Pa.) closed the game with a perfect ninth. After totaling 10 hits in Friday’s opener, the Orange and Blue had 13 more hits and limited Tennessee to its season-low total of four hits for the second day in a row.
“First of all, I think Brian (Johnson) gave us a quality start, and, not to get lost in this whole thing, I thought Anthony (DeSclafani) was kind of the savior to this deal today,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He comes in with a 2-2 ballgame with two runners on and was outstanding. He only threw 18 pitches, so we have him for tomorrow. Offensively, we’ve been working through some things and it’s great to put up a seven spot up there in the seventh. I was really was proud of our guys the way they responded in the sixth inning. After we gave up two runs, we bounced right back and got two ourselves.”
With the game scoreless, Johnson had a throwing error to start the third that enabled UT senior Tyler Horne to reach second base. Fontana made a diving stop on a ball hit by sophomore Chris Fitts for the first out, advancing Horne to third base. Johnson struck out junior Davis Morgan and had senior Khayyan Norfolk line out to Adams to strand the runner.
UF loaded the bases with two down in the bottom of the inning but came away empty-handed. Fontana earned a free pass with one down and junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-4, two RBI) stroked a base-hit into right field for two Gators aboard. Junior Steven Gruver (3-3) struck out sophomore Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) but then walked sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) to load the bases. Gruver had junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) ground out to escape the jam.
The Gators seized a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a two-out RBI single into right field by Fontana and an errant pickoff throw by Gruver that allowed the second run to score. Sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) started the inning with a hard single and was sacrificed to second by senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-2, two runs), his team-leading eighth sac of the campaign. A single into left field by redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) gave Florida runners on the corners and a fielder’s choice on a bunt by freshman Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) erased Maddox at the plate when second baseman Norfolk threw to junior catcher Matt Ramsey. Fontana drove in Ramjit on a 3-2 count to give the hosts a 1-0 lead and Gruver tried to pick Fontana off first base and wound up throwing the ball away, scoring Powers and allowing Fontana to reach third. Pigott drew a walk for runners on the corners and then moved into scoring position with his fourth stolen base. Gruver stuck out Washington to hold the deficit at two runs.
Zunino raised his hitting streak to 16 games with a single into left to start the fifth but was caught stealing for the first time this season to end the frame. He had been perfect on his first five attempts.
Norfolk (1-for-4) tied the game in the sixth with a two-run homer into the left-field bleachers. Johnson had retired nine-straight Vols before permitting a one-out single into right field by Morgan. Norfolk followed with his third homer of the season to even the contest and end Tennessee’s scoring drought in the series. Junior Zach Osborne (20-for-4) singled up the middle with one down and Johnson walked Duffy before being replaced by DeSclafani. Over 5.1 innings, Johnson gave up four hits and two runs, with five strikeouts and a walk. DeSclafani induced an inning-ending 4-3 double play by senior Josh Liles to keep the contest deadlocked at two runs apiece.
The Gators regained the advantage in the home part of the sixth on a two-run single by Fontana. Adams led off with a single into left field and Johnson roped a double into left field to put the Gators in business. Gruver had Powers ground out to first base and Fontana ripped a single up the middle to drive in both of his teammates for a 4-2 lead. Tennessee summoned sophomore Drew Steckenrider from the bullpen for Gruver (5.1 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 3 ER) and struck out Pigott, who was called for interference that resulted in Fontana also being called out to close the stanza.
After DeSclafani retired the side in the seventh, Florida responded with seven runs on three hits and four walks to build an 11-2 advantage. Washington started things off with an infield hit, Zunino reached on a fielder’s choice sac bunt and Tucker drew a walk to load the bases with none out. Although Maddox grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, Washington scored for a 5-2 Florida lead. Adams walked for runners on the corners and swiped second for a couple of runners in scoring position and Johnson earned another free pass to fill the bags. Steckenrider walked Powers to bring across Zunino for a four-run margin and was replaced by redshirt sophomore Hunter Daniel. Fontana greeted the reliever with a bases-clearing triple into the right-field to balloon the lead to seven runs and Pigott cranked his second homer of the season into the left-field bleachers to put Florida ahead, 11-2.
“It was fun this afternoon,” Fontana said. “I was just trying to have some good at bats and there happened to be runners on base. It was enjoyable to get it going with runners in scoring position after working on it in practice. He threw me an off-speed pitch in and I got my hands through it and wrapped it around the corner. I definitely had three on my mind after that.”
The Gators wound up with a 13-4 edge in hits, as eight of nine starters chipped in with at least one hit. Freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (3-0, 2.40) will start tomorrow’s series finale at 1 p.m. against a Vol pitcher to be announced.
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· The Gators captured the series for the third-straight year after sweeping the Vols in 2009 and taking two of three contests in 2010.
· Nolan Fontana’s six RBI equaled his career high set on March 23 against Winthrop.
· Fontana also has four multiple-RBI outings this season.
· Josh Adams is 5-for-6 in the series.
· Florida’s seven-run seventh marked the third time it had scored seven runs in a frame this year.
· Brian Johnson had his first Saturday start of the season.
· Vickash Ramjit made his starting debut at designated hitter and was 1-for-2 with a run scored.
· The Gator pitching staff began the series with 14.1 scoreless innings before Khayyan Norfolk’s two-run homer in the sixth.