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Saturday March 3, 2012No. 1 Florida Powers Past No. 8 Miami, 13-5, To Clinch Series

Coral Gables, Fla.

Junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (4-for-5) had career-highs in RBI (five) and hits (four) and freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) (3-for-4) cranked a pair of long homers and drove in a career-best four RBI to lead No. 1 Florida (9-1) to a series-clinching 13-5 victory over No. 8 Miami (8-2) on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 4,999 fans, the 10th-largest crowd in Mark Light Field history.


In notching their seventh-straight win, the Gators pounded out a season-high16 hits and overcame deficits of 3-0 and 5-3 to post their 10th-consecutive victory over the Hurricanes before the largest crowd for a UM home game since 5,063 fans filled the park on April 24, 1999, against Florida State.


Senior reliever Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (1-0) retired all 14 batters he faced over a career-high 4.2 innings to pick up his first win since April 17, 2011, at Georgia. Senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (4-for-5) matched his career high with four hits as the Orange and Blue seized the lead with a five-run fifth frame and scored the final 10 runs of the contest to secure its third regular-season triumph in a row over Miami. It marked only the sixth time since 1960 that the Gators have taken a series in Coral Gables, also in 1966 (2-1), 1984 (2-1), 2002 (2-0), 2006 (3-0) and 2010 (2-1).


The hosts grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Johnson on a two-run homer by senior Peter O’Brien (2-for-4, three RBI). Sophomore Dale Carey had singled up the middle with one down and O’Brien sent a ball over the left-field fence for his team-leading fourth homer.


O’Brien delivered a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the third inning to extend Miami’s lead to 3-0. Sophomore Julian Santos (2-for-3) started things off with a double to straightaway center field and was sacrificed to third on a bunt by sophomore Tyler Palmer. The Gators cut down Santos at the plate on a 6-2-5-1 putout that was started by junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Springs, Fla.), with Carey taking second base on a fielder’s choice. O’Brien picked up his third RBI of the night with a base-knock up the middle.


The Gators used back-to-back homers by Johnson and Gushue off junior Eric Whaley (1-1) to even the score at 3-3 in the fourth. Junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) raised his hitting streak to 13 games with a leadoff single into right center and Johnson followed with a towering homer to right field for his first big fly of the season that pulled the visitors within a run. Gushue then belted his second homer of the year to right field to tie the contest. It was the first time that Florida had gone deep on consecutive batters since Pigott and Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) accomplished the feat in the second inning of the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional against Mississippi State on June 12, 2011.


Miami re-claimed the advantage in the home part of the stanza on a two-run homer by junior Stephen Perez (2-for-4). Freshman Esteban Tresgallo laced a one-out single into left center and Perez followed with his first homer of the season to left field for a 5-3 margin. Singles by junior Chantz Mack and Santos ended the night on the mound for Johnson (3.1 IP, 9 H, 5 R). Larson caught Palmer looking on strikes and had Carey ground out to strand the runners and keep UF down by two runs.


Florida sent nine batters to the plate and erupted for five runs in the fifth to seize an 8-5 lead, highlighted by a three-run dinger by Gushue. Fontana (3-for-5, three runs) and Pigott opened the inning with singles and Whaley caught senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) looking on strikes for the first out. Junior shortstop Michael Broad misplayed Zunino’s grounder for an error, allowing Fontana to score and Pigott to take third. Johnson tied the game at 5-5 with an RBI single into right field and Gushue bashed a 1-0 offering into the third level of the parking garage overlooking right field to give the Gators their first lead. The five-run inning was the largest for the Gators this season. Freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) drew a walk to prompt a pitching change, as Whaley (4.1 IP, 10 H, 8 R) was replaced by freshman Andrew Suarez. Senior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Turgeon into scoring position and Suarez countered by having freshman pinch hitter Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) ground out.


Johnson roped a two-run, bases-loaded single in the sixth to increase UF’s lead to 10-5. Fontana started the inning with a single into right field, went to second on a passed ball and took third on Pigott’s fourth hit of the night, a single up the middle. Tucker’s ground ball was thrown home by sophomore first baseman Brad Fieger but Fontana alertly raced back to third and beat UM catcher O’Brien to the bag to load the bases with none out. Suarez jammed Zunino on an infield fly for the first out and Johnson sliced a single into right field that brought home Fontana and Pigott. Gushue blooped a single near the right-field line to re-load the bases but Suarez had Turgeon and Thompson each fly out to hold UM’s deficit at five runs.


Tobias opened the seventh with a four-pitch walk from sophomore Javi Salas and stole his first career base before Fontana earned a free pass. The reliever retired the next two Gators and seemed to be out of the inning when Zunino hit a grounder to second base. However, Perez committed a fielding error and then threw the ball away, allowing Tobias to come home for an 11-5 count.


Florida added another run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Tobias that scored pinch runner Ramjit, who had replaced Gushue on first base after a hit-by-pitch from junior Alex San Juan.


The Gators completed the scoring in the ninth at 13-5, when Fontana scored as Zunino grounded into a 6-4-3 double play with the bases full. Fontana had led off with a single off junior Vince Kossak, freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) had a pinch-hit single and Tucker was hit by a pitch to fill the bags with none out.


Sophomore Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) recorded the final three outs following Larson’s brilliant performance.  The teams will wrap up the series tomorrow at 1 p.m., live on Fox Sports Florida. Sophomore left-hander Bryan Radziewski (1-0, 5.59) will draw the start for Miami against a Gator hurler to be announced.


Game Notes

·         Florida earned its fifth come-from-behind win of the campaign.

·         The Gators set a season high in hits (16) for the second-straight night and established a season-best run total (13).

·         The eight-run margin of victory equaled the highest for the Gators this season, along with an 8-0 shutout of No. 19 UCF on Feb. 22.

·         Brian Johnson’s five RBI surpassed his previous best of four done four times, last against Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament on May 25, 2011.

·         Taylor Gushue’s two-homer outing was the second by a Gator this season, as Mike Zunino had a pair versus Bethune-Cookman on Feb. 21.

·         Daniel Pigott’s season-high four hits marked the fifth time in his career with four hits, last done against Manhattan in the NCAA Gainesville Regional on June 3, 2011.

·         Nolan Fontana’s three runs matched a season high by a UF player, as Mike Zunino scored three times against Bethune-Cookman on Feb. 21.

·         The longest outing of Greg Larson’s career prior to tonight was a 4.1-inning stint in a start at Florida State on April 14, 2009.

·         Florida did not commit any errors for the second-straight game, while Miami had three miscues.

·         The Gators have at least one home run in nine of 10 games this year.


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