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Tuesday March 6, 2012No. 1 Baseball Overwhelms Florida Atlantic, 16-1

Gainesville, Fla.

Junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) tallied five RBI with homers in both the first and second innings and senior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) added a two-run dinger and a season-high five RBI as No. 1 Florida (11-1) cruised to a 16-1 victory over Florida Atlantic (8-5) on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium. All nine Gator starters contributed at least one hit and head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s squad recorded season-highs in hits (16) and runs (16) in matching their best start since 2003 with its ninth-consecutive victory.


Freshman left-hander Bobby Poyner (Wellington, Fla.) (1-0) gave up an unearned run and three hits and had three strikeouts working on a pre-determined pitch count over four innings to pick up the win in his collegiate starting debut. He was supported by an offense that plated three runs in the first inning, a season-best six runs in the second frame, two in the third and three in the fourth to put the game out of reach. Zunino (3-for-3), Thompson (2-for-4), senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-4, three runs, two RBI) and freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (2-for-3) each chipped in with multiple hits and the Gator bullpen consisting of sophomore Keenan Kish (Worcester, Pa.) (2.0 IP, 3 H, 3 K), freshman Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.) (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 K) and freshman Corey Stump (Lakeland, Fla.) (1.0 IP, 1 H) combined to throw five scoreless innings.


“We spoke to the team before we took batting practice today and this week has been a week where have not played our best for whatever reason, so we addressed that and wanted to make sure they put the Miami weekend behind them,” O’Sullivan said. “It was a great weekend, but it’s over with and we needed to focus on FAU. They’re a Regional-type team and certainly capable of beating us and we made sure our players were focused and ready to go from the first pitch. They came out swinging the bats really well.”


“Mike (Zunino) had a great night at the plate with two home runs in his first two at-bats and Tyler (Thompson) had a great swing on that ball and hit it a mile. He’s starting to swing the bat really well and a bunch of guys did. I thought that we had great contributions from top to bottom and it was really good to get three of four pitchers out there tonight that were freshmen.”


The Gators came out of the gates with three runs on three hits in the first inning against junior Jake Meiers (1-2), highlighted by a two-run homer by Zunino that raised his hitting streak to 15 games. Junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) led off with a double off the right-field fence to boost his hitting streak to seven games and Tucker opened the scoring with a one-out RBI single into center field. Zunino blasted Meiers’ next pitch deep to left field for his fourth homer.    


The Owls countered in the second stanza with a two-out RBI double by freshman Ricky Santiago (2-for-4) that scored junior Corey Keller (2-for-4).


Featuring a three-run blast by Zunino, Florida added six more runs in the home part of the second to build a 9-1 lead. Turgeon and freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) (1-for-4, two runs) had consecutive singles to begin the inning and Thompson ripped an RBI single to the left-field wall to drive in Turgeon. Fontana advanced his teammates into scoring position with a grounder and an infield single by senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) brought home Tobias. A fielder’s choice by Tucker scored Thompson and an error on the relay throw to second base by FAU junior first baseman Mark Nelson resulted in Pigott being safe. Moments later, Zunino cranked a 2-0 pitch out of the yard for his second multiple homer game of the season and the sixth of his career to match Tucker for the team lead in homers.


“It was a good team win after a good weekend for us,” Zunino said. “Tuesdays have been rough for us the past couple years, and we just tried to come out focused. We got a good start from Bobby (Poyner) and just tried to build on that."


Thompson connected on a two-run bomb off senior Ahmed Garcia with Tobias aboard in the third for an 11-1 advantage for the Gators. Tobias had reached on a fielding error by Keller and Thompson launched his second homer of the year over the scoreboard in right field to balloon the margin to 10 runs.


Florida tacked on three more runs on four hits in the fourth to expand its margin to 14-1. Tucker and Zunino greeted freshman Kevin Perez with back-to-back singles and a double by junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) scored Tucker. A hard single by Turgeon off the pitcher plated junior pinch runner Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.). After Tobias was hit by pitch to load the bases, with junior pinch runner Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) moving to second and Johnson taking third, Thompson delivered an RBI grounder to score Johnson as Florida set a season high with its 14th run.


A sacrifice fly by Thompson in the sixth and an RBI double in the eighth by freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) finalized the scoring. The Gators host Florida A&M (1-11) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the team’ first meeting since the 2007 season.


Game Notes

·         The Gators improved to 8-1 at home this season and have now taken the last four meetings against the Owls.

·         With two homers tonight, Mike Zunino is now tied with former teammate Matt den Dekker for eighth on the school’s career list with 33 round-trippers.

·         Preston Tucker’s two hits matched Jeff Corsaletti’s (2002-05) total of 273 career hits for fourth on Florida’s career chart.

·         Florida equaled its season high of three home runs, set last Saturday night at No. 8 Miami (Fla.).

·         The Orange and Blue has homered in its last 10 games and has 20 dingers in 12 contests this year.

·         UF’s pitching staff had eight strikeouts and issued just one walk.

·         Tyler Thompson’s five-RBI night was one shy of his career best set against Florida Atlantic in the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Regional, when he clubbed three homers and totaled six RBI.  

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