Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) drove in five runs, junior left-hander Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) carried a shutout into the seventh inning and top-seeded Florida (48-17) exploded for eight runs on seven hits in the third frame on its way to an 11-4 victory over second-seeded Miami (Fla.) (38-23) to capture the NCAA Gainesville Regional on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The Gators notched their third-straight Regional title and secured their fifth Super Regional berth in school history, all in the past eight years (2004-05-09-10-11). It was the third year in a row that UF has ended Miami’s season.
Next weekend, UF will host the winner of the Atlanta Regional, with Georgia Tech (42-20) needing to defeat Mississippi State (36-23) tonight and tomorrow in order to advance. Start times and dates for next weekend’s eight best-of-three series around the country will be announced by the NCAA late Monday night.
“First of all, I would like to congratulate Miami, they’ve got a great ballclub and had a great year,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I think today, Nolan (Fontana) set the tone with a two-strike leadoff single. I thought Bryson (Smith) had a really good at bat. For (Preston) Tucker to swing at the first pitch, to give us a 3-0 lead, gave Alex (Panteliodis) a little breathing room. I would say we were really good offensively in the third inning.”
Over three games this weekend, Tucker hit a scorching .500 (7-for-14) with 11 RBI, six runs, three homers, three doubles and was voted as the Regional’s Most Outstanding Player. He became the first Gator to be chosen as Regional MOP twice in his career, as he earned the honor in 2009. Panteliodis (6-2) worked a season-high 6.2 innings, allowing five and a run, with four strikeouts and zero walks.
Tucker (2-for-4) provided the Gators with a quick lead with a three-run homer in the top of the first inning off sophomore E.J. Encinosa (5-6). Tucker’s 13th big fly of the season was the seventh round-tripper of his career in the NCAA Tournament, matching Mario Linares (1988-91) for the school record. Sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) had opened the game with a single into left field and senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) (2-for-4, three runs) walked on four pitches. Tucker deposited the right-hander’s first offering over the fence in right field to open the scoring.
The Hurricanes had a couple of runners aboard with one down in the bottom of the frame against Panteliodis but the left-hander induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 on a grounder by freshman Brad Fieger (2-for-4). Junior Nathan Melendres (3-for-4) had a one-out single into right field and junior Rony Rodriguez was hit by a pitch before Panteliodis worked out of the jam.
Redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) (3-for-4) and sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) had consecutive one-out walks and Encinosa had Fontana hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Florida sent a dozen batters to the plate in the third and expanded its lead to 11-0 with eight runs on seven hits. Smith led off with a single into right field and Tucker was hit by a pitch before sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) laid down a bunt. Encinosa tried to throw out Smith at third base but had an errant throw that allowed Smith to score. Senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) sacrificed Zunino and Tucker into scoring position with a bunt and junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) drove in both of his teammates with a single up the middle for a 6-0 margin and took second on the play, ending the afternoon for Encinosa (2.1 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 6 ER). Junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) greeted freshman Javi Salas with an RBI double to bring in Thompson and Ramjit followed with a single that brought across Pigott. Ramjit moved into scoring position with his second stolen base and a single by Dent put runners on the corners. Fontana lofted his team-leading eighth sacrifice fly into left field to drive in Ramjit and a base-hit by Smith set the stage for a two-run double by Tucker for an 11-run cushion. The eight-run inning matched UF’s highest output of the season, done on April 9 in the second inning at Mississippi State.
Sophomore Chantz Mack belted a solo homer in the home part of the seventh to put the Hurricanes on the board. Over 6.2 innings, Panteliodis gave up five hits and one run, with four strikeouts.
UM plated three runs on four hits in the eighth inning to pull to within 11-4. Sophomore Zeke DeVoss (2-for-5) and Melendres had back-to-back singles off junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) and Rodriguez drove in DeVoss with a single into right field. An RBI single by Fieger scored Melendres and prompted a pitching change. Sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) replaced DeSclafani (0.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R) and had a sacrifice fly by Mack plate Rodriguez before having sophomore Stephen Perez line into a double play.
