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Thursday May 12, 2011No. 5 Florida & No. 2 Vanderbilt Clash In Nashville

Gainesville, Fla.

With just two league series remaining, No. 5 Florida (37-12/18-6 SEC) visits SEC leader No. 2 Vanderbilt (41-6/19-5 SEC) for a three-game set at Charles Hawkins Field. The Gators are tied with No. 3 South Carolina (38-10/18-6 SEC) for second place in both the overall and Eastern Division standings behind the Commodores.


In Friday’s series opener at 7 p.m. ET that will be carried by CSS on Channel 199 on the Cox Communications cable system in Gainesville and Ocala, sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (8-2, 2.05) will oppose Vanderbilt junior righty Sonny Gray (9-3, 1.94). Randall has worked at least six innings in 10 of his 12 starts and is 2-2 with a 4.84 ERA in his four previous road starts this season. The righty is 6-2 with a 2.50 ERA in his eight SEC appearances and was on the hook for the loss last Thursday at Arkansas (7.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 5 K). In 79 innings this spring, Randall has 44 strikeouts and has issued just four walks.


In a matchup of left-handers on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET, sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (7-2, 2.53) will face junior Grayson Garvin (10-1, 2.15). Johnson has surrendered three earned runs or less in 11 of his 12 starts. The left-hander worked 4.0 innings in game two with the Hogs (5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 2 K) after tossing 6.2 scoreless innings and matching his career-best of nine strikeouts in an 8-1 triumph over Ole Miss the previous week.


Freshman  righty Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (6-0, 2.26) will start Sunday’s finale at 2 p.m. ET against senior right-hander Taylor Hill (4-0, 3.17). Holding the top spot on the team with 62 strikeouts in 63.2 innings, Whitson has limited opponents to a .228 average. The righty is 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA and has 40 K and 15 BB in 43.1 innings of league activity.


UF head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and Vandy skipper Tim Corbin served together on Jack Leggett’s staff at Clemson. Corbin was with the Tigers between 1994-2002, while O’Sullivan was at the ACC school from 1999-2007 before coming to Gainesville.


The series with Vanderbilt will continue a challenging road stretch against ranked teams for the Gators. UF dropped two of three at No. 18 Arkansas last weekend and is 9-7 (.563) against Top-25 teams this season. In his career, O’Sullivan has a 12-13 (.480) record against top-five clubs, with a 3-4 (.429) mark on an opponent’s home field. Florida swept No. 5 LSU from March 18-20 to begin SEC play this year.


In the teams’ last encounter, Florida downed Vanderbilt, 5-2, in the fourth elimination game of last season’s SEC Tourney on May 28, 2010, at Regions Park. With the victory, the Gators advanced to the tournament semifinals for the first time since 2005. Making his postseason debut, Randall kept the Commodores off the scoreboard until the sixth inning, giving up five hits and a run, to register his fifth-consecutive triumph. Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) worked out of trouble in the sixth and went 1.2 innings before Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) collected his first save with two scoreless frames in which he permitted one hit. The Gator defense matched a season high with four double plays to end the third, fourth, sixth and eighth innings and Preston Tucker (2-for-5) belted a two-run homer in the fifth stanza that gave the Orange and Blue a 5-0 advantage.


In last season’s regular-season series, the Gators captured the first two games against Vanderbilt at McKethan Stadium over the weekend of April 2-4 to post their first series win over the Commodores since 2008. Matt den Dekker snapped a 1-1 tie in Friday’s opener with a two-run homer in the seventh and UF posted a 3-2 triumph as Kevin Chapman collected the save. He went 4-for-11 (.364) in the series and scored a team-best four runs. Jeff Barfield notched his first win since March 2009 against Stetson with 1.1 innings of relief after starter Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 6 K, 2 BB). The next afternoon, Johnson became the first Gator since Brad Wilkerson in 1998 to start in an SEC weekend series on the mound and also hit for himself. The southpaw clinched the series victory by holding the Commodores scoreless for the first 5.2 innings in Saturday’s 7-3 win. Johnson allowed seven hits and one run with a walk and a strikeout and was 3-for-3 with a run scored at the plate. Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) tied a then-career-high with three RBI and scored twice in game two. The Commodores avoided the sweep on Sunday by limiting UF to a season-low five hits in a 7-0 win. It was the first time under Kevin O’Sullivan that the Gators had been blanked at home and the squad saw an eight-game home winning streak come to an end. The Gators batted .231 (21-for-91) and compiled a 3.67 ERA over the three games with Vandy.


