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Wednesday April 13, 2011No. 4 Florida Travels To Georgia For Key Weekend Series

Gainesville, Fla.

No. 4 Florida (26-8/9-3 SEC) continues its eight-game road trip this weekend with a visit to Athens to meet Georgia (18-16/8-4 SEC). The Gators and Bulldogs were each on the short end of rivalry games to ACC foes on Tuesday night, as UF fell at No. 8 Florida State (3-1) and UGA lost at No. 9 Georgia Tech (5-3).


All three games of the series will be televised. Friday’s opener will be carried live on CSS at 7 p.m. and air in Gainesville and Ocala on Channel 259 of the Cox Communications’ cable system. Saturday’s game at 5 p.m. will be shown on ESPNU and the series finale on Sunday at 2 p.m. will be on CSS, Channel 199 in the Gainesville and Ocala markets on Cox.


Sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (5-1, 1.56) will start game one against Bulldog sophomore lefty Alex Wood (4-3, 3.66). Randall suffered his first loss of the season last Friday night at Mississippi State, when he allowed nine hits and six runs over 2.1 innings. On the year, the righty has totaled 31 strikeouts and permitted one walk in 52.0 innings, while limiting opponents to a .221 average.


The game-two matchup features sophomore southpaw Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (5-1, 2.54) versus UGA junior righty Michael Palazzone (5-1, 2.28). Johnson twirled six shutout frames in the 18-0 victory last Saturday that evened the Gators’ series with MSU and has 39 K in 46 innings this season.


Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (4-0, 2.01) gets the nod in the third meeting between the Gators and Bulldogs and will face redshirt junior left-hander Craig Gullickson (3-2, 5.86). Whitson, who leads UF with 40 strikeouts in 40.1 innings, did not receive a decision in his last start, when he surrendered one run on five hits over 5.1 IP last Sunday in Starkville.


Senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) leads the Gators with a .362 batting average and has driven in 25 runs, sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) is hitting .350 with team-highs in runs (37), RBI (27) and home runs (six), junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) has a .341 clip with 26 RBI and 14 doubles and junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) is batting .338 with 25 RBI and five dingers. UF has a .310 team average and has a staff ERA of 2.37.


Since losing two of three at home to South Carolina, Florida has swept Tennessee and taken the final two games at Mississippi State to remain one game out of first in the league standings behind No. 1 Vanderbilt and No. 3 South Carolina, who are each 10-2. Georgia is one of the SEC’s hottest teams, having emerged victorious in its last three series since falling to USC twice in Columbia. The Bulldogs have knocked off No. 9 LSU (2-1), No. 24 Mississippi State (3-0) and Ole Miss (2-1).


Last May, Florida notched its first sweep of Georgia at McKethan Stadium since 2000 to remain tied on top of the SEC standings heading into the final series at South Carolina. Shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) batted .300 and drew three walks against the Bulldogs. The series attendance of 14,619 eclipsed the previous best of 13,962 set during the Florida-LSU series from April 24-26, 1998, and was the highest until this season’s 14,838 for the visit by USC. UF was 5-for-5 basepaths in the finale and 10-for-11 in the series. Florida’s bullpen earned wins in the first two games and did not permit any earned runs over 10.2 innings of work, with eight strikeouts and zero walks.


The Gators broke open a 2-1 contest on Sunday by plating seven runs with two down in the sixth. The seven runs matched Florida’s 2010 season high in an inning set at Tennessee on April 11, and equaled at USF on April 21. Matt den Dekker extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a leadoff single in the eighth. Johnson retired the first eight batters of the game, scattered six hits and gave up one run over 5.2 innings to earn the win. Tucker went 1-for-3 and drove in two runs, while improving to 7-for-7 on stolen-base attempts. Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) led off the bottom of the ninth with a solo homer as Florida took a 4-3 victory on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs had tied the game in the top of the inning on a two-out RBI single before the Gators answered with their second-straight walk-off victory to clinch their seventh-consecutive league series. Kevin Chapman picked up the win after surrendering an unearned run that tied the game. Randall worked 5.2 innings, giving up nine hits and two runs, and totaled five K. A bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Zunino in the bottom of the ninth enabled UF to pull out a 4-3 victory in the series opener. Down 3-2 entering the final frame, the Gators capitalized on a pair of Bulldog errors and scored twice without any hits to earn the win. Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) tossed a career-high four innings out of the bullpen to register the victory by keeping Georgia scoreless on two hits.


