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Thursday June 2, 2011No. 1 Florida To Open NCAA Gainesville Regional Against Manhattan

Gainesville, Fla.

No. 1 Florida (45-16) will begin its 27th NCAA Tournament appearance beginning on Friday afternoon at McKethan Stadium against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champion Manhattan (34-17). The contest will be shown live on ESPNU and can be heard on WRUF SportsRadio 850.

 

The Gators drew the top seed at the double-elimination event and will meet the fourth-seeded Jaspers at 4 p.m. on the first day of action. Second-seeded Miami (Fla.) (36-21) of the Atlantic Coast Conference will tangle with third-seeded Jacksonville (36-22) from the Atlantic Sun Conference in the opening game at 12 p.m.

 

Freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (7-0, 2.53) will start for Florida and will oppose Manhattan sophomore John Soldinger (10-2, 3.24), the MAAC Pitcher of the Year. Whitson leads the Orange and Blue with 74 strikeouts in 78.1 innings and has limited foes to a .240 batting average.

 

UF is hitting .306 as a team, paced by SEC Player of the Year Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.). The sophomore catcher is batting .367 with 63 runs, 59 RBI, 19 doubles and 15 homers, while All-SEC senior second baseman Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) is at .333 with 40 RBI and 11 doubles and junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) has a .330 clip with 34 runs and 30 RBI and is 15-for-18 on the basepaths. All-SEC selections Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (.308, 41 RBI, 12 doubles), Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (.312, 27 RBI) and junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (.308, 54 RBI, 10 HR) are other key parts of the squad’s offense.

 

The Gator pitching staff boasts a 2.99 earned run average and has been anchored by a weekend rotation of All-SEC sophomore righty Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (9-3, 2.25), Johnson (8-3, 3.66) and Whitson. Sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) has a team-leading five saves and is 2-0 with a 0.74 ERA, junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) has made a team-best 30 appearances and has compiled a 1.72 ERA, junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) sports a 2.04 ERA in 27 appearances, junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) is 5-3 with three saves and a 3.77 ERA, sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) is 3-1 with a 1.53 ERA, junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) is 4-3 with a 3.31 ERA and junior Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) has a 5-2 record and a 4.11 ERA.

 

This season marks the 10th time that McKethan Stadium has hosted NCAA Regional action and the third-straight year for the first time in school history. The Gators have gone on to the College World Series from Gainesville on five previous occasions: 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005 and 2010. Florida is 30-9 (.769) on its own turf during NCAA play and swept the Regional and Super Regional rounds held in Gainesville last season. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is 8-2 (.800) in NCAA play at home, 6-0 (1.000) in Regionals and 2-2 (.500) in Super Regionals.

 

Considering past history, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the Gators will begin the NCAA Tourney in their home state. In its 26 previous Regional appearances, UF had been placed at sites within Florida 20 times (Gainesville-9, Coral Gables-7, Tallahassee-4). The squad has also traveled to North Carolina (1958, 1960, 1962), Minnesota (1977), Texas (2000) and Oklahoma (2004).

 

All 64 teams preparing for NCAA Regionals have the same destination in mind: TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series. The Gators have reached the “Promised Land” six times - 1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005 and 2010. UF was a participant in the final CWS held at legendary Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium last June and fell to UCLA (11-3) and Florida State (8-5).

 

The SEC placed seven squads into the 64-team NCAA field, matching the ACC for the most berths. The Gators join South Carolina and Vanderbilt as number one seeds who are hosting, while Alabama (Florida State), Arkansas (Arizona State), Georgia (Oregon State), Mississippi State (Georgia Tech) are at the schools listed in parentheses. The Gamecocks are the fourth national seed and the Commodores are sixth.

 

According to statistics guru Warren Nolan, Florida’s strength of schedule was second in the country, trailing only fellow SEC Eastern Division member Georgia (31-30). The NCAA site had the Gators third in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) behind ACC powerhouses North Carolina (45-14) and Virginia (49-9), respectively.

