Saturday May 28, 2011No. 3 Florida Downs Georgia, 3-2, To Reach SEC Tournament Final For First Time Since 2000
Sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) drove in redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) with the winning run in the ninth inning as third-seeded Florida (44-16) slipped past fifth-seeded Georgia (31-30), 3-2, in the 2011 SEC Tournament semifinal on Saturday night at Regions Park.
The Bulldogs had forced the if-necessary game with a 4-3 victory earlier in the afternoon. The Gators will next face fourth-seeded Vanderbilt (47-9) on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN2 seeking their first SEC Tourney crown since 1991 and will be appearing in the championship contest for the first time since 2000 (9-6 loss to LSU).
Tied at 2-2 entering the ninth, Ramjit led off with his third double of the season into right center and was sacrificed to third by junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.). Redshirt junior Craig Gullickson came in for senior Eric Swegman (1-1, 2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R) and issued a walk to sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) for runners on the corners and one down. Fontana sent a potential double-play ground ball to second base, forcing Dent, and hustled down the line to beat the relay throw, bringing Ramjit across for a 3-2 Gator lead.
With Georgia down its final three outs, sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) replaced redshirt junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) (4-3), who had taken over with a runner on first base in the eighth and retired the next three batters. After Maddox struck out sophomore Brett DeLoach, redshirt sophomore Kevin Ruiz (3-for-4) rifled a double down the left-field line. A fly ball to left field by junior Joey Delmonico advanced Ruiz to third base with two down and Maddox countered with a game-ending strikeout of junior Colby May to nail down the win and collect his team-leading fifth save.
The Bulldogs had opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning against freshman righty Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) on an infield RBI single by sophomore Kyle Farmer. Junior Levi Hyams had led off with a double down the left-field line that was just out of Pigott’s reach. A grounder by junior Lance Martin moved Hyams to third and Farmer came through with a single to the lip on the outfield grass to put UGA on the board.
Georgia took advantage of a wild pitch to take a 2-0 lead in the second frame. DeLoach drew a one-out walk and went to third on a double into left field by Ruiz. Whitson struck out junior Carson Schilling but then issued a free pass to May that loaded the bases with two down. The righty let loose an errant pitch that brought home DeLoach and advanced the other runners into scoring position. Hyams walked to re-load the sacks and Whitson retired Martin on a bunt to prevent any more damage.
Fontana tied the game at 2-2 with a two-run homer in the third off sophomore Patrick Boling. Pigott started the frame with a walk and stole second for his team-leading 13th theft before Fontana belted his fourth big fly to right field. Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) was hit by a pitch with two down and later went to third on a failed pickoff attempt by Boling. Sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) walked for runners on the corners and senior John Herman replaced Boling (2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R) on the mound. The reliever had Maddox ground out to strand the runners.
Whitson retired seven-consecutive batters before yielding a one-out single to junior Peter Verdin with one down in the sixth. Junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) took over for Whitson, who gave up five hits over 5.1 innings, with three strikeouts and three walks. The southpaw struck out junior Chase Davidson and had DeLoach ground out to keep the contest deadlocked through six innings.
Pigott opened the seventh with a walk, prompting a pitching change for the Bulldogs. Swegman relieved Herman (3.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R) and had Dent pop up a bunt attempt and Fontana fly out to center field. Pigott moved into scoring position with his second stolen base of the game but Swegman had senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) line out to right field.
Ruiz singled through the left side to begin the home part of the frame, ending the two-thirds of an inning stint for Maronde. Delmonico greeted junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) with a grounder right in front of the plate on a hit-and-run that pushed Ruiz to second base. Larson had May fly out to center, leaving the runner on second, and sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) was summoned from the bullpen. The lefty had Hyams fly out to complete the inning.
Rodriguez walked freshman Conor Welton to start UGA’s eighth and was replaced by Toledo, who fanned Farmer and Verdin before having a fielder’s choice by Davidson force Welton at second base to end the stanza.
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