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Monday March 26, 2012No. 1 UF Baseball & No. 4 Florida State Collide In Jacksonville On Tuesday

Gainesville, Fla.

Sunshine State rivals No. 1 Florida (22-2/5-1 SEC) and No. 4 Florida State (21-3/8-1 ACC) will break from the conference grind for the second of three regular-season meetings on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The Gators claimed the initial encounter, 9-2, in Gainesville on March 13 and the teams will meet in Tallahassee on April 10. The contest will be carried live on Sun Sports and GatorVision Online (HD) for subscribers, and can be heard on Country 103.7 The Gator.

 

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.

 

Senior right-hander Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (3-0, 1.00) will make his fourth career start on Tuesday, first since April 6, 2010, against Jacksonville (Win - 3.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K). He will be opposed by Florida State junior righty Scott Sitz (1-1, 2.76). Two of Larson’s three career starts have come versus Florida State in Tallahassee (April 14, 2009, Win - 4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 1 K; April 13, 2010, Loss - 2.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K). He has made 11 relief appearances this year and has allowed seven hits and two runs over 18 innings, with 16 strikeouts and five walks. Opponents are batting .125 against Larson.

 

Florida saw an end to its school-record 18-game winning streak with a 9-3 loss to No. 6 South Carolina last Thursday before rebounding to take the series with wins on Friday, 8-2, and Saturday, 5-4. Florida State defeated Wake Forest in its series opener, 5-4, and clinched the series with a 3-2 victory in game two. The Demon Deacons avoided the sweep with a 7-5 win but FSU remains in first place atop the Atlantic Division and ACC standings with an 8-1 league mark.

 

This will be the sixth annual clash between the squads in Jacksonville during the regular season. Since UF claimed the initial contest with a 16-7 victory on April 3, 2007, FSU has taken the last four games: 10-2 on April 1, 2008, 3-2 in five innings due to weather conditions on March 31, 2009, 7-2 on March 30, 2010, and 5-2 on March 29, 2011.

 

In the teams’ first meeting of ‘12, the Gators posted a 9-2 victory over the Seminoles in front of a record crowd of 6,005 fans at McKethan Stadium on March 13. UF’s triumph snapped the Seminoles’ streak of 10-straight victories and improved head coach Kevin O’Sullivan to 5-0 at home in his tenure versus FSU.

 

After Florida State plated a pair of runs in the third, senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-4) clubbed a three-run bomb in the bottom of the inning to move the hosts in front and the Gators would score six additional unanswered runs to secure the win. Larson (3-0) picked up the decision as the Gator bullpen, led by a perfect three-inning stint by junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.), tossed 6.1 scoreless innings and surrendered just two hits. Junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville. Fla.) entered the contest with two Seminoles aboard in the eighth and retired all four batters he faced over 1.1 innings to record his sixth save. Florida also put its leadoff runner on base in seven of its eight at bats, tallied single runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh and finished the scoring with three runs in the eighth. Junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-3, three runs, two RBI) belted his fourth homer of the season in the sixth, junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) and senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) drove in two runs apiece and freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) was 2-for-3.

 

In the clubs’ last meeting in Jacksonville, No. 7 Florida State broke a 2-2 tie by scoring the game-winning run on a misplayed infield fly in the sixth inning and added a two-run homer in the eighth by Stuart Tapley to upend No. 3 Florida, 5-2, in front of 10,078 fans at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville on March 29 last season. The Seminoles plated five unanswered runs after falling behind, 2-0, and five relievers combined for six shutout innings of one-hit ball to secure the win. Sitz notched his third career decision over the Gators, while Mike McGee collected his fourth save. Florida opened the scoring with a two-out RBI double by Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) in the first inning that scored Pigott all the way from first base. FSU’s Hunter Scantling had retired the first two hitters of the game before Pigott singled into left field. Zunino then raised his hitting streak to 14 games with his fifth double of the year into the left-field corner. UF later used a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Zunino in the third to take a 2-0 lead. Rodriguez was on the hook for the loss after giving up two hits and an unearned run with three strikeouts in 2.1 innings. Florida’s three hits matched a season low.