In their most recent trip to Nashville, the Gators dropped Sunday’s rubber game at Vanderbilt in the teams’ series from April 3-5, 2009. The Orange and Blue extended its league winning streak to seven games with a come-from-behind 8-4 victory in the opener before the Commodores claimed the series with 4-3 and 16-9 triumphs. With Florida trailing by a 4-3 score in the seventh on Friday, Tucker (3-for-5, three RBI) smacked a two-out, two-run double off Mike Minor to seize the advantage. UF added three more insurance runs and southpaw Tony Davis did not allow a hit over 3.1 scoreless innings with a career-high four strikeouts to earn the decision. The top six batters in the UF lineup contributed multiple-hit outings as O’Sullivan’s club matched a then-season high with 18 hits. Vanderbilt evened the series on Saturday with a 4-3 triumph in front of a capacity crowd of 3,700 fans at Hawkins Field. The Commodores capitalized on all three Gator errors in the contest and broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh with an RBI fielder’s choice by Steven Liddle that brought across Alex Hilliard, who had reached on a leadoff miscue. Lefty Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) pitched 5.1 innings, giving up four hits and one earned run. The hosts overcame a 9-2 deficit with 14 consecutive runs to win the series on Sunday, 16-9. Tucker notched then-career-highs in RBI (five), runs (three) and homers (two) on his way to a 3-for-4 outing. Left-hander Stephen Locke worked a then-season-high five innings and registered six strikeouts but was not involved in the decision. Tucker was 6-for-13 (.462) on the weekend with eight RBI, Brandon McArthur was 5-for-11 (.455) and the duo of Avery Barnes and den Dekker was each 5-for-13 (.385). The Gators batted .313 on the weekend and were 11-of-13 on the basepaths, including a 4-for-4 showing by den Dekker and a 3-for-3 effort by Barnes. After being perfect in the field on Friday, Florida committed six errors in the final two games and surrendered 10 unearned runs in game three.


Ten of the last 14 series between Florida and Vanderbilt series have resulted in sweeps. The Gators have collected seven wins and the Commodores have three during that span. UF swept in 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2008 and VU claimed all three games in 1997, 2003 and 2007. Over the last 14 encounters, Vandy has posted a 2-1 margin in 2006 and 2009 and Florida won by a similar count in 2000 and 2010.


Gator Bytes

*Kevin O’Sullivan is 7-4 (.636) against Vanderbilt, 5-1 (.833) in Gainesville, 1-2 (.333) in Nashville and 1-1 (.500) at the SEC Tournament.

*Over the last three seasons, the Gators have taken the opener of the series with the Commodores (8-6 on May 15, 2008; 8-4 on April 3, 2009; 3-2 on April 2, 2010).

*In his four years at Florida, O’Sullivan is 117-23 (.836) at McKethan Stadium, 38-37 (.507) at opponents’ stadiums and 5-15 (.250) at neutral sites.

*UF is 28-5 (.848) against non-ranked opponents and 9-7 (.563) versus top-25 foes.

*The Gators are seeking their first series victory in Nashville since posting a sweep in 2005 (5-4, 2-1 (13), 6-3). The Commodores claimed all three games in 2007 (10-1, 17-6, 13-5) and rebounded from an 8-4 loss in game one in 2009 to claim the final two games, 4-3 and 16-9.

*Florida is 6-2 (.750) in its eight SEC series, with sweeps of No. 5 LSU, Tennessee, Alabama and Ole Miss and 2-1 road series victories over Mississippi State and Georgia. UF was on the short end of 2-1 margins to No. 4 South Carolina and No. 18 Arkansas.

*Breaking down the Gators’ league record, UF is 5-3 (.625) in game one, 6-2 (.750) in game two and 7-1 (.875) in game three.

*UF is 10-2 (.833) at home and 8-4 (.667) on the road in SEC play in 2011.

