Top-seeded Florida (46-16) banged out a school-NCAA Tourney record 23 hits and totaled 16 runs over its first three at bats to overpower fourth-seeded Manhattan (34-18), 17-3, on Friday at McKethan Stadium. Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (3-for-6, five RBI) belted two-run homers in both the second and third inning, junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) was 4-for-5 with three RBI, junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) was 4-for-4 and freshman Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) earned the win to improve to 8-0 on the campaign.
The top-ranked Gators will meet second-seeded Miami (Fla.) (37-21) in a winner’s bracket game at 4 p.m. tomorrow live on ESPNU, while the Jaspers face third-seeded Jacksonville (36-23) in an elimination game at 12 p.m. The Hurricanes downed the Dolphins, 7-2, earlier this afternoon.
“For us today, I think we got off to a great start offensively and I wasn’t expecting that type of run support early on,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Karsten (Whitson) gave us a great start. Overall, it was a great game. We were a little sloppy in that one inning defensively, but, other than that, I am really proud of the way we played. We scored 16 runs in the first three innings, what else can you say other than our offense did a really nice job?”
Florida sent nine batters to the plate in the first inning and plated five runs on five hits against sophomore John Soldinger (10-3), the 2011 MAAC Pitcher of the Year. Sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-6) led off with a hard single through the right side and senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) (2-for-4, three runs) was hit by a pitch for the team-leading 13th time before Tucker opened the scoring with an RBI single into right field. Sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (3-for-4, three runs, two RBI) drove in Smith with an RBI single and senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-5, two runs) advanced Zunino and Tucker into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Thompson came through with a two-out infield single to bring in Tucker and a throwing error on the play by freshman second baseman Yoandry Galan enabled Zunino to score. Pigott expanded UF’s lead to 5-0 with a RBI single into left field.
The Gators used back-to-back homers in the second frame by Tucker and Zunino and an RBI single by Pigott to increase the margin to 9-0. Smith had a one-out single and Tucker followed with his 11th round-tripper to right field. Zunino then stepped to the plate and cranked a 2-1 pitch to right center for his team-leading 16th dinger. Adams singled up the middle and Thompson delivered a two-out single for two runners aboard before Pigott picked up his second RBI of the afternoon with a base-knock into right field.
Florida continued the offensive onslaught with seven runs on six hits in the third to build a 16-0 lead, highlighted by another two-run homer by Tucker. Smith opened the stanza by being plunked for the second time and Tucker connected on his second homer of the game to right field for his second multi-homer outing of the season (April 17 at Georgia). Zunino roped his team-best 20th double down the left-field line and Adams singled for runners on the corners before redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) deposited an RBI single into shallow center field for a 12-0 margin. Thompson drew a walk to load the bases and Pigott registered his third RBI single of the day into left field to chase Soldinger (2.0 IP, 16 H, 16 R, 15 ER). An RBI grounder by Fontana off junior Taylor Sewitt brought across Ramjit and Smith cleared the bases with a two-run double.
In his NCAA debut, Whitson had three strikeouts and allowed two hits, retiring the final nine batters he faced. The Jaspers got on the board in the fifth with three unearned runs off freshman Keenan Kish (Worcester, Pa.) on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Kyle Murphy, an RBI double by Galan and an RBI single by sophomore Nick Camastro (2-for-4). Senior Austin Sheffield reached on an error by Fontana and went to third on a two-bagger by redshirt sophomore Ramon Ortega (3-for-3). Murphy lofted a sac fly into center field to score Sheffield and Galan’s two-out double plated Ortega. After a single by senior Mark Onorati pushed Galan to third, Camastro poked a base-hit into right center to bring in Galan.
Kish worked a career-high 3.2 innings, allowing five hits and three runs (zero earned), before senior Matt Campbell (Tampa, Fla.) and freshman Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) each threw a scoreless inning to complete the contest. Florida enjoyed a 23-7 advantage in hits.
In a matchup of sophomore right-handers tomorrow between the Gators and Hurricanes, Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (9-3, 2.25) will meet Eric Whaley (7-5, 2.55).
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· Florida was meeting Manhattan for the first time on the diamond.
· The Gators improved to 9-2 in NCAA contests at McKethan Stadium under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, including 7-0 in Regional play.
· UF’s 23 hits eclipsed the squad’s previous NCAA Tourney high of 22 against Miami (FL) on May 31, 2009.
· Both Daniel Pigott and Tyler Thompson matched career highs with four hits.
· Preston Tucker and Mike Zunino had back-to-back homers in the second inning, the first time that the Gators had gone consecutive at bats with a homer since March 9, when Zunino and Josh Adams went yard in the second inning.
· The top four hitters in the Gator lineup were a combined 10-for-20 (.500) with 10 RBI and seven runs.
· Cody Dent was 2-for-4 and drove in a run, joining a group of eight UF players who had multiple hits.
· Florida improved to 30-6 at home this season.