The Gators out-hit the Hurricanes, 13-10, and batted .409 during its three victories at the Regional. In addition, the Orange and Blue did not commit any errors.
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2011 NCAA Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team
Catcher – Mike Zunino, FLORIDA
First Base – Adam Brett Walker, Jacksonville
Second Base – Zeke DeVoss, Miami (Fla.)
Shortstop – Nolan Fontana, FLORIDA
Third Base – Brad Fieger, Miami (Fla.)
Outfield – Preston Tucker, FLORIDA
Outfield – Dale Carey, Miami (Fla.)
Outfield – Tyler Thompson, FLORIDA
Designated Hitter – Daniel Pigott, FLORIDA
Pitcher – Alex Panteliodis, FLORIDA
Pitcher – Steven Ewing, Miami (Fla.)
Most Outstanding Player: Preston Tucker, FLORIDA
- Florida defeated Miami for a school-record eighth consecutive contest, passing the seven-game winning streak from Feb. 19, 2005-Feb. 18, 2007.
- The Gators have won eight-straight NCAA Tournament games in Gainesville, improving to 33-9 (.786) at home during NCAA play. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan moved to a perfect 9-0 in Regionals at home (1.000) and 11-2 in NCAA play at home (.846).
- UF bettered its mark to 32-6 (.842) at home this season, while O’Sullivan improved to 122-25 (.830) at home during his four-year tenure.
- Florida’s 48th triumph of the season passed last year’s win total (47) and tied the 2005 and 1988 College World Series squads for third-most in school history (51 – 1991, 50 – 1996, both CWS teams as well).
- With his three-run homer in the first, Florida junior Preston Tucker tied Mario Linares’ school record (7, 1988-91) for most career home runs in the NCAA Tournament. The slugger also knocked in his 26th career RBI in the NCAA Tournament, breaking Linares’ school record of 25 from 1988-91). Additionally, Tucker became the 10th Gator in history to notch three doubles in a NCAA Tournament (first since Jeff Corsaletti at the 2005 College World Series).
- Tucker finished the NCAA Regional as the MVP, batting .500 (7-for-14) with 11 RBI, six runs, three home runs and three doubles). In 15 career NCAA Tournament games, the junior is 28-for-65 (.431) with a school-record 26 RBI, 17 runs, a school-record tying seven home runs and five doubles.
- By pitching a season-high 6.2 innings, Gators’ left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis became the fourth UF pitcher in school history to start five NCAA Tournament games, joining Tommy Boss (2002-05), Tommy Bond (1996-98) and Jeff Gidcumb (1988-89). Panteliodis is now one strikeout away from tying John Burke’s school record (1991-92) of 33 career strikeouts in the NCAA Tournament.
- Over his last two starts, where he helped clinched the SEC Tournament and NCAA Gainesville Regional, Panteliodis’ ERA was 0.75, giving up one earned run in 12.0 innings. In his last three starts against Miami dating back to 2010, Panteliodis is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 24-to-3.
- Florida averaged 9.0 runs in the first three innings this weekend after averaging 2.2 runs in the first three frames in its first 61 games of the season.
- The eight-run output in the third inning tied Florida’s season high for runs plated in an inning (second inning, April 9 at Mississippi State).
- Florida’s six-game NCAA Tournament winning streak against Miami is the longest winning streak in school history against any opponent in NCAA Tournament competition.
- The Gators captured their ninth NCAA Regional and has swept the last four Regionals it has hosted (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011).
- Kevin O’Sullivan became the first UF head coach to capture three NCAA Regional titles in his first four seasons.
- After going 4-for-11 (.364) with four RBI, four runs, a home run and a double at last year’s NCAA Gainesville Regional, Mike Zunino finished this weekend 5-for-11 (.455) with five runs, three RBI, two doubles and a home run.