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Thursday April 21, 2011No. 5 Florida Returns Home To Host Western Division Leader Alabama

Gainesville, Fla.

After going 4-4 on its eight-game road trip, No. 5 Florida (28-10/11-4 SEC) returns to McKethan Stadium for a weekend series against Western Division tri-leader Alabama (25-15/8-7 SEC). Friday’s series opener will begin at 7 p.m. and be carried on GatorVision Online, Saturday’s game at 6 p.m. will be carried on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com and Sunday’s series finale will be at 1 p.m. and air on GatorVision Online.

 

In a meeting of right-handers to start the weekend, sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (6-1, 1.70) will face senior Nathan Kilcrease (5-2, 2.62). Over 58.1 innings this season, Randall has registered 32 strikeouts and permitted just two walks. He is 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA in five league starts, most recently defeating Georgia last Friday night (6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R). Randall claimed the opener versus the Crimson Tide last season by firing seven shutout innings.

 

Saturday’s game two will showcase a pair of lefties, sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (5-1, 2.42) and junior Adam Morgan (4-3, 4.12). Johnson has 43 K and eight walks in 52 innings and has limited opponents to a .215 batting average. He limited UGA to one run on six hits over six frames last Saturday but was not involved in the decision and is 1-1 with a 3.54 in SEC play.

 

Freshman Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (4-0, 2.38) will oppose an Alabama pitcher to be determined to conclude the series on Easter. Whitson leads the Gators with 45 strikeouts in 45.1 innings and gave up six hits and three runs over five innings last Sunday in Athens but not receive a decision. The righty is 1-0 with a 2.52 ERA in conference activity.

 

In the clubs’ last encounter, the seventh-seeded Crimson Tide eliminated top-seeded Florida from the 2010 SEC Tourney, 5-2, on May 29 at Regions Park. Morgan went the distance, giving up six hits and two runs with five strikeouts over seven innings to pick up the win, while the Crimson Tide raced out to a 5-0 lead after three frames. Andrew Miller had a two-run double in the second inning, Jake Smith stroked a two-run single in the third and Josh Rutledge was 2-for-3 and scored twice. Making his first start against an SEC opponent since May 17, 2008, versus Vanderbilt, righty Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) surrendered seven hits and five runs (four earned) over 3.2 innings. Six different

 

Last May, Florida captured the first two games at Alabama to clinch its first road series victory over the Crimson Tide since 2004. The Gators posted a 9-3 win on Friday and a 14-8 triumph on Saturday before UA avoided the sweep with a 10-8 decision in the finale. Florida batted .362 (42-for-116) in Tuscaloosa, out-scored the Tide by a 31-21 count and had 17 extra-base hits with 10 doubles and seven homers. UF was also 12-for-13 on the basepaths. Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) led the Gators with a .500 (6-for-12) average and had a team-high seven RBI, to go along with three runs and two homers. Matt den Dekker was 7-for-16 (.438) with four RBI and four runs on the weekend, while Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) hit .417 (5-for-12) with five RBI, five runs and two homers.

 

Josh Rutledge (3-for-5) set a career high with six RBI and the Crimson Tide snapped a 6-6 tie with three runs in the fifth to capture the finale, 10-8. den Dekker (2-for-5) matched his career high with his eighth homer, Maddox was 3-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI and Zunino went 2-for-4 with a homer. Florida hit a season-high six batters and committed three errors to fall short in its bid for its first sweep at Alabama since 1988.

 

UF used a pair of five-run innings to post a 14-8 win over the Tide on Saturday. The Gators’ season-high seventh-straight triumph clinched UF’s sixth-consecutive SEC series and marked the team’s first series victory at Alabama since 2004 and just the second since 1995. The Crimson Tide had not lost a league series at home to an Eastern Division opponent since the Gators accomplished the feat in ’04, ending a stretch of 14-straight wins. Johnson (2-for-3, two runs) belted his second grand slam, Zunino (2-for-4, two runs) clubbed a three-run shot and Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (3-for-5, two RBI) had a solo homer to support the pitching of left-hander Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.), who worked into the seventh.

 

Randall twirled seven shutout innings and all nine starters contributed a hit as the Gators took Friday’s opener, 9-3. Randall claimed his fourth-straight win by yielding eight hits, with three strikeouts and a walk. Zunino (2-for-4) drove in three runs, Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) went 3-for-5 with two runs and two doubles and Maddox (2-for-5, two RBI) connected on a homer. The Gators also turned a season-high four double plays. UF totaled seven hits in the first two innings and began the game 7-for-10 (.700).

 

Florida claimed all three meetings against Alabama at McKethan Stadium from March 27-29, 2009. The Orange and Blue had a .382 (42-for-110) batting average against the Crimson Tide and totaled 10 extra-base hits (five doubles, three triples and two homers). UF came from behind to collect victories on Friday (11-4) and Saturday (9-8) and completed its first sweep of UA since April 1-3, 1994, with a 10-7 win on Sunday. Brandon McArthur was 6-for-11 (.545) and the trio of Tucker (7-for-14), Buddy Munroe (5-for-10) and Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (4-for-8) each hit .500 versus Alabama. Florida’s bullpen corps played a crucial role, notching all three victories, collecting two saves and registering a 1.69 earned run average after allowing just three runs over 16.0 innings to the SEC’s top hitting team.

