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Sunday June 19, 2011Florida & Vanderbilt Meet On Monday Night At The College World Series

Omaha, Neb.

SEC Eastern Division rivals Florida (51-17) and Vanderbilt (53-10) will meet for the fifth time this season on Monday night in a winner’s bracket game at the NCAA College World Series. The game can be seen live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. and heard on the Gator Radio Network, Country 103.7 The Gator and on WRUF SportsRadio 850. The Commodores opened the double-elimination event with a 7-3 victory over North Carolina, while the Gators rallied from a 3-0 deficit to down Texas, 8-4, on Saturday night.

 

The Gators’ first-ever victory over Texas snapped a four-game losing streak at the NCAA College World Series for the program dating back to 2005 and was head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s first triumph in Omaha after a pair of losses in 2010 to UCLA (11-3) and Florida State (8-5).

 

The encounter with Vanderbilt will represent the seventh time that Florida will face a league opponent at the CWS and the team has a 1-5 (.167) mark in those outings. The Gators dropped a couple of games to LSU in both 1991 (8-1, 19-8) and 1996 (9-4, 2-1) and were edged by Mississippi State in 1998 (14-13) before downing Tennessee in 2005 (6-4).

 

Freshman Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (8-0, 2.45) will be making his 18th start of the year, matching sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) for the team lead, and will oppose Vanderbilt junior lefty Grayson Garvin (13-1, 2.36). Over 88 innings, the righty has a team-high 83 strikeouts and has limited opponents to a .234 batting average. Whitson faced Vanderbilt on May 15 but was not involved in the decision after giving up five hits and three runs, with five strikeouts and one walk, over 4.1 innings. The Gators have scored a total of 150 runs in his 17 starts, good for an average of 8.8 per game, and boast a 15-2 (.882) record when he pitches.

 

The victory over the Longhorns enabled Florida to equal its school record for wins in a season. The 1991 team under head coach Joe Arnold was 51-21 overall and posted a 2-2 ledger in the program’s second College World Series appearance. 

 

The Gators blanked Vanderbilt, 5-0, to capture the 2011 SEC Tournament on May 29 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.

 

Making his first start of the campaign against a league opponent, junior Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (5-2) scattered five hits and registered five strikeouts over 5.1 scoreless innings to earn the win over VU, which had taken its first three outings at the SEC Tourney. The left-hander was followed to the mound by junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (0.2 IP, 2 H), junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) (2.0 IP, 1 K) and sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (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. Junior outfielder Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.), 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.

 

In the teams’ regular-season meeting, Florida split the first two games with Vanderbilt, taking the opener, 6-5, before suffering a 14-1 setback in game two. The Gators and Commodores battled into the 12th inning of the finale before UF prevailed, 6-3, to capture the series and forge a three-way tie on top of the SEC standings with the Commodores and South Carolina heading into the final series of the regular season.

 

Sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) led the team with a .455 (5-for-11) average in Nashville but the squad was held to a .200 clip. Six of Florida’s 21 hits in the series were homers, including a pair by sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) in Sunday’s finale. Zunino delivered a three-run homer in the 12th to lift the Gators over Vanderbilt, 6-3, to take the rubber game of the series. Deadlocked at 3-3, Fontana (3-for-5, two runs) walked to open the 12th and was sacrificed to second on a two-strike bunt by senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.). The Commodores walked junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) intentionally and Zunino (2-for-5, five RBI, two HR) greeted junior Navery Moore with his second homer of the day, a three-run shot into the right-field bleachers that gave the Gators their first lead of the afternoon at 6-3. Zunino had blasted a solo homer in the seventh to pull UF within 3-2. Junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) struck out three batters over two scoreless innings to earn the win and wiggled out of a jam in the 11th when the Commodores had the potential winning run on third base with one down. UF’s five relievers tossed 7.2 innings of scoreless ball and gave up just three hits. Maronde followed Whitson and permitted one hit over 3.1 innings with three K.

