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Saturday March 24, 2012No. 1 Baseball Claims Rubber Game At No. 6 South Carolina, 5-4

Columbia, S.C.

Junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) delivered a tie-breaking, two-out, two-run triple in the ninth to lift No. 1 Florida (22-2/5-1 SEC) to a 5-4 victory over No. 6 South Carolina (17-7/1-5 SEC)  before another sellout crowd of 8,242 fans at Carolina Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Fontana (2-for-5) had entered the contest 1-for-33 in his career against the Gamecocks and came through with the decisive hit. It was the third time that the Gators have emerged victorious in their final at bat this season and enabled head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club to capture the series.

 

With the game tied at two runs apiece entering the ninth, junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) drew a two-out walk from USC junior Matt Price (3-2) and junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) was hit in the back by a 3-2 pitch. Fontana picked an opportune time for his first triple of the season, ripping a 1-2 pitch from Price to the gap in right center to give the Gators a 5-3 advantage. Price stranded Fontana on third by having senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-5) fly out to right field.

 

In the home part of the inning, junior LB Dantzler brought South Carolina within 5-4 with a one-out homer to left center field, his fourth of the year and the first allowed by junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) this season. The right-hander (2-0) had senior Adam Matthews foul out to freshman first baseman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) for the second out and induced a game-ending fly ball to right field by sophomore pinch hitter Brison Celek as the Gators claimed their second-straight series in Columbia.

 

The Gators grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning against junior Colby Holmes on a sacrifice fly by junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (1-for-3, two RBI). Fontana had led off the game with a base-hit into center field and took third on hard single by senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) that ricocheted off junior first baseman Christian Walker. Zunino’s team-high fifth sacrifice fly went to the warning track in right field and allowed Fontana to break the ice.

 

Pigott and Zunino boosted UF’s lead to 3-0 with solo homers in the third inning. With one down, Pigott battled back from 0-2 count and sent his second big fly of the season into the visiting bullpen. Zunino connected on his team-leading ninth round-tripper by hammering a two-out, 2-2 pitch to left center field to give the Orange and Blue a three-run advantage. It was his second-straight game with a homer after a three-run jack in the opening frame on Friday night.  

 

Junior Tyler Webb replaced Holmes prior to the fourth after the Gamecock starter surrendered three runs on five hits in three innings of work. Freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (2-for-4) recorded his fourth double of the season down the left-field line but was left in scoring position when Webb induced consecutive grounders by Ramjit and Dent.

 

The Gamecocks narrowed the gap to 3-2 in the fourth inning on two hits and an error. Freshman Joey Pankake (2-for-3) started things off with a single into left field, the initial hit off sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.). Walker lofted a fly ball to straightaway center field that Pigott misplayed, leaving the hosts with two runners aboard with none out. Freshman Kyle Martin advanced his teammates with a sacrifice bunt and freshman Grayson Greiner punched an RBI single into center field to bring home Pankake. Sophomore Erik Payne drove in Walker with a sacrifice fly to right field and Crawford prevented further trouble by having Dantzler ground out.

 

South Carolina tied the game in the fifth on a two-out RBI single by Pankake that scored freshman Tanner English, who had reached on a one-out double into left field. Ramjit made a phenomenal leaping catch into the stands for the second out on a fly ball by junior Evan Marzilli but Pankake followed with a base-knock into left field to knot the game at 3-3.

 

After Crawford went the first five innings, giving up four hits and three runs (one earned), with two strikeouts and a walk, junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) took over on the mound. The southpaw set down the Gamecocks in order in the sixth to keep the contest tied.

 

Webb (3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R) registered the first two outs of the seventh before turning the game over to Price, who had Pigott pop-up in foul territory to close the frame.

 

Rodriguez issued a one-out walk to Pankake in the eighth, prompting a pitching change. Maddox came in for Rodriguez (2.1 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 3 K) and uncorked a wild pitch that pushed Pankake into scoring position. The Gators elected to issue an intentional free pass to Walker and USC sent up senior pinch hitter Michael Roth. Another wild pitch advanced both runners into scoring position and Maddox countered with back-to-back strikeouts of Roth and Greiner.

 

Florida returns to action on Tuesday night at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in the second of three meetings against No. 4 Florida State (19-2/6-0 ACC entering today). The contest will begin at 7 p.m. and will be carried live on Sun Sports. The Gators collected a 9-2 victory in the initial encounter at McKethan Stadium on March 13.  

 

This Florida-Florida State baseball game is part of the Fresh from Florida Sunshine Showdown Series. Presented by Fresh from Florida, its goal is to remind all fans of the importance of buying home grown and harvested products from Florida. It supports our state’s farmers and fishermen, and our local economies.

 

Game Notes

·         All three games of the series at Carolina Stadium were sold out, marking the second time in the facility’s existence that had occurred (Vanderbilt’s visit from April 15-17, 2010).

·         Florida took the series after losing the opener, marking the first time that had happened since last season at Mississippi State, when the Gators fell in game one (7-5) and claimed the next two outings (18-0, 3-1).

·         UF has now captured 32 of its last 36 series.

·         Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan improved to 9-9 against South Carolina, including 5-4 in Columbia.

·         After being held without a homer on Thursday night, the Gators had a season-high four on Friday and added two more this afternoon to bring their season total to 37 on the campaign.

·         Senior Daniel Pigott notched his first homer since Feb. 22 against UCF.

·         The Gators held an 8-5 advantage in hits this afternoon.

 

 

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