 

2011 marks the first time that Florida has hosted NCAA Regionals in three-straight seasons. In 2009, the Gators defeated Bethune Cookman (8-7) and Miami (Fla.) twice (8-2, 16-5) to take the Regional before dropping both contests to Southern Miss in the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional (9-7, 7-6). Last season, UF handled Bethune Cookman (7-3), Oregon State (10-2) and Florida Atlantic (15-0) to sweep the Regional and then downed Miami (Fla.) twice (7-2, 4-3 in 10 innings) in the Super Regional to punch the program’s sixth ticket to the College World Series.

 

The winners of the Gainesville and Atlanta Regionals will meet in a best-of-three Super Regional from June 10-13 for the right to reach the College World Series. Georgia Tech (40-19) is the top seed and is hosting No. 2 Southern Miss (39-17), No. 3 Mississippi State (34-23) and No. 4 Austin Peay (33-22).

 

In its NCAA Tourney opener, Florida will meet Manhattan for the first time in school history on the diamond. The Jaspers are 34-17 overall, won the MAAC title with a 20-2 league mark and swept their conference tourney with victories over Canisius (3-2) and Siena (8-7, 5-1).

 

Should the teams meet this weekend, Miami (Fla.) has taken 12 of its 19 encounters with Florida in NCAA Tournament action and has ended the Gators’ season on eight different occasions: 1981 South Regional, 1985 Atlantic Regional, 1989 East Regional, 1994 Atlantic I Regional, 1997 Atlantic Regional, 2002 Gainesville Regional, 2003 Coral Gables Regional and the 2004 Coral Gables Super Regional. Florida ousted UM in the 2009 Gainesville Regional and the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Super Regional and is 10-6 (.625) against the Hurricanes since O’Sullivan took the helm.

 

Florida rebounded from a 5-3 mid-week loss to No. 5 Florida State to notch its first-ever sweep of No. 24 Miami (Fla.) in Gainesville by scores of 8-3, 1-0 and 5-3 from March 4-6. The Gators had never been perfect against the Hurricanes in a three-game set in Gainesville and took all three meetings from UM for only the second time in school history (Feb. 17-19, 2006). In addition, UF was undefeated in the regular-season series versus Miami for just the seventh time following 2-0 triumphs in 1948 (Gainesville), 1954 (Coral Gables), 1956 (Coral Gables), 1976 (Gainesville) and 1978 (Gainesville) and the 3-0 sweep in 2006 (Coral Gables). O’Sullivan’s club has now taken nine of the last 10 encounters from the Hurricanes, including six in a row.

 

Tucker (3-for-4) broke a 2-2 tie on Sunday with a lead-off homer and Pigott (1-for-4) came through with a two-run double later in the sixth to provide added insurance in the 5-3 triumph to close the weekend. Toledo retired all eight Hurricanes to earn his first win of the campaign, while DeSclafani recorded the final three outs after entering the ballgame with a pair of runners board and none out to collect his first career save. Senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) came through with a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth inning to drive in Adams with the game’s only run as UF edged Miami, 1-0, on Saturday afternoon. The duo of Randall and DeSclafani combined to one-hit the Hurricanes and notched the Gators’ first shutout of Miami since Feb. 13, 2004 (3-0 in Coral Gables). Johnson threw five scoreless innings and the Gators raced out to an 8-0 lead through four innings on its way to an 8-3 victory over Miami on Friday night. Johnson (3-0) matched his career high of nine strikeouts and had yet to yield a run in 17 innings this season. The southpaw was supported by an offense that featured a season-best 3-for-3, three-RBI performance by Adams and a two-run homer by Maddox (2-for-5). UF’s pitching staff matched its season high of 13 K. Over the three games, the Gators batted .290 (27-for-93) and out-scored the Hurricanes, 14-6, while their pitching staff compiled an ERA of 2.00, with 28 strikeouts and six walks.

 

Florida has faced Jacksonville just once in the postseason, a 3-0 victory in the East Regional at McKethan Stadium on May 24, 1991. That was the Gators’ second contest as part of a 4-0 performance that also included a shutout of Furman (2-0) and two wins over NC State (9-4, 3-2 in 10 innings) that secured UF’s second CWS appearance.

