Friday April 22, 2011No. 5 Florida Blanks Alabama, 7-0, To Take Series Opener
The trio of sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.), junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) and senior Matt Campbell (Tampa, Fla.) combined on a five-hit shutout and No. 5 Florida (29-10/12-4 SEC) used a 14-hit offensive attack to notch a 7-0 victory over Alabama (25-16/8-8 SEC) in front of 4,206 fans at McKethan Stadium on Friday night.
Randall (7-1) scattered four hits over 6.1 innings and was boosted by three RBI and a two-run homer by junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.), a three-run homer by senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) and a 3-for-5 outing by sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.). UF’s eighth shutout of the campaign matches the team’s highest total since 1991 and all nine Florida starters had at least one hit.
“Hudson had a really good changeup tonight and threw it right-on-right,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He threw some good change-ups to Alabama’s left-handed hitters. I think they had four lefties in their lineup and that’s the mark of a good pitcher - someone who goes out there and puts some zeroes on the board, even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. I was proud with the way he competed tonight and I was proud of how he gutted through it. That’s why we pitch him on Friday nights.”
Florida used an RBI grounder by Tucker to take a 1-0 lead in the third inning against Tide senior Nathan Kilcrease (5-3). Junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) opened the frame with a base-hit into right field and Fontana legged out a bunt for his second hit of the night and a pair of Gators aboard. Senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) (2-for-4) sacrificed his teammates into scoring position with a bunt and Tucker brought home Pigott with a grounder to short.
Junior Jared Reaves walked to begin the fifth, just the third free pass issued by Randall all season, and went to second on a grounder by senior David Kindred. Although a grounder by sophomore Andrew Miller pushed Reaves to third, Randall had sophomore Brett Booth ground out to first base to close the stanza.
Tucker provided the Gators with a 3-0 advantage in the home part of the inning with a two-out, two-run homer that cleared the scoreboard overlooking right field. Kilcrease had recorded the first two outs before surrendering a double into the left-field corner by Smith. Tucker followed with his team-leading ninth round-tripper, his third-straight game with a big fly, increasing his team-leading RBI total to 39 and giving him 13 RBI over the past three games. Sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) roped his 10th double into left center and sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-for-3) walked before Adams flew out to end the inning.
“I’m just trying to get a good pitch to drive and am being a lot more aggressive than I was,” Tucker acknowledged. “I’m not trying to look for a perfect pitch, I’m trying to look for something that I can recognize and put a good swing on. It’s working out in the past few games.”
Fontana boosted UF’s lead to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the sixth. Sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-4) started things off with a single into center and was sacrificed to second by junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.). Pigott advanced Maddox to third with a grounder and Fontana sliced a base-knock into left field to drive in his teammate.
Freshman Austen Smith began the seventh with a single through the left side of the infield and Randall had Reaves fly out to left. A single up the middle by Kindred prompted a pitching change, as Randall (6.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R) was replaced by Maronde. A ground ball by Miller resulted in a couple of Crimson Tide runners in scoring position but Maronde struck out Booth to keep the Gators up by four runs.
Adams cranked a three-run homer in the bottom of the stanza for a 7-0 score. Sophomore Taylor Wolfe took over for Kilcrease (6.0 IP, 10 H, 4 R) prior to the inning and yielded a one-out walk to Zunino before allowing a base-hit to Johnson. Adams stepped to the dish and launched his fourth homer over the wall in left center for a seven-run cushion. Oddly enough, it was the first three-run blast of the season for the Gators on their 30th homer as a team.
Maronde permitted one hit over 1.2 innings and Campbell produced a clean sheet in the ninth to close the contest. Saturday’s game two at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 will showcase a pair of lefties, Johnson (5-1, 2.42) and junior Adam Morgan (4-3, 4.12).
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· The shutout was Florida’s eighth of the season, the school’s highest total since 1991. The Gators blanked the Tide for the first time since 4-0 win on March 20, 1988.
· The Gators have won six of the last eight contests against the Crimson Tide.
· UF’s seven-run victory was its biggest versus the Tide since an 11-4 triumph on March 27, 2009.
· Florida improved to 22-4 when scoring first, 18-2 when hitting a home run and 13-2 when playing error-free baseball.
· UF has swiped 13 out of 14 stolen bases in its last four regular-season games vs. Alabama.
· The Gators played their first game at home since April 5, improving to 20-4 (.833) at home this season.
· In the last three games, Preston Tucker has13 RBI, five runs and four homers (two grand slams).
· In his eight career games against Alabama, Tucker is batting .405 (15-for-37) with 11 RBI, seven runs, four doubles and two home runs. Tucker’s dinger Friday marked his team-leading 10th game with multiple RBI.
· Nolan Fontana’s RBI in the sixth gave UF 100 two-out RBI on the season.
· Hudson Randall picked up his fifth win in SEC play, surpassing his conference win total from 2010.
· After giving up two base-on-balls this season, Randall walked two in the first six innings of Friday’s contest.
· Randall entered the game with a 8.78 ERA his last two starts, but failed to yield a run in 6.1 innings pitched Friday.
· In his five games against Alabama, Austin Maddox is 7-for-19 (.368) with five RBI, six runs, two home runs and two doubles.
· The Gators are batting .371 (56-for-151) in their last four regular-season games.