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Saturday February 25, 2012Tucker Sets School's RBI Record; No. 1 UF Clinches Series Against William & Mary, 5-1

Gainesville, Fla.

Senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) became Florida’s career RBI leader and junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (1-0) carried a shutout into the seventh inning as the top-ranked Gators (6-1) clinched their weekend series with a 5-1 victory over William & Mary (2-4) on Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium.

 

Tucker (2-for-4) belted a two-out solo homer in the third inning to break a tie with Brad Wilkerson (1996-98) on top of the school’s career list. He now has a Florida-record 215 RBI in 205 games played. Freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (2-for-3) had a two-run dinger as part of a three-run sixth for his first career round-tripper.

 

“I thought that our approach was better,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I don’t think the result was quite what we wanted as far as the hit total, but I thought we tried to go the other way a little bit better. We tried to swing at better pitches earlier in the count to not get ourselves out. It was a tough day to hit – the wind was blowing across from right to left, and we hit a lot of fly balls to right field. But, I thought the approach itself was better. The results were obviously not what they wanted as a whole, but the bottom line is that the approach was better.”

 

On setting the RBI record, Tucker said, “It’s a little relief and felt good, especially since we were only up one at that point. I got the record; it feels great and now I can just continue to have good at-bats.”

 

“It was really cool (receiving a standing ovation from the crowd at McKethan Stadium). A lot of these fans I see every day; we have a ton of loyal fans. It was a great crowd today and I’d like to thank the fans for supporting me over the last four years.”

 

“It means a lot (to break the record). It’s really cool since it was previously held by Brad Wilkerson who played in the Big Leagues for a ton of years. And, you know, it means a lot knowing that the guys in front of me have been on base a whole lot -- going back to Avery Barnes and Matt den Dekker too, and the guys hitting in front of me this year. We’ve had a great team through the last four years and it means a lot to me.”

 

The Gators seized a 2-0 lead in the third on a sacrifice fly by senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) and a solo homer by Tucker. Senior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) drew a leadoff walk from junior Matt Wainman (1-1) and was sacrificed into scoring position by junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.). Thompson went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly into center field by Pigott. Tucker followed with his team-leading fourth homer over the right-field fence. Not only did he pass Wilkerson for the school’s career RBI mark with the big fly, his 267th career hit eclipsed Wilkerson into fifth on Florida’s all-time list.

 

William & Mary threatened in the fourth by loading the bases but came away empty-handed. Sophomore Ryan Lindemuth (2-for-4) opened the frame with a single through the left side and stole second base before senior Chris Forsten struck out. After freshman Michael Katz walked, senior Tadd Bower was hit by a pitch to load the bags with one down. Johnson induced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to keep the Tribe off the board.

 

“We had several great plays defensively,” O’Sullivan acknowledged. “(Casey) Turgeon’s play was outstanding, Josh (Tobias) made a good play at third and Tyler (Thompson) made an outstanding catch in center. Overall, we’ve been playing great defense. Also, you have to credit William & Mary, they didn’t make any errors today. Their pitcher did a really good job. He moved the ball in-and-out, changed speeds, and they played very well last night and today.”

 

Junior Ryan Williams started the fifth for W&M with a free pass and Johnson struck out freshman Josh Smith before junior Ryan Brown laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance his teammate to second base. A wild pitch moved Williams to third and Johnson countered by having junior Kevin Nutter ground out.

 

After Johnson set down the Tribe in order in the sixth, Tucker led off with a single that ricocheted off Wainman. Tucker swiped second base with one out and freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) ripped an RBI double for a 3-0 Gator lead. Turgeon clubbed his first career homer to right field with two down to give the hosts a five-run margin.

 

Discussing his first career homer, Turgeon said, “It felt great. I got the first one out of the way…I thought I popped it up but the wind was blowing out today and that helped me out a lot.”

 

Bower began the seventh with his first homer of the season to right field that narrowed the gap to 5-1. It was the first run allowed by Johnson this season after 10 shutout frames. A one-out single by Williams prompted a pitching change, as senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) took over for Johnson (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R). The righty had back-to-back grounders by Smith and Brown to keep the Gators ahead by four runs.

 

“It felt good this afternoon, a lot better than last time,” Johnson said. “I felt like I had control of my pitches and pitching contact. I threw a good amount of change-ups, and just located my fastball.”

 

Wainman yielded six hits and five runs over 6.2 innings, with four strikeouts and two walks, before senior Jay McCarthy threw the final 1.1 innings. Larson matched his career best of three strikeouts over 2.2 scoreless and hitless innings. For Florida, junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a one-out single in the eighth. The teams will complete the series tomorrow at 1 p.m., with Gator sophomore right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (1-0, 3.60) opposing Tribe freshman left-hander Jason Inghram (0-1, 9.00).

 

Game Notes

·         Twenty-one of senior Preston Tucker’s 45 career round-trippers have come with no one on base.

·         Tucker went 2-for-4 and scored twice for his fourth multiple-hit game of the season.

·         Freshman Taylor Gushue made his first career start at first base and there were two other freshmen in the infield, Josh Tobias (third base) and Casey Turgeon (second base).

·         Junior Nolan Fontana leads the Gators with four sacrifice hits this season.

·         Nine of Florida’s 10 homers this season are solo shots.

·         Senior Daniel Pigott’s five-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-3 outing.

·         Senior Greg Larson had three strikeouts in a contest for the seventh time in his career.

 

 

 

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