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Saturday April 30, 2011No. 4 Florida Clinches Series Over Ole Miss, 8-1

Gainesville, Fla.

Sophomore left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) tossed 6.2 scoreless innings, matched his career high with nine strikeouts and was supported by a balanced offense that scored multiple runs in four different innings as No. 4 Florida (33-10/16-4 SEC) claimed its weekend series with an 8-1 victory over Ole Miss (24-19/9-11 SEC) on Saturday night in front of 4,305 fans at McKethan Stadium. Florida’s sixth-straight league win secured the team’s fifth-straight SEC series victory, was its first series win over the Rebels since 2008 and was the squad’s first series triumph over UM in Gainesville since 2002.


Johnson (7-1) helped his own cause by going 2-for-3, while junior Jeff Moyer (Winter Springs, Fla.) (2-for-4, two RBI) and sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-4, two RBI, two runs) each homered.  Eight of UF’s nine starters had at least one hit to help the Orange and Blue remain deadlocked with No. 2 Vanderbilt (37-5/16-4 SEC) and No. 3 South Carolina (34-8/16-4 SEC) in the conference race.


“It all starts on the mound,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Brian (Johnson) was good tonight. He located to both sides of the plate and pitched well. Offensively, we’re seeing the ball well, having quality at-bats and we’re getting quality pitches from top to bottom. I think they’re confident right now, playing with a little bounce and having fun. We’re getting a lot of guys in there and they are contributing.  I knew we were going to swing the bat better as the season went on but we’re seeing the ball well right now.”


“Ole Miss has a good team. They came in here leading the West and every year they are in Regionals. They’re well-coached and you have to expect that when you play against a team like Ole Miss that you’re going to run into trouble at some point.” 


On Johnson’s performance, Zunino offered, “Brian had a lot of confidence today. He threw his change-up extremely well today and that helped him out a lot. He got everybody out with his fastball and his breaking ball - his stuff was as sharp as it’s ever been.” 


The Gators plated two runs in the second against junior righty David Goforth (3-6) on an RBI grounder by sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) and a throwing error by junior catcher Taylor Hightower. Johnson (2-for-3) poked a one-out triple into the right-field corner and Maddox’s grounder to the right side broke the ice. Senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) raised his hitting streak to nine games with a two-out infield single and a check-swing grounder by Moyer was thrown away by Hightower, enabling Adams to score all the way from first base.


Sophomore Tanner Mathis (2-for-4) and junior Blake Newalu (2-for-4) had back-to-back singles with one down off Johnson in the third and the lefty fanned sophomore Alex Yarbrough for his fifth K of the game. Senior Matt Smith drew a walk to fill the sacks with two out and junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) robbed senior Matt Tracy of a potential game-tying hit with a sliding catch in left field that ended the inning.


UF expanded its lead to 4-0 in the fourth on two runs and three hits. Zunino led off with his 12th double to the base of the wall in right center and Johnson flew out to right field. Zunino tagged up to go to third and wound up scoring on an errant relay throw by Smith. Maddox singled through the left side with one down and moved to second on a grounder by Adams before Moyer delivered a two-out double down the right-field line to score his teammate.


Zunino blasted his eighth homer with junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) aboard in the fifth to increase the Gators’ margin to 6-0. After Goforth retired the first two hitters, Tucker singled up the middle and then notched his fourth stolen base. Zunino launched a 1-1 pitch to deep left field to provide the hosts with a six-run cushion and end the night for Goforth (4.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 K).


Moyer clubbed his second homer of the year with one down in the sixth off freshman Mike Mayers for a 7-0 advantage. Pigott followed with a hard single into center, stole second base with two out and came home on senior Bryson Smith’s (Watkinsville, Ga.) fourth double of the campaign for an eight-run Gator lead. 


Johnson finished his outing with a strikeout of freshman pinch hitter Jordan Poole to match his career best of nine K. Over 6.2 shutout innings, the southpaw scattered four hits and permitted one walk. Junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) surrendered a pinch-hit homer to senior Miles Hamblin to right field that completed the scoring at 8-1.


Toledo worked 1.1 innings, giving up two hits and a run with two strikeouts, and redshirt junior Justin Poovey (Granite Falls, N.C.) pitched a perfect ninth on the day of his graduation to end the game. The Gators enjoyed an 11-6 advantage in hits and had three players register multi-hit efforts.


Freshman righty Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (5-0, 2.25) will oppose junior left-hander Austin Wright (4-3, 4.36) in tomorrow’s finale at 1 p.m. that will be carried on GatorVision Online.


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Game Notes

·         Florida posted its first series victory over Ole Miss since taking two of three in Oxford during the 2008 season.

·         The Gators have captured the last three meetings with the Rebels and now lead the all-time series, 44-42.

·         Brian Johnson’s nine strikeouts matched his career high set against Miami (Fla.) on March 4, 2011, and versus Arkansas on April 25, 2010.

·         Johnson’s 6.2-inning stint was his second-longest of the season (7.0 IP vs. Rhode Island, March 11).

·         Jeff Moyer’s homer was his first since at LSU on March 20, while Mike Zunino’s most recent big fly came against Alabama last weekend.

·         UF improved to 24-4 on its own turf this season.

·         The Gator pitching staff totaled 11 strikeouts and issued one walk.

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