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Tuesday February 21, 2012No. 1 UF Baseball Edges Bethune-Cookman, 8-6

Gainesville, Fla.

Senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) delivered a bases-loaded RBI single to snap a 6-6 tie in the eighth and junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) added a sacrifice fly later in the inning to lift No. 1 Florida (3-1) to an 8-6 win over Bethune-Cookman (2-2) on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium.


Junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (1-0) threw two scoreless innings to earn the victory, junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-3) belted solo homers in the second and seventh frames and junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) went 3-for-3 to help the Gators improve to 26-0 against the Wildcats.


“They’re a Regional-type club,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We’ve seen enough to know over the years how tough it is to play Bethune, but once again we threw a lot of young pitchers tonight. It’s a good learning experience and we’ll learn from it and get better from it.”


Bethune-Cookman grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI triple by senior Alejandro Sanchez. Making his starting debut, freshman Johnny Magliozzi (East Milton, Mass.) battled back from a 3-0 count to catch sophomore leadoff batter Josh Johnson looking on strikes and junior Brandon Turner followed with a single up the middle. Sanchez drove in Turner with a triple into the right-field corner and junior David Lee drew a walk for runners on the corners with one down. Magliozzi had senior Brashad Johnson fly out and freshman Jordan Taylor ground out to hold the deficit at a run.


Zunino tied the game in the second with a leadoff homer off sophomore Scott Garner. His first round-tripper of the season landed in the left-field bleachers and raised his hitting streak to eight games.


The Gators plated three runs on four hits in the third to build a 4-1 lead. Making his first start of the season at third base, Dent opened the frame with a base-hit but was erased at second base on a fielder’s choice by junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.). Senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) moved Florida in front with his first double of the season that scored Fontana all the way from first base. Zunino drew a two-out walk for runners on the corners and Johnson’s single into right field scored Pigott and moved Zunino to third. Freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) (2-for-5) legged out an infield single that brought home Zunino.


The Wildcats countered with two runs on three hits in the fourth to close the gap to 4-3. Taylor (4-for-5) began the inning with a single into left field and senior Nick Johnson (2-for-5) doubled to put the Wildcats in business. An RBI grounder by senior Jairo Acevedo scored Taylor and junior Carlos Delgado stroked a base-knock into center field to bring across Johnson. A grounder by Josh Johnson advanced Delgado into scoring position and prompted a pitching change. Freshman Bobby Poyner (Wellington, Fla.) replaced Magliozzi (3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 3 K) and induced an inning-ending grounder by Turner to keep the Gators ahead.  


UF took advantage of a bases-loaded wild pitch in the bottom of the inning to take a 5-3 lead. Consecutive singles by senior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) and Dent ended the night for Garner (3.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R) in the fourth. Fontana moved his teammates into scoring position with his first of three sacrifice bunts off sophomore Bryan Rivera and Pigott walked to load the bases with one down. The reliever had Tucker pop out in foul territory but then had an errant pitch that allowed Thompson to come in for a 5-3 score. Although Zunino collected his second walk of the contest to re-load the bases, Rivera had Johnson ground out to end the inning.   


After Poyner retired the first two batters of the inning, Brashad Johnson homered with two down in the fifth for a 5-4 margin. It was the Wildcats’ first four-bagger of the season and went to left field.  


Freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) replaced Poyner (1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R) and set down Bethune-Cookman in order on seven pitches in the sixth.


Taylor roped a two-out, two-run double in the seventh to give the Wildcats a 6-5 lead. Shafer recorded the first two outs before Lee singled up the middle and Brashad Johnson had a base-hit through the left side of the infield. Taylor’s double to deep center plated both of his teammates and another single by Nick Johnson left runners on the corners and prompted a call to the bullpen. Senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) took over for Shafer (1.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R) and walked Acevedo to load the bases. Fontana made a diving stop on a grounder by Delgado and fired a strike to first base to hold the score at 6-5.


“They’ve always had a knack, over the last couple of years, to have some come-alive two-out RBIs,” O’Sullivan said. “I don’t think we have played a clean game yet. We have not obviously played our best baseball, but on the same token we’re playing a lot of new, young guys. We’re getting a lot of experience and we’ll get better as we go along.”


Zunino tied the game again in the bottom of the inning with his second homer of the night, an opposite-field shot over the right-field fence. The 2011 SEC Player of the Year also had a couple of dingers against Bethune-Cookman last season. Oddly enough, all five of Florida’s homers this season have been of the solo variety.


Josh Johnson opened the eighth with an infield single and Maddox replaced Larson (0.1 IP, 1 H) on the mound. Turner laid down a bunt to push his teammate into scoring position and Maddox responded by having Sanchez fly out and Lee strike out looking.


Junior Gabriel Hernandez (0-1) replaced Rivera (4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R) on the bump and surrendered a leadoff single to Dent, who notched his career-best third hit of the night. An attempted sacrifice bunt by Fontana resulted in a fielder’s choice, as Dent was safe on the throw to second base and Fontana occupied first. A bunt single by Pigott filled the sacks with none out for Tucker, who put Florida ahead with an RBI single off junior reliever Jordan Dailey that scored Dent. Although a grounder by Zunino forced Fontana at home with the first out, a sacrifice fly by Johnson enabled Pigott’s run to give UF an 8-6 lead.


Bethune-Cookman put a pair of runners aboard in the ninth but Maddox struck out Delgado to end the game. The Wildcats had a 14-13 advantage in hits and neither team committed any errors. Florida returns to action on Wednesday at McKethan Stadium against No. 19 UCF (3-0) at 7 p.m. The game will be carried live on Fox Sports Florida.


Game Notes

·         Florida is now 26-0 all-time against Bethune-Cookman, 25-0 in Gainesville.

·         Senior Preston Tucker now has 213 career RBI, one shy of Brad Wilkerson’s school-record total of 214.

·         Junior Mike Zunino has homered four times in the last two meetings with the Wildcats.

·         None of the Gators struck out tonight.

·         Freshman Casey Turgeon has a hit in all four games this season.

·         Freshman Taylor Gushue had his first start at catcher and went 2-for-5 with an RBI.

·         Junior Cody Dent registered the fifth multiple-hit game of his career and had a career-best three hits.

·         Junior Austin Maddox has five strikeouts in six innings without allowing any runs this season.

·         Junior Nolan Fontana had three sacrifice hits tonight. His total of 11 last year ranks third in a single season at Florida.



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