Sunday February 26, 2012No. 1 UF Baseball Completes Sweep Of William & Mary, 5-3
No. 1 Florida (7-1) used homers by junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) and senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) to defeat William & Mary (2-5), 5-3, on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The game was stopped with two outs in the top of the sixth due to heavy rains and unplayable field conditions. The Gators’ fifth-straight win completed a weekend sweep of the Tribe.
“We didn’t really pitch ahead very much and we used a lot of pitches,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Nolan (Fontana) swung the bat well and (Preston) Tucker continues to swing the bat well too. We’ve got a lot of things we have to work on, but you have to compliment their pitchers. I thought they did a nice job all weekend. I think we need to hit a little better from top to bottom. There are guys that are having good games, but we just have to be more consistent.”
William & Mary grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out single by freshman Michael Katz (3-for-3). Junior Kevin Nutter (2-for-3) singled on the game’s opening pitch and was moved into scoring position on a bunt by junior Ryan Brown. After a groundout by sophomore Ryan Lindemuth, senior Tadd Bower drew a two-out walk. Katz singled up the middle to score Nutter and moved to second on a throwing error by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.). With a pair of runners in scoring position, junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) replaced sophomore starter Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) and struck out senior Chris Forsten.
Fontana (1-for-2) moved the Gators in front with a two-run homer in the third inning. Freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) (2-for-2) legged out an infield single to start the frame and was sacrificed over by freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.). Fontana tagged a 3-1 offering from freshman Jason Inghram (0-2) off the scoreboard overlooking right field for his first homer since June 10, 2011, in the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional against Mississippi State.
The Tribe evened the score in the fourth courtesy of a balk by Rodriguez. Bower drew a leadoff walk and Katz singled just inside of the third-base bag before a grounder by Forsten forced Katz at second base. With runners on the corners and one down, Rodriguez was charged with a balk to bring across Bower with the tying run. Senior pinch hitter Sean Aiken advanced Forsten to third base with a ground ball before Rodriguez caught freshman Josh Mason looking on strikes.
Florida countered with a two-run single by Shafer in the home part of the inning to take a 4-2 advantage. Junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-3) had a one-out single for his first multiple-hit game of the season and freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) doubled into right field for a pair of runners in scoring position. Shafer put the hosts back on top with a base-knock into left field that brought in Maddox and junior pinch runner Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.). Senior Jay McCarthy replaced Inghram (3.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R) and had Tobias ground out before issuing a walk to Fontana. Inghram had a grounder by Pigott force Shafer at third base for the final out of the inning.
“I finally felt comfortable at the plate,” Shafer said. “Being in this kind of atmosphere is a lot different from high school, so I think I did really well today.”
After Rodriguez (2-0) worked a season-high 3.1 innings, with a season-best four strikeouts, two walks, one run and one hit allowed, sophomore Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) took the mound at the start of the fifth. After Nutter had a one-out single and stole second with two down, Tobias committed a throwing error on a grounder hit by Lindemuth to extend the inning. With runners on the corners, Lindemuth swiped second and Crawford caught Bower looking on strikes to preserve the two-run advantage.
Senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) extended the Gators’ lead to 5-2 with a towering homer to right field that cleared the scoreboard with ease. It was his team-leading fifth round-tripper and brought his team-high RBI total to eight on the season.
“William & Mary played us close for three games in a row,” Tucker said. “It was a solo home run again, but every run helps, especially with these guys who battle every inning.”
Katz answered with a leadoff homer in the sixth to right field to bring W&M within 5-3. After Crawford struck out the next two batters, the umpires called for the tarp to be put on the field and the game was later called at 3:35 p.m.
The Gators return to action on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at No. 8 Miami (Fla.) (7-0). Game times from Alex Rodriguez Park will be 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday, with the finale to be carried live on Fox Sports Florida.
· Ten of Florida’s 12 homers this season have been solo, including five by senior Preston Tucker.
· Tucker had the 200th start of his Gator career today, placing him just outside of the top 10 on the school’s list.
· Freshman Taylor Gushue caught his first runner stealing to end the top of the third.
· Austin Maddox and Justin Shafer each had his first multiple-hit game of the season.
· The Gators’ had a season-high two errors after having three errors in their first seven games.