 

All nine starters had at least one hit and six players turned in multiple-hit efforts in Sunday’s 10-7 victory. Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) had a career-high 4.1-inning relief stint in which he retired the first eight Alabama hitters he faced and registered five strikeouts. Tony Davis finished the eighth and recorded one out in the ninth before Bullock set down a pair of Crimson Tide batters to collect his sixth save. Clayton Pisani went 2-for-4 with three RBI and belted a go-ahead solo homer in the fourth.

 

Pigott’s drag bunt single with two down in the bottom of the ninth scored Jerico Weitzel from third base with the winning run as the Gators capped off a remarkable comeback to post a 9-8 triumph on Saturday. After trailing 7-0 in the seventh and 8-2 entering the final frame, UF sent 11 batters to the plate and scored five runs with two outs to clinch the series victory in dramatic fashion. Florida tallied seven runs on five hits and capitalized on three Tide errors in the decisive stanza. Tucker had two hits in the ninth and finished 3-for-5 with three RBI.

 

The Gators overcame a 4-0 deficit with 11 unanswered runs to take Friday’s opener. The hosts plated three runs with two out in the seventh, keyed by a double from Munroe (3-for-4, three runs, two RBI) and a go-ahead two-run single by McArthur (2-for-4). UF then erupted for six more runs in the eighth, featuring a three-run double by Tucker (3-for-4). Clint Franklin threw four scoreless innings of one-hit ball before Billy Bullock retired all six batters he faced to pick up the save. The righty entered the game in the eighth with two runners aboard and the Gators clinging to a 5-4 lead and later recorded two strikeouts when the Crimson Tide had a pair of men in scoring position.

 

Florida-Alabama Series Tidbits

*The Crimson Tide leads the all-time series, 56-47, although the Gators lead in Gainesville, 25-17.

*Alabama has taken the last two contests after Florida had reeled off five-straight wins.

*Until last season’s triumph by the Gators, the home team had emerged victorious in the last five series, including four by 2-1 margins (2005, UF; 2006, UA; 2007, UF, 2008).

*The sweep by UF in 2009 marked the first time a squad claimed all three encounters since the Crimson Tide accomplished the feat in Tuscaloosa from April 5-7, 2002 (4-1, 7-2, 6-5).

*Florida has captured the last four sets in Gainesville (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009) since dropping all three games during the 1999 season.

*Six of the last 12 meetings have been decided by two runs or less, with UA taking four of them.

*The teams have not played an extra-inning affair since the Tide notched a 7-5 win in 10 innings to salvage the finale of the series at McKethan Stadium on May 6, 2007.

 

On Wednesday night, UCF plated seven of its eight runs with two down in an 8-6 victory over the Gators in front of a record crowd of 3,601 fans at Jay Bergman Field. Sophomore Chris Taladay (2-for-5) and senior Derek Luciano (2-for-4) each drove in three runs and the Knights withstood a six-run rally in the eighth by the Gators that featured a grand slam by Tucker to take both meetings between the squads this season.

 

The Knights opened the scoring on an RBI single by junior Travis Shreve off Toledo (2-3) in the second, added a two-run single by Talday in the third and used run-scoring singles by Taladay and Luciano in the fifth to expand the lead to 5-0. UCF used a solo shot by redshirt sophomore D.J. Hicks and a two-run dinger by Luciano in the seventh to build an 8-0 cushion. Held to just two hits through seven frames, Florida exploded for six runs on six hits to narrow the gap to 8-6 in the eighth. Junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) connected on his first round-tripper of the year to put the Gators on the board and Tucker bashed his second grand slam in as many games to bring the visitors within two runs. However, UCF reliever Joe Rogers stranded a runner on second with a pair of strikeouts to end the eighth and pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve the victory. 

       

Gator Bytes

*Kevin O’Sullivan is 6-4 (.600) against Alabama: 3-0 (1.000) in Gainesville, 3-3 (.500) in Tuscaloosa and 0-1 (.000) in Hoover for the SEC Tournament.

*In his four years at Florida, O’Sullivan is 109-23 (.826) at McKethan Stadium, 37-35 (.514) at opponents’ stadiums and 5-15 (.250) at neutral sites.

*The Gators will be playing at McKethan Stadium for the first time since April 5 and boast a 19-4 (.826) record on their own turf.

*Florida is 4-2 (.667) at home and 7-2 (.778) on the road through its five SEC series.

*The last time that UF dropped a series at McKethan Stadium to a Western Division foe was to Ole Miss over April 17-19, 2009 (L, W, L).

*UF has alternated wins and losses over its past six games and is 8-8 (.500) in its last 16 games.

