Saturday April 23, 2011No. 5 Florida Clinches Series With 9-2 Victory Over Alabama
Sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) went 2-for-4, scored twice and drove in four runs to lead No. 5 Florida (30-10/13-4 SEC) to a 9-2 win over Alabama (25-17/8-9 SEC) on Saturday night in front of 4,917 fans at McKethan Stadium. With the Gators holding a 4-2 lead in the seventh, Zunino cranked a two-out, three-run homer into the left-field bleachers on an 0-2 count and senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) added an RBI double to cap a four-run outburst that clinched UF’s fourth-consecutive SEC series victory. Sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (6-1) gave up seven hits and two runs over five innings to pick up the decision.
Alabama totaled three-straight hits against Johnson in the first inning and used an RBI single by freshman Austen Smith to take a 1-0 lead. Senior Brock Bennett (2-for-4) singled through the left side with one down and junior Jared Reaves (3-for-4) followed with a base-hit into left field before Smith singled into right field to score Bennett. Johnson rebounded to strike out junior Josh Rosecrans and had sophomore Andrew Miller ground out to end the inning.
“The bottom line is that Brian (Johnson) didn’t give up a crooked number,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.”He gave up one there in the first and one in second but he came back and made some pitches. Obviously, he probably wished he had a few of those pitches back and he wiggled his way out of a couple of situations. It’s not always going to be an easy ride and I’m awfully proud of the way he battled and like I said, his damage control was outstanding.”
“I think Brian learned a lot about himself tonight. They came out swinging the bats aggressively, which I knew they would since they’re a good team. They come in here leading in the West and we had to face (Adam) Morgan, who I think is another great starter in this league.”
On his seventh-inning homer, Zunino acknowledged, “It was a good relief. We battled at the plate we had really good at bats. We had a lot of confidence throughout the game and we just tried to keep up with the good approaches at the plate. Eventually, we scored some runs.”
The Gators answered in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Zunino and a sacrifice fly by Adams (1-for-3, two RBI) off junior Adam Morgan (4-4) to take a 2-1 lead. Senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) led off with his third double, second of the series, and was sacrificed to third on a bunt by sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.). Zunino roped a single into left field that brought in Smith and junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-4) followed with a double for a pair of runners in scoring position. Adams lofted his fourth sacrifice fly to straightaway center field to put UF ahead.
Sophomore Brandt Hendricks opened the second with his first career homer into the left-field bleachers to even the contest at 2-2. Senior Josh Sanders had a one-out single into right center and Johnson had junior Taylor Dugas fly out. Although Bennett and Reaves had back-to-back hits to fill the sacks, Johnson kept the game tied by fanning Smith.
Florida countered with two runs on two hits and an error in the home part of the frame on an RBI double by junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) and a sacrifice fly by Smith to seize a 4-2 advantage. Junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) started things off by reaching on an error by sophomore third baseman Brett Booth and redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) punched a single up the middle. Thompson collected his first double of the season to plate Pigott and Smith delivered his first sacrifice fly of the year into left field to bring across Ramjit.
In the third, the Crimson Tide drew a pair of walks and used a two-out wild pitch from Johnson to have a couple of runners in scoring position. The southpaw responded by striking out Sanders to bring UA’s total to seven left on base.
Morgan had retired 11-straight Gators before Zunino reached on a two-out error in the fifth by Booth. The left-hander had Tucker fly out to complete the inning. Junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) took over for Johnson (5.0 IP. 7 H, 2 R, 5 K) prior to the sixth inning and surrendered a leadoff single to Booth. Sanders executed a sacrifice bunt that moved Booth into scoring position and a grounder by Dugas pushed his teammate to third with two down. Larson struck out Bennett to preserve the Gators’ 4-2 lead.
Reaves opened the seventh with a walk, just the second permitted by Larson all season. The right-hander fanned Smith and then had Rosecrans ground out, enabling Reaves to take second base. Sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) was summoned from the bullpen for Larson (1.2 IP, 1 H) and had junior Hunter Gregory hit a comebacker to the mound that ended the frame.
Florida erupted for four runs with two down in the bottom of the inning, courtesy of a three-run homer by Zunino and an RBI double by Adams, to build an 8-2 lead. Johnson began the frame by stroking a double into the right-field corner and was able to take third when Hendricks bobbled the ball. Morgan (6.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 K) caught Thompson looking on strikes and was replaced by sophomore Trey Pilkington, who had Smith ground out. Fontana walked on four pitches for runners on the corners and Zunino blasted a three-run homer to left field for a five-run Gator lead. Consecutive doubles by Tucker and Adams boosted the score to 8-2 and sophomore Adam Winsor took over for Pilkington (0.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R).
Junior Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) clubbed a pinch-hit homer with one down in the eighth to finalize the 9-2 margin. McMahan’s first round-tripper of the season came on a 2-2 pitch and landed in the left-field seats.
Rodriguez threw 1.1 scoreless innings before freshman Keenan Kish (Worcester, Pa.) took the mound for the ninth. Reaves doubled just inside of the right-field line with one down and freshman pinch hitter Jeremiah Tullidge earned a free pass for two runners aboard. Kish answered with strikeouts of Rosecrans and Gregory to finish the game. Each team totaled 10 hits apiece, while Alabama stranded 13 runners.
Freshman righty Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (4-0, 2.38) will start tomorrow’s finale at 1 p.m. against UA senior lefty Jonathan Smart (2-0, 2.36). 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.
· The Gators have won seven of their last nine contests against the Crimson Tide.
· Florida has scored seven or more runs in nine of the last 10 games against Alabama.
· The home team has now won the last six of the last seven in the series, while Florida looks to sweep Alabama for the second straight time at McKethan Stadium.
· The Gators have won the first two games in seven of their first 10 weekend series this season.
· Ben McMahan launched his first home run since a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth vs. Georgia on May 15, 2010.
· In his nine career games against Alabama, Preston Tucker is batting .415 (17-for-41) with 11 RBI, eight runs, six doubles and two home runs.
· Florida scored all four seventh-inning runs with two outs, giving them 104 two-out RBI this season.
· Greg Larson lowered his 2011 ERA to 2.13 on the season, while also lowering his career ERA vs. Alabama to 1.80. The right hander also improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 19:2.
· The Gators are batting .359 (66-for-184) in their last five regular-season games against Alabama.
· Tonight marked the second time all season Bryson Smith batted leadoff (April 17th at Georgia).
· After giving up just five hits in Friday’s 7-0 triumph over Alabama, the Gators allowed five hits in the first nine Crimson Tide at bats.
· Brian Johnson’s career ERA vs. Alabama dropped to 8.64. The lefty’s career ERA against every other team is 3.46.
· The Gators had a season-high six doubles tonight.