Wednesday March 7, 2012No. 1 Baseball Downs Florida A&M, 15-2, For 10th Straight Win
Freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) had a career-high six RBI and No. 1 Florida (12-1) reeled off 14 unanswered runs in a 15-2 victory over Florida A&M (1-12) on Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium. Shafer finished 1-for-2 with three sacrifice flies that drove in four runs, added a two-run double as part of a four-run seventh and also struck out the side in the ninth. The Gators’ 10-game winning streak matches the longest in head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s tenure.
“We had a lot of contributions from a lot of different players tonight,” O’Sullivan said. “I think we scored in every inning but two. We had some good at-bats and it was really good to get a few of those other guys in there tonight.”
“The young players are really starting to come around. (Josh) Tobias made a great play at third to start the game off and he’s having some really good at-bats and obviously (Justin) Shafer had a great night tonight. A lot of the freshmen are starting to contribute. I thought Ryan Harris threw a really great eighth inning. Some of these young guys are getting valuable playing time and they’ve all played pretty well.”
FAMU junior Aaron Smith (2-for-3) started the scoring with a two-out double in the first inning off freshman right-hander Johnny Magliozzi (East Milton, Mass.). The right-hander had retired the first two hitters of the game before yielding a base-hit through the right side to senior Jarryd Reid (2-for-3) and Smith followed with a two-bagger to left field.
The Gators answered with the tying run in the bottom of the inning against junior David Duncan (1-3). Junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (1-for-1, three runs) drew a leadoff walk, stole second and went to third base when the relay throw went into the outfield. Shafer delivered his second sacrifice fly of the season into right field to tie the game.
The Rattlers re-claimed the advantage on a two-out RBI single in the second by senior Daniel Lee. Magliozzi recorded two outs and sophomore Ryan Sheplak singled to right field. A wild pitch put Sheplak in scoring position and Lee stroked a base-hit into left for a 2-1 lead for the visitors.
Florida seized a 3-2 advantage in the third inning. Freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) (three runs) walked to start the frame and took third on a single into right center by junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.). Dent had his first theft of the season and Fontana collected his second free pass to load the bases with none out. Shafer tied the game with another sacrifice fly to straightaway center field and Dent and Fontana each advanced for runners on second and third with one down. Senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) drove in Dent with an RBI grounder to put the Gators on top.
Senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (2-0) took over for Magliozzi (3.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R) prior to the fourth and permitted a leadoff single to sophomore Dylan West. After Larson struck out sophomore Andrew Thomas, Ryan Sheplak advanced West with a sacrifice bunt. Larson had Lee ground out to end the frame.
Freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) provided the Gators with a 4-2 lead in the fourth with a double into the right-field corner that scored junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.), who had drawn a walk and gone to second on a balk. Senior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) (2-for-3) ripped a single into right field for runners on the corners, prompting a pitching change. Junior Heath Blackburn replaced Duncan (3.0 IP, 3 H, 5 R) and had Tobias hit into a 4-6-3 double play, scoring Gushue for a 5-2 margin.
Tucker and Johnson each collected RBI hits in the fifth to extend Florida’s lead to 7-2. Fontana began the frame with his third walk of the night, stole second and came home on a one-out double down the right-field line by Tucker. Tucker’s third double of the campaign was the 274th hit of his career, moving him into fourth place on the school’s all-time list past Jeff Corsaletti (2002-05). His 56th double also matched Corsaletti for third at UF.
The Gators added four more runs in the sixth to build an 11-2 lead. Thompson legged out an infield single to start the inning and Tobias was hit by a pitch before Dent walked to fill the bags with none out. Fontana greeted junior reliever Stephen Dollar with a two-run single up the middle that gave UF a 9-2 cushion. A wild pitch moved Dent and Fontana into scoring position and Shafer’s fly ball to deep center field brought home both of his teammates on his third sacrifice fly of the night.
UF plated four more runs in the seventh on a run-scoring triple by freshman Brandon Sedell (Davie, Fla.) in his first career at bat , an RBI single up the middle by redshirt freshman Connor Mitchell (Tampa, Fla.) for his first career hit and a two-run double by Shafer. Redshirt junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) led off with a single into left field and came all the way around to score on Sedell’s pinch-hit triple. Mitchell followed with a base-knock into center field to drive in Sedell and Shafer roped a two-run double to finalize the 15-2 margin.
“Justin is a really good player,” O’Sullivan said. “I’ve never seen that line in the box score before: 1-for-2 with six RBI. He squared the ball up all night long. Justin had really good at-bats and obviously we needed to get him out on the mound in the ninth and he threw a really clean ninth inning. Tonight he had a great night.”
After Larson tossed three scoreless innings, with four strikeouts and three hits, he was followed to the mound by sophomore Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) (1.0 IP, 0 H), freshman Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.) (1.0 IP, 1 K, 0 H) and Shafer (1.0 IP, 3 K). The Gators return to action on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against Florida Gulf Coast (6-5).
· Florida improved to 17-0 in the series with Florida A&M.
· Junior Cody Dent made his first start of the season at second base and was 1-for-3 with two runs and a stolen base.
· Freshman Justin Shafer’s three sacrifice flies and two-run double gave him a career-high six RBI, surpassing his previous best of two against William & Mary on Feb. 25.
· Junior Nolan Fontana tied his season-best of three walks (Feb. 17 vs. Cal State Fullerton), one shy of his career-high set against USF on April 21, 2010.
· Fontana matched his single-game high of two steals set on March 2 at Miami (Fla.).
· Junior Mike Zunino’s 15-game hitting streak ended with a 0-for-3 performance.
· Freshman Taylor Gushue’s third double resulted in his 10th RBI of the year.
· Senior Greg Larson matched his career high with four K over three scoreless innings, established last Saturday at Miami (Fla.).
· The Gators were a perfect 3-for-3 on the basepaths tonight.
· UF’s eight walks matched a season high, originally set on Feb. 22 versus UCF.
· Florida did not hit any homers tonight, ending a stretch of 10-straight contests with a dinger.
· The Gators are 6-0 this year when their opponents score first and 11-0 when out hitting their opponents.
· The Florida bullpen fired six scoreless frames to complete the contest.