*The Gators are 30-6 (.833) in games that are part of a weekend series and are 7-6 (.538) in mid-week contests. The Orange and Blue has a 10-2 (.833) weekend series ledger, with eight sweeps.

*The series pits two of the top offenses and pitching staffs in league games - as Vanderbilt ranks first (.331) and Florida is second (.321) in team batting average and the squads have identical 2.55 earned run averages that trails only South Carolina (2.44).

*Sophomore Mike Zunino is batting a league-best .430 in conference action and enters the weekend on a 13-game hitting streak in which he is hitting .481 (25-for-52) with 19 RBI and 11 extra-base hits (seven doubles, four homers). He also leads the squad in multiple-hit (19) and multiple-RBI (14) games.

*Zunino rates in the top 10 in nine different offensive categories in SEC play: first in batting average (.430), slugging percentage (.699), total bases (65) and doubles (13), second in hits (40) and runs scored (27), fourth in on-base percentage (.485) and RBI (22) and seventh in homers (4).

*Junior Preston Tucker has a .313 clip in SEC games and boasts a career-high 13-game hitting streak (.327, 17-for-52, 20 RBI). His next homer will be his 37th and will snap a tie for fifth on the all-time list with Mark Ellis (1996-99) and Mario Linares (1988-91)

*Senior Josh Adams continues to climb the school’s career charts. Entering the weekend, he ranks second in starts (229 - Brian Duva, 234, 1991-94) and sixth in games played (230 - Matt den Dekker, 234, 2007-10 is fifth). He is also third in at bats (851 - Duva, 874 is second) and fifth in hits (263 - Brad Wilkerson, 266, 1996-98 is fourth).

*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 tied for fourth with Tucker in career RBI (178), behind No. 3 Ben Harrison (193, 2001-04).

*After leading the Gators with a .500 clip at UA, junior Daniel Pigott has an nine-game hitting streak (.344, 11-for-32, five runs, three RBI).

*The Gators hold a 312-145 scoring advantage, led by a 44-12 disparity in the second inning and a 50-18 margin in the seventh. UF has the edge in every inning except the ninth, when it has been out-scored, 11-10.

*After belting a solo homer last Saturday night, three of sophomore Nolan Fontana’s five career dingers have come with no one on base.

*Florida is 29-5 (.853) when scoring first and 31-2 (.939) when out-hitting its foe.

*UF has 40 homers this season and boasts a 24-3 (.889) record when going yard.

*The Gators have played error-free baseball in 17 games (14-3) and their fielding percentage of .975 ranks second in the SEC behind South Carolina (.976).

*Florida has totaled 112 two-out RBI, including 18 by Zunino, 17 by Pigott, 13 by Fontana and Tucker and 12 by Adams. The Gators have a .288 clip with two down.

*Sophomore Austin Maddox has made 13 relief appearances totaling 19.0 innings and has compiled a 0.95 ERA with 16 K and three walks. The righty picked up his second win of the year in game three at Arkansas (3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R).

*Junior Nick Maronde has made a team-high 25 appearances and is 0-0 with a 2.03 ERA and two saves in 26.2 innings. The lefty has 40 strikeouts and six walks. Five of the 18 hits he has permitted have been for extra bases (three doubles, two homers). Maronde has not given up a run in his last 10 appearances.

*Junior Greg Larson sports a 1.78 ERA and has not yielded any runs in his last eight appearances. He worked 1.2 innings over games one and two in Fayetteville and gave up a hit and a walk.

*UF’s 10 saves have come from six different relievers: senior Matt Campbell (1), junior Anthony DeSclafani (3), Maddox (1), Maronde (2), sophomore Steven Rodriguez (2) and junior Tommy Toledo (1). Kevin Chapman collected 11 of the club’s 18 saves last season.

*Florida is 43-for-65 (.662) on the basepaths, as 13 different players have at least one stolen base and Pigott (9-for-12) holds the team lead. Opponents are 19-for-30 (.633) against UF. The Gators were 2-for-4 (.500) last weekend at Arkansas and Zunino threw out all three runners who attempted to steal.

*UF enters this weekend’s series with 101 doubles on the season after totaling 110 in 64 games last year. Four different players - Zunino (18), Pigott (16), Tucker (13), Fontana (10) - have reached double-digits.


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