*The Orange and Blue boasts a 23-4 (.852) record in games played as part of a weekend series and are 5-6 (.455) in mid-week affairs.

*Florida is 20-5 (.800) against non-ranked opponents and 8-5 (.615) versus top-25 foes.

*Sophomore Brian Johnson (.319) saw an end to his 10-game hitting streak on Wednesday night, one shy of his career high set between May 20, 2010-Feb. 19, 2011. He was 15-for-34 (.441) with six RBI, four runs, three doubles and three walks in that span before going 0-for-4 against the Knights .

*Junior Preston Tucker (.333) has a team-high 16 multiple-hit games, while sophomore Mike Zunino (.356) and Tucker lead the club with nine multiple-RBI efforts.

*Tucker is 3-for-9 (.333) in his last two games, with 10 RBI, three homers and two grand slams. Three of his four career grand slams have come against UCF.

*With 15 multiple-hit games apiece, both senior Josh Adams (.377) and junior Daniel Pigott (.338) have already exceeded last season’s totals, as Adams had 14 and Pigott had eight.

*A SEC All-Defensive Team selection at first base last season, Tucker has seen the majority of his action in right field this year. He made his first two starts of 2011 at first base in the final two games with the Bulldogs and continued at first base at UCF.

*Tucker’s two homers on Sunday tied him with former teammate Matt den Dekker (2007-10) for seventh on UF’s career chart with 33 dingers and he moved past den Dekker with round-tripper No. 34 on Wednesday. Matt LaPorta (2004-07) occupies the top spot with 74 bombs.

*With 118 career walks, Adams’ next free pass will tie him for 10th on the school’s all-time list with Albie Scoggins (1982-83). Adams is currently fifth with 171 RBI, just behind Mario Linares (174, 1988-91) and ahead of Tucker (166).

*UF is 19-for-57 (.333) pinch-hitting, led by sophomore Kamm Washington (4-for-10, .400), junior Jeff Moyer (6-for-16, .375), and freshman Tyler Palmer (3-for-3, 1.000).

*The Gators hold a 244-123 scoring advantage, led by a 37-11 disparity in the second inning. UF has the edge in every inning except the ninth, when it has been out-scored, 11-10.

*Florida is 22-4 (.846) when scoring first and 23-1 (.958) when out-hitting its foe.

*UF has 28 homers this season and boasts a 17-2 (.895) record when going yard.

*In its 28 wins, the Orange and Blue has a .343 average and scores 7.8 runs per game. In its 10 losses, the squad is batting .221 with 2.7 runs a game.

*The Gators have played error-free baseball in 14 games (12-2) and their fielding percentage of .974 ranks second in the SEC behind South Carolina (.978).

*According to the league’s statistics in overall games entering the weekend, UF is first in batting average (.313) and is third in lowest ERA (2.77). In the SEC-only stats, the Gators are first in batting average (.321) and third in lowest ERA (2.77).

*Florida has totaled 97 two-out RBI, including 17 by Pigott, 12 by Fontana and 11 by thr trio of Adams, Zunino and Tucker. The Gators have a .301 clip with two down.

*Leadoff batters are 9-for-60 (.150) against sophomore Hudson Randall, who has held opponents to a .224 average. The righty’s four wins in SEC play matches his total from 2010 and he boasts a strikeout to walk ratio of 32:2.

*Sophomore Austin Maddox has made 10 relief appearances totaling 15 innings and has compiled a 1.20 ERA with 15 K and two walks. The righty has five strikeouts and zero walks in four SEC games spanning 8.1 innings and saved the finale at Mississippi State.

*Zunino (.421) and Adams (.418) are among the league leaders in batting average in conference games, while Fontana’s 15 RBI put him among the top totals. Zunino has scored a team-high 18 runs in conference action and six of his team-best 24 hits have gone for extra bases (four doubles, two homers).

*Adams is hitting .500 (24-for-48) against left-handers and .305 (25-for-82) versus righties and is 11-for-21 (.524) when leading off an inning.

*Junior Nick Maronde has made a team-high 18 appearances and is 0-0 with a 2.49 ERA in 21.2 innings. The lefty has 33 strikeouts and five walks. Five of the 16 hits he has permitted have been for extra bases (three doubles, two homers).

*UF’s eight saves have come from five different relievers: DeSclafani (3), Maddox (1), Maronde (1), sophomore Steven Rodriguez (2) and junior Tommy Toledo (1). Kevin Chapman collected 11 of the club’s 18 saves last season.

 *Florida is 30-for-48 (.625) on the basepaths, as 12 different players have at least one stolen base and the duo of Pigott (5-for-7) and Zunino (5-for-6) shares the team lead. Opponents are 18-for-26 (.692) against UF. The Gators were 2-for-5 (.400) last weekend against Georgia.

*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 six homers in its last three games and has 28 round-trippers in 38 games, led by Tucker (eight) and Zunino (six).

 

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

 

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