 

In the teams’ regular-season meeting on May 17 in Gainesville, Jacksonville scored three times in the first inning and tallied eight two-out runs on its way to an 11-2 victory over Florida. The loss snapped the Gators’ eight-game home winning streak. Senior left-hander Matthew Tomshaw (7-3) limited the Gators to just a two-run homer by Zunino over six innings and was supported by an offense that featured four players with multiple-RBI outings. Sophomore Dan Gulbransen (2-for-3, three runs, two RBI) and senior Esterlin Perozo (1-for-5) each homered for JU. Panteliodis gave up four hits and four runs over 2.2 innings to suffer the defeat, while Adams (2-for-4) was the lone Gator with multiple hits.

 

In their most recent action, the Gators blanked Vanderbilt, 5-0, to capture the 2011 SEC Tournament last Sunday at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. It was the first time in 20 years that Florida won the league’s tourney and was its sixth title (1981, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1991, 2011). The triumph also represented the first time since 1988 that the Orange and Blue had won the SEC and SEC Tourney in the same season.

 

UF posted a 4-1 mark at the event, starting out with victories over Mississippi State (7-5) and Alabama (6-0) to earn a day off. Georgia stayed alive with a 4-3 triumph over the Gators to secure an NCAA Regional berth on Saturday before Florida rebounded with a 3-2 decision over the Bulldogs to reach the championship round for the first since 2000.

         

Making his first start of the campaign against a league opponent, Panteliodis (5-2) scattered five hits and registered five strikeouts over 5.1 scoreless innings to earn the win over Vanderbilt, which had taken its first three outings at the SEC Tourney. The left-hander was followed to the mound by Larson (0.2 IP, 2 H), Maronde (2.0 IP, 1 K) and Maddox (1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 K) as Florida established a single-season school record with its 11th shutout. UF’s four victories at the event were its most since going 4-0 to win the 1991 SEC Tournament held in Baton Rouge, La.

 

Pigott, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, was chosen as the Most Valuable Player of the SEC Tourney after batting .583 (7-for-12) over the four games he played, with six runs and six stolen bases. He joined Gator winners Rich Bombard (Pitcher, 1982), Brian Reimsnyder (Outfielder, 1988), Herbert Perry (Designated Hitter, 1991) and Brian Purvis (Outfielder, 1991). Other members of the All-Tourney Team from the Orange and Blue included Fontana, Randall and Smith.

 

Gator Bytes

*Kevin O’Sullivan has an 8-6 (.571) NCAA Tournament mark, going 6-2 (.750) in Regionals, 2-2 (.500) in Super Regionals and 0-2 (.000) at the College World Series.

*O’Sullivan was the first Florida head coach to capture two NCAA Regional titles in his first three seasons and joins Pat McMahon (2004-05) in leading the Gators to a pair of Super Regionals.

*In his four years at Florida, O’Sullivan is 119-25 (.826) at McKethan Stadium, 40-38 (.513) at opponents’ stadiums and 9-16 (.360) at neutral sites.

*UF is 33-8 (.805) against non-ranked opponents and 12-8 (.600) versus top-25 foes in ’11.

*The Gators were 34-8 (.810) in games that are part of a weekend series and were 7-7 (.500) in mid-week contests. The Orange and Blue had a 12-2 (.857) weekend series ledger, with eight sweeps.

*The Orange and Blue was 20-15 (.571) against the NCAA Tourney field, meaning that 15 of its 16 defeats on the campaign came against clubs that are still playing. The lone exception was Kentucky (14-1 loss on May 20).

*Florida’s total of 45 wins is two shy of last season, when it notched 47 triumphs.

*Senior Josh Adams continues to climb the school’s career charts. Entering the NCAA Tournament, he ranks first in starts (241) and is tied for second with 242 games played with Dave Majeski (1989-92), five behind Mario Linares (247, 1988-91). He is also second in at bats (900 - Mark Ellis, 1996-99, 941 is first) and tied for second with David Eckstein (1994-97) with 276 hits. Ellis’ 319 hits over four seasons rank first.