In UF’s last trip to Athens, the Gators recorded a three-game sweep at No. 6 Georgia over May 1-3, 2009, to move into a tie atop the SEC standings with No. 3 LSU and No. 7 Ole Miss, as all three clubs had 16-8 league marks. Florida entered the weekend trailing Georgia by one game in the Eastern Division and left town with a two-game lead. Billy Bullock finished all three games, collecting two saves and a victory. Tucker went 7-for-16 (.428) with five RBI, four runs and a pair of homers, none bigger than a three-run jack in the ninth inning on Sunday that put the Gators in front. Jonathan Pigott was 6-for-14 (.429) against Georgia, with three RBI in the opener and three hits in the finale. Adams batted .417 (5-for-12) with four runs and four walks and Avery Barnes raised his hitting streak to 11 games by going 7-for-17 (.412) with five runs and a pair of stolen bases. Florida turned in a .328 (41-for-125) batting average in the series, with eight homers, two doubles and a triple, and was a perfect 8-for-8 on the basepaths.


In the opener which was completed after Saturday’s regularly-scheduled game, Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) delivered a two-out RBI single in the 11th inning to score Barnes with the winning run in the 10-9 victory. UF overcame deficits of 8-0 in the third inning and 9-7 in the eighth to notch the win. Barnes went 4-for-7 and Tucker was 3-for-6 with a pair of runs. The Gators clubbed four homers, matching a season high, with Tucker, Barnes, Pigott and Mike Mooney going yard. In game two, Bullock retired all six batters he faced Florida edged UGA, 7-6. At the time, the victory moved the Gators into a first-place tie in the East with the Bulldogs. Bullock registered his ninth save in relief of starter Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.). Eight of Florida’s nine starters contributed a hit in the win, while Teddy Foster (1-for-4) and Buddy Munroe (2-for-4, two RBI) each homered. Down three runs entering the ninth, Florida staged another remarkable comeback to complete a weekend sweep of the Bulldogs with a 10-8 triumph on Sunday afternoon. Trailing 7-5 after a passed ball allowed Mooney to score, Tucker cranked a go-ahead, three-run homer off Cecil Tanner and Jerico Weitzel later provided insurance with a two-run single. Patrick Keating kept the Bulldogs off the board for the final two outs in the eighth before Bullock took the mound in the ninth. The righty surrendered a solo shot to Lyle Allen with one down for a two-run margin. Bullock then rebounded to have pinch hitter Johnathan Taylor ground out before catching Levi Hyams looking on a curve ball to end the game and pick up his second save in two days. UF tallied six runs on five hits in the final stanza for its 21st come-from-behind victory of that season.


Home-field advantage in the Florida-Georgia series hasn’t meant much in recent years, as the Gators have emerged victorious from their last four visits to Athens (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009) and posted a 10-2 (.833) mark and the Bulldogs had back-to-back sweeps in the Sunshine State under their belts (2004, 2006) before falling in the final two games at McKethan Stadium in 2008 and getting swept last season.


Florida and Georgia have each played LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina during league play. Georgia dropped two of three to the Gamecocks on the opening SEC weekend, but has since taken two of three from the Tigers and swept the Bulldogs for a cumulative record of 6-3 (.667). Florida has also posted a 6-3 (.667) mark against the trio, sweeping three in Baton Rouge, falling twice to USC in Gainesville and taking the final two contests at MSU.


The Gators remained No. 1 in the most recent NCAA Baseball Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) released this week. A whopping 10 SEC programs are found in the top 36: No. 4 South Carolina, No. 7 Vanderbilt, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 15 Auburn, No. 17 Georgia, No. 21 LSU, No. 30 Ole Miss, No. 31 Mississippi State and No. 36 Alabama.


Gator Bytes

*Kevin O’Sullivan is 8-1 (.889) against Georgia, 5-1 (.833) in Gainesville and 3-0 (1.000) in Athens.

*The Gators have claimed their last four series with UGA: 2007 (3-0), 2008 (2-1), 2009 (3-0), 2010 (3-0).

*UF’s eight-game winning streak in the series dates back to a 7-4 setback in the opener of a set in Gainesville on April 25, 2008.

*The Gators are also riding an eight-game skein at Foley Field since a 5-2 loss in game one on April 8, 2005, and have taken 10 of their last 12 encounters at Georgia. 

*Florida has captured its last six SEC road series since falling at Ole Miss on the weekend of March 26-28, 2010 (L, L, W). The Gators’ last series loss to an East foe away from Gainesville was at Vanderbilt from April 3-5, 2009 (W, L, L).

