Thursday May 26, 2011No. 3 Florida Blanks Alabama, 6-0, To Reach Semifinal Round Of SEC Tournament
Florida sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) tossed eight scoreless innings, junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) was 4-for-4 and scored three runs and senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) was 4-for-5 and tallied three RBI to lead the third-seeded Gators (43-15) past seventh-seeded Alabama (33-25), 6-0, in the first winner’s bracket game of the 2011 SEC Tournament on Thursday at Regions Park.
The Gators will now be off on Friday and will return to action on Saturday at around 1:30 p.m. ET in the semifinals that will be televised in Gainesville and Ocala on Sun Sports (Channels 48/1048 on the Cox Communications’ cable system) and heard on WRUF SportsRadio 850. The Crimson Tide will meet Arkansas (37-19) in an elimination game tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Randall (9-3) allowed four singles over eight strong innings and benefitted from the Gator defense matching its season high with three double plays. He improved his career mark to 3-0 against Alabama and has not allowed any runs to the Tide in 21.1 innings. Sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) yielded a leadoff single and recorded the first out of the ninth before junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) set down both hitters he faced to secure UF’s 10th shutout of the season, matching the school record established in 1970.
“If you look back at Hudson’s career, when he has a bad start, he has almost always come back and had a quality start,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He had some sink on the ball and he threw some changeups in there. He got ahead in the count and we played really good defense behind him, too. He doesn’t walk many, so it’s really hard to mount rallies against him.”
“I talked to Bryson (Smith) today before the game just to help him relax because he was pressing a little bit,” O’Sullivan said. “I told him that he would stay at the top of the order, and I didn’t want him to press. It worked out today, and hopefully he’s getting confidence back.”
The Gators jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI grounder by junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) and a sacrifice fly by senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (1-for-3). Smith doubled on junior Adam Morgan’s (5-6) first pitch of the game and the pitcher mishandled a sacrifice attempt by sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (1-for-3), giving the Gators runners on the corners and none out. A walk to sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) filled the bags and Tucker’s grounder to first base scored Smith with the game’s opening run. Adams followed with his fifth sacrifice fly of the year into left field to plate Fontana.
Alabama threatened in the bottom of the inning by putting its first two runners aboard but Randall worked out of the jam. Junior Taylor Dugas (2-for-3) drew a leadoff walk and Randall threw wide of second base on a bunt by senior Brock Bennett. The right-hander rebounded to have junior Jared Reaves hit into a 5-3 double play and then had freshman Austen Smith ground out.
Florida added two runs on three hits in the second to build a 4-0 lead. Sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) opened the inning with a base-hit into center field and Pigott smashed a single off senior second baseman Josh Sanders, moving Maddox to third. Smith roped a one-out RBI single to score Maddox and the Gators executed a double steal, with Pigott taking third and Smith moving up to second base. Fontana increased Florida’s lead to four runs with his team-high seventh sacrifice fly to center field that brought in Pigott and ended the afternoon for Morgan (3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R). It was the shortest stint all season for the southpaw.
Smith came through with his career-high third hit of the game in the fourth, an RBI single off sophomore Taylor Wolfe, to boost Florida’s lead to 5-0. Pigott began the frame with a single through the left side of the infield, stole second and was sacrificed to third by sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.). Smith’s base-knock into left field scored Pigott for a five-run margin.
Randall had retired 12-consecutive Alabama hitters before Sanders led off the bottom of the sixth with a single into left field. Dugas followed with a single into center field for two runners aboard and a fielder’s choice by Bennett forced out Dugas at second and pushed Sanders to third. With runners on the corners and one down, Randall induced an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play from Reaves to complete the inning.
After yielding an infield single to senior Brett Whitaker (2-for-3) with one down in the seventh, Randall had sophomore Brett Booth hit into a 6-4-3 double play – the third turned by the Gators in the contest. Pigott led off the ninth with his first triple of the campaign and came home on a one-out RBI double by Smith to finalize the 6-0 margin. Florida held an 11-5 advantage in hits, including five that went for extra bases (four doubles, one triple).
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· The Gators started 2-0 in the SEC Tournament for the first time since 2005.
· Florida has now claimed all four of its meetings with Alabama this season.
· The Crimson Tide’s lead over UF in SEC Tourney meetings is 10-8.
· Hudson Randall’s eight innings of work was his longest stint since registering back-to-back complete games against South Carolina (March 26) and Tennessee (April 1).
· Daniel Pigott matched his career-best total of four hits for the third time, most recently against FAU on Feb. 22, 2011, and tied his career-high of three runs scored.
· With two thefts, Pigott leads the Gators with 11 stolen bases.
· Bryson Smith is now 4-for-9 (.444) over the two games at Regions Park and Josh Adams is 3-for-7 (.429).
· Smith delivered a career-best in hits (four) and equaled his single-game high of three RBI.
· UF’s pitching staff had four strikeouts and issued one walk.
· The Gators were 3-for-3 on stolen-base attempts, two by Pigott and one by Smith.