 

Over the weekend, No. 1 Florida dropped the first game at No. 6 South Carolina on Thursday night, 9-3, to see its school-record winning streak end at 18 games before rallying to take the series over the Gamecocks with an 8-2 victory on Friday and a 5-4 triumph on Saturday. All three games at Carolina Stadium between the Eastern Division rivals were sellouts of 8,242 fans and the total attendance of 24,726 spectators matched the highest in the facility’s existence. USC had not dropped a series at home since the Gators had taken two of three games at the end of the 2010 regular season. Florida captured 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 emerged victorious in 32 of its last 36 three-game series.

 

Zunino continues to pace the team’s offense in batting average (.383), RBI (32), homers (9), doubles (7) and sacrifice flies (5). He belted a three-run homer in the first inning of game two against the Gamecocks and added a solo shot in the finale. Tucker was 4-for-11 (.364) at USC and is hitting .333 with 23 RBI and eight round-trippers, while Pigott was a team-best 5-for-12 (.417) over the weekend and is at .306 with 22 runs and 18 RBI overall.

 

Fontana (.299, 24 runs, 18 walks) delivered a tie-breaking, two-out, two-run triple in the ninth to lift the Gators to a 5-4 victory 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. 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. LB Dantzler brought South Carolina within 5-4 in the home part of the ninth with a one-out homer to left center field, the first allowed by Maddox this season, before the right-hander (2-0, 2.18, 7 saves) recorded the final two outs to nail down the victory. Pigott and Zunino belted solo homers, while sophomore starter Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) (2-1, 3.95) worked the first five innings, giving up four hits and three runs (one earned), with two strikeouts and a walk, and Rodriguez (3-1, 3.12) threw 2.1 scoreless and hitless innings before turning the game over to Maddox. Although delayed for 79 minutes at the outset due to lightning and rain, Florida used a five-run first inning and clubbed a season-high four homers in an 8-2 victory that evened the series on Friday night. Zunino (1-for-4, three RBI) and junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-for-5, two RBI) delivered back-to-back homers in the first inning and Ramjit (3-for-4) connected on solo shots in both the sixth and ninth frames for the first multiple-dinger outing of his career. Johnson (4-0, 3.13) allowed two runs and five hits over six innings to earn the win, while UF totaled 11 hits and also drew a season-high 10 walks. The Gators sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning and plated five runs in a frame for the fifth time in 2012. Sophomore LHP Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) (1-0, 0.66) threw 2.2 scoreless innings to end the game. In the series opener, South Carolina snapped a 2-2 tie with a four-run seventh inning and added three runs in the eighth to defeat UF, 9-3, on Thursday night. Junior Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga. (3-0, 3.41) set a career high with 11 strikeouts and yielded seven hits and two runs over 5.2 innings but was not involved in the decision. He was the first UF pitcher to reach double-digit strikeouts since Alex Panteliodis had 12 against Miami (Fla.) in the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Super Regional.

 

Gator Bytes

*Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is 6-11 (.353) against Florida State, 5-0 (1.000) in Gainesville, 1-4 (.200) in Tallahassee, and 0-7 (.000) at neutral sites.

*Tuesday night will mark the fourth contest on Florida’s eight-game road swing that will continue at No. 16 Ole Miss for three games this weekend and conclude at North Florida next Tuesday. UF is 5-1 away from McKethan Stadium courtesy of three wins at No. 8 Miami (Fla.) and a 2-1 series mark at No. 6 South Carolina over the weekend.

*The Gators are 9-2 (.818) against ranked teams this year, best in the SEC.

*As of the report released on Monday, the Gators’ total attendance of 66,545 in 18 dates ranks eighth in the country, while their average attendance of 3,696 ranks 11th. The top five schools by average hail from the SEC (LSU, 10,361; Arkansas, 7,740; South Carolina, 7,392; Ole Miss, 7,012; and Mississippi State, 5,979).

*The Gator bullpen is 10-2 with eight saves and a 2.47 ERA this season, with 93 strikeouts and 20 walks in 94.2 innings.       