 

Vanderbilt had evened the series on Saturday by reeling off 14 unanswered runs after Smith had started the third inning with his second homer. The Commodores banged out 18 hits, scored multiple runs in four different frames and relied on the pitching of Garvin to set the stage for the decisive game. Senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) cranked a game-tying homer to begin the ninth and Smith snapped an 0-for-16 drought with an RBI double as Florida edged Vanderbilt, 6-5, in the completion of Friday night’s suspended contest at Hawkins Field on Saturday afternoon. Adams tied the game at 5-5 with a leadoff homer in the ninth off Moore, who had not permitted an extra-base hit the entire season. The blast was the fifth for Adams and came against a hurler who possessed a microscopic 0.36 earned run average entering the ballgame. In the ninth, Pigott extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a one-out single into left field and raced down to second base on a wild pitch…Fontana (1-for-3, two RBI) drew a walk for two Gators aboard and Smith came through with a double to right field that brought across Pigott for a 6-5 lead. Maddox picked up his second save by putting down Vanderbilt in order in the ninth to preserve the triumph for junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.). The Gators had been 1-11 when trailing after eight innings until that afternoon’s heroics.

 

Florida (51-17) overcame a 3-0 deficit en route to an 8-4 victory over Texas (49-18) in front of 25,521 fans on Saturday night at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha to complete the first day of the 65th NCAA College World Series. Randall improved to 11-3 on the campaign by limiting Texas to one earned run over 6.2 innings, Larson struck out the only batter he faced with the Gators holding a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning and the tying run aboard at second base and Maronde set down all six batters he faced and totaled three K over two innings to collect his third save.

       

Offensively for the Orange and Blue, Smith (2-for-2, two runs, two RBI) reached base in all five of his plate appearances, with two singles, two walks and a hit-by-pitch, sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) put the Gators ahead to stay with a two-out RBI double in the fourth inning off junior Taylor Jungmann (13-3), Pigott was 2-for-3 and  sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) returned to the lineup for the first time since May 28 and delivered a key two-run double that should have been ruled a homer in the seventh inning.

 

Gator Bytes

*Kevin O’Sullivan is 10-5 (.667) against Vanderbilt, 5-1 (.833) in Gainesville, 3-3 (.500) in Nashville and 2-1 (.667) at the SEC Tournament.

*The 8-4 win over Texas was UF’s 19th come-from-behind victory of the season, with two others coming in the NCAA Tournament: 5-4 over Miami (Fla.) on June 4 and 8-6 over Mississippi State on June 12.

*Senior Bryson Smith, who leads the Gators with a .556 (15-for-27) average in NCAA play, boasts a career-high 11-game hitting streak in which he is 24-for-45 (.533) with 12 runs, eight RBI and six doubles. He has multiple hits in eight of his last nine games.

*Junior Nick Maronde’s save on Saturday night was Florida’s first in the NCAA Tournament since classmate Greg Larson closed out the second game of the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Super Regional against Miami (Fla.) on June 12.

*Sophomore Cody Dent’s go-ahead RBI double in the fourth inning was not only his first extra-base hit of the season, but also of his career. Dent leads the Gators with seven walks during the NCAA Tourney and is batting .273 (6-for-22) with three RBI.

*Sophomore Hudson Randall picked up his team-leading 11th win of the campaign against Texas, becoming the fourth Florida player since 2000 to reach that plateau (Alex Hart, 13 - 2002, Justin Hoyman, 11 - 2004, Alex Panteliodis, 11 - 2010).

*UF’s four doubles in the victory over the Longhorns increased its two-bagger total to 139 on the season. That figure is now second in school history, behind 159 in 1998.

*By downing No. 5 Texas, the Gators improved to 17-9 (.654) against ranked teams, 9-4 (.692) against top-five teams and 9-6 (.600) versus top-10 squads.

*UF’s pitching staff did not permit any walks to the Longhorns, ending an 11-game stretch dating back to May 21 against Kentucky without issuing any free passes. Florida has surrendered zero walks 14 times in 68 games this season.

*Florida has at least one double in 13-straight contests and has at least one extra-base hit in 66 of 68 games this year, the only exceptions against Georgia Southern (March 8) and Mississippi State (April 10).

*Breaking down the Gators’ 51-17 (.750) record, they were 34-7 (.829) at home, 11-7 (.611) on an opponent’s home field and are 6-3 (.667) at neutral sites.

*UF is batting .349 (87-for-249) in the NCAA Tournament and has out-scored its opponents, 63-26. Thirty-five of the Gators’ 87 hits have gone for extra bases, with 21 doubles, 13 homers and one triple.

*The trio of senior Bryson Smith (.556), junior Daniel Pigott (.444) and sophomore Mike Zunino (.407) leads the way for Florida through seven NCAA Tourney games, while the pitching staff has recorded a 2.90 ERA.                

 

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