*With 120 career walks, Adams’ is tied for ninth on the school’s all-time list with Corsaletti. Adams is currently fifth in career RBI (185) behind teammate Preston Tucker (188) and No. 3 Ben Harrison (193, 2001-04).

*The trio of sophomore RHP Hudson Randall (6-1, 1.48), freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (7-0, 1.50) and sophomore LHP Brian Johnson (7-1, 2.92) are a combined 20-2 (.909) with a 1.96 ERA at McKethan Stadium this season.

*Florida’s bullpen is 14-6 with 14 saves and a 3.15 ERA in 234.0 innings, its starters are 31-10 with a 2.86 ERA in 311.0 innings.

*The Gators have a .345 batting average against left-handed pitchers and a .281 clip against right-handers.

*Florida holds a 380-212 scoring advantage, led by a 54-15 disparity in the second inning and a 58-27 margin in the seventh. UF has the edge in every inning except the ninth (14-14) and has 4-0 advantage in extra innings.

*Florida is 34-6 (.850) when scoring first and 36-2 (.947) when out-hitting its foe.

*UF has 54 homers this season and boasts a 30-5 (.857) record when going yard.

*The Gators have played error-free baseball in 20 games (16-4) and their fielding percentage of .973 ranks fourth in the SEC. UF had three errors in five games at the SEC Tournament last weekend.

*Florida has totaled 126 two-out RBI, including 21 by sophomore Mike Zunino, 17 apiece by junior Daniel Pigott and Tucker, 14 by sophomore Nolan Fontana and 13 by Adams.

*Sophomore Austin Maddox has made 19 relief appearances totaling 24.1 innings and has compiled a 0.74 ERA with 21 K and three walks. The righty picked up two saves last weekend at the SEC Tourney against Mississippi State and Georgia.

*Junior Nick Maronde has made a team-high 30 appearances and is 0-0 with a 1.72 ERA and two saves in 36.2 innings. The lefty has 49 strikeouts and six walks. Six of the 23 hits he has permitted have been for extra bases (three doubles, three homers).

*Junior Greg Larson sports a 2.04 ERA in 27 appearances and has held opponents to a .243 average.

*UF’s 14 saves have come from six different relievers: senior Matt Campbell (1), junior Anthony DeSclafani (3), Maddox (5), Maronde (2), sophomore Steven Rodriguez (2) and junior Tommy Toledo (1). Kevin Chapman collected 11 of the club’s 18 saves last season.

*Toledo’s relief win in the finale at Vanderbilt was the 10th victory of his career. He joins junior Alex Panteliodis (22-10), Randall (17-7), Johnson (14-7) and DeSclafani (13-8) in double-digit triumphs.

*Florida is 55-for-81 (.679) on the basepaths, as 13 different players have at least one stolen base and Pigott (15-for-18) holds the team lead. Opponents are 26-for-40 (.650) against UF. The Gators were 11-for-12 (.917) last weekend in Hoover.

*UF enters the NCAA Tourney with 118 doubles on the season after totaling 110 in 64 games last year. Five different players - Zunino (19), Pigott (18), Tucker (17), Fontana (12), Adams (11) and sophomore Brian Johnson (10) - have reached double-digits.

*Gator pinch hitters are 23-for-74 (.311) this season, as redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit is 4-for-10 (.400).

*Sophomore Cody Dent, who entered the SEC Tourney 4-for-36 (.111) in 32 games, delivered a .308 (4-for-13) effort in Hoover and did not commit any errors while starting all five games on the hot corner. He drew four walks on the weekend and drove in a pair of runs in the title game against Vanderbilt.

*The Gator pitching staff has twirled 11 shutouts in 61 games, exceeding the three donuts in 64 games last year and breaking the previous school record for shutouts (10 in 1970). Entering this year, Florida had totaled six shutouts since O’Sullivan took over.

 

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 ww.twitter.com/GatorZoneBB

 

 

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