*Florida’s starting pitchers are 12-0 with a 3.23 ERA, with 104 K and 24 BB in 117.0 innings.

*With 98 career appearances, senior Greg Larson ranks fifth on Florida’s all-time list. Tuesday’s start will mark the 12th time he has faced Florida State. In his career, Larson is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings against the Seminoles, with 18 hits allowed, six runs (five earned), 10 strikeouts and seven walks.

*Opponents are 0-for-27 against Larson this year with runners on base and are 1-for-20 (.050) against the righty with two outs.

*Senior Preston Tucker (.333, 23 RBI) enters the week on a team-best eight-game hitting streak in which he is 12-for-30 (.400) with 10 RBI, eight runs, three homers, two doubles and two triples. 

*Junior Austin Maddox (2-0, 2.18) is 7-for-7 in save opportunities and has 26 strikeouts and three walks in 20.2 innings. He had five saves last season and UF’s mark for saves in a campaign is 13 by Danny Wheeler in 1994 and Josh Fogg in 1998. Leadoff hitters are 1-for-16 (.063) against Maddox, who is seventh on the school’s career list with 12 saves after passing former teammates Billy Bullock (2007-09) and Kevin Chapman (2007-10) against Samford.

*Florida holds a 174-74 scoring advantage and has out-scored foes, 49-15, over the final three innings.

*Sophomore Daniel Gibson has surrendered one run in 13.2 innings of work covering 10 appearances. The southpaw has 10 strikeouts and one walk, while holding opponents to a .160 clip.

*Twelve of UF’s 22 victories have been come-from-behind. Last season, 20 of the Gators’ school-record 53 wins came after they were trailing.

*Tucker, who is second on the Gators with eight homers and has 49 in his career, seeks to join Matt LaPorta (74, 2004-07) and Brad Wilkerson (55, 1996-98) as the only players at Florida in the 50-HR club.

*Zunino’s homer on Saturday at USC enabled him to pass Mark Ellis (1996-99) and Mario Linares (1988-91) for sixth on the school’s career list with 37 bombs.

*The Gators have clubbed 37 homers in 24 games after totaling 69 HR in 72 games last season. Nine different players have left the yard, led by Zunino (9), Tucker (8), freshman Taylor Gushue (5) and junior Nolan Fontana (4). The Orange and Blue has multiple homers in 13 games and has at least one jack in 19 of 24 contests this season.

*Tucker’s double in the fifth inning versus Samford moved him past Jeff Corsaletti (2002-05, 56) for third on the Gator chart. Now with 58 two-baggers, Tucker is chasing Ellis’ top spot of 61 two-baggers.

*The Gators are 11-0 this year when opponents score first and are 18-0 when out-hitting their foe.

*Freshman Josh Tobias, who had started 20 of the Gators’ first 23 games at third base, is sidelined after suffering a hand injury on Friday night at South Carolina. Junior Cody Dent, who made 21 starts on the hot corner last season and was named to the 2011 NCAA College World Series All-Tournament team, started at third base on Saturday and was plunked with two down in the ninth to set the stage for Fontana’s two-run triple.

*Gushue has started 23 games at three different positions - 16 at first base, five at designated hitter and three at catcher.

*UF has 16 errors through 24 games for an SEC-leading .982 fielding percentage and has played error-free in 12 contests (11-1).

*Senior Daniel Pigott led the Gators in Columbia with a .417 (5-for-12) clip, including multiple-hit outings in game one (2-for-4) and game three (2-for-5). He has started five of the past six games in center field since senior Tyler Thompson was injured in the SEC opener versus Vanderbilt.

*The squad’s pitching staff has registered at least six strikeouts in its last 17 outings, with a high of 14 at Miami (Fla.) on March 4. It has at least five K in every game this year.

*Florida is 8-for-28 (.286) with the bases loaded and has 25 RBI and foes are 2-for-16 (.125).

*Thirty-six of the squad’s 160 RBI have come with two out, led by seven from Zunino and five by Fontana.

 

 

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