*The Gators are 7-4 (.636) away from Gainesville this season and are 6-2 (.750) on an opponent’s home field.

*Since beginning the season with a 20-2 record, UF has split its past 12 games.

*The Orange and Blue boasts a 21-3 (.875) record in games played as part of a weekend series and are 5-5 (.500) in mid-week affairs.

*Florida is 18-3 (.857) against non-ranked opponents and 8-5 (.615) versus top-25 foes.

*As of the report released on Monday, the Gators’ average attendance of 4,000 ranks 10th in the country this week, while their total of 92,011 spectators also ranked 10th. The top four schools by average hail from the SEC (LSU, 10,829; Ole Miss, 8,098; Arkansas, 7,661 and South Carolina, 7,248).

*Entering last Friday’s start at Mississippi State, sophomore Hudson Randall had not surrendered any earned runs in 30.1 innings dating back to March 12 against Rhode Island and had allowed six runs in 49.2 innings all season. He was touched up for six runs on nine hits in 2.1 innings by the Bulldogs. Randall has not permitted a walk in his last 30.0 IP since the fifth inning versus URI.

*Randall’s two complete games in consecutive starts against South Carolina (March 26) and Tennessee (April 1) are the most by a UF pitcher in a season since current St. Louis Cardinal Bryan Augenstein had three in 2007.

*Saturday’s starter, sophomore Brian Johnson, earned his first SEC win last weekend at MSU with six shutout frames and six hits allowed in the 18-0 victory. The lefty is 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA in his four league starts, with 14 strikeouts and four walks.

*Freshman Karsten Whitson has a team-high 18 K in 20 innings of SEC play and is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in conference starts.

*Sophomore Austin Maddox’s first career save on Sunday marked the first time a Gator reliever had collected a save since March 19 at LSU.

*UF is 17-for-51 (.333) pinch-hitting, led by sophomore Kamm Washington (4-for-9, .444), junior Jeff Moyer (5-for-15, .333), and freshman Tyler Palmer (2-for-2, 1.000).

*The Gators hold a 217-97 scoring advantage, led by a 37-9 disparity in the seventh inning. UF has the edge in every inning except the ninth, when it has been out-scored, 10-8.

*Florida is 20-4 (.833) when scoring first and 21-1 (.955) when out-hitting its foe.

*UF has 22 homers this season and boasts a 16-0 record when going yard.

*In its 26 wins, the Orange and Blue has a .337 average and score 7.6 runs per game. In its eight losses, the squad is batting .213 with 2.4 runs a game.

*The Gators have played error-free baseball in 12 games (11-1) and their fielding percentage of .974 ranks fourth in the SEC.

*According to the league’s statistics in overall games as of Wednesday, UF is tied for the second spot in batting average (.310) and is second in lowest ERA (2.37). In the SEC-only stats, the Gators are second in lowest ERA (2.10) and second in batting average (.309).

*Florida has totaled 87 two-out RBI, including 17 by junior Daniel Pigott, 12 by sophomore Nolan Fontana, 11 by Zunino and 10 by Adams. The Gators have a .292 (111-for-380) clip with two down.

*Leadoff batters are 4-for-22 (.182) against junior Anthony DeSclafani, who has held opponents to a .186 average. The righty’s four wins have surpassed his season total of two from 2010 and he boasts a strikeout to walk ratio of 22:2.

*Junior Nick Maronde has made a team-high 16 appearances and is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 20.0 innings. The lefty has 32 strikeouts and five walks. Five of the 16 hits he has permitted have been for extra bases (three doubles, two homers).

*UF’s seven saves have come from five different relievers: DeSclafani (3), Maddox (1), Maronde (1), sophomore Steven Rodriguez (1) and junior Tommy Toledo (1). Kevin Chapman collected 11 of the club’s 18 saves last season.

*Florida is 28-for-43 (.651) on the basepaths, as 12 different players have at least one stolen base. Opponents are 16-for-24 (.667) against UF. The Gators were 2-for-3 (.667) last weekend against Mississippi State.

*Until suffering the 4-3 setback to UCF on April 5, Florida had won its last 81 contests when leading after the eighth inning. Back on April 10, 2009, Auburn scored in the bottom of the ninth to forge a 7-7 tie and then notched an 8-7 victory in 11 innings.

*Florida has hit three homers in its last 10 games and has 22 round-trippers in 34 games. Sophomore Mike Zunino has six and junior Preston Tucker has five.


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