Friday March 16, 2012No. 1 Baseball Downs Vanderbilt, 10-2, For School-Record 15th Win In A Row
No. 1 Florida (17-1) used a five-run fifth inning and added four more runs in the seventh en route to a 10-2 victory over Vanderbilt (7-11) in the SEC opener for both squads in front of 4,141 fans on Friday night at McKethan Stadium. The Gators established a school-record with their 15th-consecutive win and captured their league debut for the fourth time in five years under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.
Junior right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (3-0) allowed two runs and matched his season high of six strikeouts over 6.2 innings for the victory, senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-5) tallied three RBI and senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) was 3-for-5 and scored twice as the hosts scored 10 unanswered runs. Three Gator relievers, junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.), freshman Corey Stump (Lakeland, Fla.) and freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.), combined to toss 2.1 scoreless innings.
“I thought Hudson [Randall[ was really sharp,” O’Sullivan said. “The first four innings seemed like they flew by and you’ve got to tip your cap to Kevin Ziomek. I thought he [Ziomek] was throwing the ball extremely well. He was throwing 90-93 mph and moving the ball back and forth. He was very comfortable, he had a good pace going and it was kind of reminiscent of (our game) last Sunday against Florida Gulf Coast. Overall, I’m awfully proud of our guys. Obviously, we answered back there in the fifth inning and I thought we had some good at-bats all night long. I thought our situational hitting was good. We only struck out four times tonight and we had four walks. I think we’re doing a good job with our two-strike approach, we’re battling at the plate and you’re going to see that on Friday nights in the SEC.”
Vanderbilt jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a two-out triple in the first inning by sophomore Conrad Gregor (2-or-4) that scored junior Mike Yastrzemski all the way from first base. Randall retired the first two batters before Yastrzemski singled up the middle and Gregor followed with a triple into the right-field corner.
The Commodores had a pair of runners in scoring position with one down in the fourth, only to be kept at bay by Randall. Yastrzemski was hit by a pitch to begin the inning and Gregor delivered his second hit of the night with a single into left field. Sophomore Spencer Navin advanced his teammates into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and freshman third baseman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) made a great play in foul territory on a pop-up by senior Riley Reynolds for the second out. Randall worked out of trouble with a strikeout of freshman Chris Harvey.
After sophomore Tony Kemp poked a two-out single in the fifth and swiped second base, junior Anthony Gomez ripped an RBI single through the left side of the infield that scored Kemp for a 2-0 advantage. Gomez took second on the relay throw to the plate and Randall stranded him there by having Yastrzemski fly out to right field.
Held in check through the first four innings by Vanderbilt sophomore lefty Kevin Ziomek (2-2), the Gators countered with five runs on five hits in the bottom of the frame to take a 3-2 lead. Junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-4) led off with his second single of the game into right field and freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) followed with a walk. A base-hit into right field by Tobias loaded the bases with none out and senior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) blooped a single into shallow left field to bring across Maddox and narrow the gap to 2-1. Junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) evened the score with a fielder’s choice to second base that brought home Turgeon. Soon after, Ziomek was charged with a balk, enabling Tobias to come in for a 3-2 lead for the hosts, while Fontana was awarded second base. Pigott doubled to right center, just beyond the reach of junior Connor Harrell, and Fontana went to third base, prompting a pitching change. Sophomore Steven Rice replaced Ziomek (4.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R) and Tucker delivered an RBI single into right field on a 3-2 pitch to drive in Fontana. Zunino lofted a sacrifice fly into right field to score Pigott for a 5-2 margin and Kemp made a highlight reel catch on the warning track to rob freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) of extra bases to end the inning.
“We always seem to take a little while to get going,” Pigott said. “It’s something we obviously want to change. Sometimes it takes us a little while to get clicking, but once we do we get rolling. The coaches really have us in the right mind-set.”
Harrell had a one-out triple in the seventh and Randall induced a grounder by freshman Vince Conde that Tobias scooped up, looked the runner back to third and threw over to first base for the second out. Rodriguez was summoned from the bullpen to take over for Randall (6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 6 K) and had Kemp fly out to center to keep the Gators ahead by three runs.
“Starting the SEC, I wanted to get out there, start off on a good note and get our team going,” Randall said. “I felt I did that pretty well. I went strong through almost seven innings, the bullpen picked it up and the bats came alive there in the second half of the game. I was working in more of my pitches tonight, like my curveball and change-up that I didn’t throw so much last weekend. My arm feels in the same place; it feels good. I’m excited to go out there again. When your team gives you runs like that, it’s always important to go out there and put a zero up on the board. It keeps the momentum on your side.”
A two-run triple by Tucker and a two-run double by Gushue in the home part of the frame boosted Florida’s lead to 9-2. Fontana drew a one-out walk and Pigott followed with an infield single, with a throwing error on the play by Gomez at shortstop enabling the Gators to have runners on second and third. Tucker made it two-straight games with a triple to clear the bases and Gushue connected on his sixth double to center field to increase the Gators’ advantage to seven runs and cause a pitching change. Freshman Adam Ravenelle replaced Rice (2.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R) and recorded the final two outs of the inning.
Rodriguez had Gomez ground out for the first out of the eighth and Stump had back-to-back grounders to second base in his SEC debut.
Ravenelle struck out Thompson for the second out but a throwing error by Navin enabled Thompson to make it to second base. Pigott drove in freshman pinch runner Connor Mitchell (Tampa, Fla.) with a two-out RBI single into right field to complete the scoring. The Commodores had a pair of hits in the ninth against Shafer but the right-hander had Kemp ground out with the bases loaded to end the game.
Saturday’s matinee at 1 p.m. on CSS (Cox Communications Channel 259 in Gainesville) will pit UF junior left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-0, 4.12) versus Commodore junior right-hander Drew VerHagen (2-1, 3.93).
· Eleven of Florida’s 17 wins have been come-from-behind.
· Tonight was the Gators’ ninth error-free game (8-1 record).
· The five-run fifth marked the fourth time this season that the Gators have scored five or more runs in a frame.
· An opponent scored in the first inning for the sixth time this year against Florida but the Gators have won all six outings.
· Senior Daniel Pigott had his fourth multiple-hit game of the season.
· The Gator bullpen has not allowed any runs over the last 30 innings dating back to March 2 at Miami (Fla.).
· Florida’s pitching staff did not allow any walks for the fifth time this year.
· Junior Mike Zunino had his third sacrifice fly of the season.
· Junior Hudson Randall’s six strikeouts matched his season high for the third time this year.