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Saturday April 7, 2012No. 7 LSU Rallies Past No. 1 UF Baseball To Take Series, 8-7

Gainesville, Fla.

No. 7 LSU (25-7/8-4 SEC) overcame a 7-2 deficit with six unanswered runs for a series-clinching 8-7 victory over No. 1 Florida (25-7/7-5 SEC) in front of a record crowd of 6,108 fans at McKethan Stadium on Saturday afternoon.


Sophomore Ty Ross brought home senior Grant Dozar with the decisive run on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the eighth inning off junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-2). Tiger junior reliever Brent Bonvillain (2-0) limited the Gators to one hit over four scoreless frames and totaled five strikeouts to earn the decision. The three-day series drew a school-record total of 16,388 spectators, surpassing the previous total of 14,838 for the series against South Carolina from March 25-27, 2011.


“I thought we played well in the first few innings,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “The turning point of the game was when we scored four and Nolan [Fontana] hit a big three-run homer and I felt really good about things. Then, we turn around and give up three during the fourth inning, which we can’t do. We had a five-run lead and Paco [Steven Rodriguez] is one of our best pitchers and when you give a team momentum like that, the game kind of swung a little bit. We’ll have to regroup and get ready for Tuesday.”


LSU broke the ice in the first inning against sophomore Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) on an RBI grounder by Dozar. Sophomore JaCoby Jones was hit by a pitch to lead off, stole second and went to third on an errant relay throw by junior catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.). A grounder by Dozar to second base scored Jones with the game’s opening run.


The Gators answered with two runs on two hits and an error in the bottom of the inning to take a 2-1 lead. Freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) singled with one down off sophomore Ryan Eades and senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-4) rifled a two-out double into right center to drive in his teammate with the equalizer. Junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) lofted a fly ball into left center and the outfielders collided, allowing Tucker to score the unearned run.


The Tigers tied the game in the second but could not take the lead after loading the bases with one down. Senior Tyler Hanover was plunked to begin the inning and freshman Tyler Moore (4-for-5) singled to left field, ending the afternoon for Whitson (1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER). Junior Alex Edward laid down a bunt and junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) threw it away, allowing Hanover to score the tying run, Moore to occupy third and Edward to reach second. Rodriguez had freshman Jared Foster pop up to Turgeon and then walked Jones intentionally to load the bases with one down. The southpaw struck out Dozar and had junior Mason Katz ground out to strand the runners.  


UF re-claimed the advantage in the home part of the frame on an RBI grounder by senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.). Junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-4) poked a leadoff single up the middle and junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) followed with a bunt single up the third-base line. Junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) sacrificed his teammates into scoring position with a bunt and a grounder by Pigott to the shortstop scored Fontana for a 3-2 Gator lead.


Florida erupted for four runs in the third, highlighted by an RBI single by Johnson and three-run homer into the bullpen by Fontana, to build a 7-2 advantage. Zunino began the inning with a double off of the left-field wall and stole third for his fifth theft in five attempts this year. Johnson delivered an RBI single and freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) followed with a grounder to first. Moore attempted to force Johnson at second base but his throw pulled Nola off the bag, leaving the Gators with two runners aboard. Fontana connected on his career-best sixth round-tripper of the season into the visiting bullpen to boost Florida’s margin to five runs.


The Tigers tallied three runs on four hits in the fourth to narrow the gap to 7-5. Moore started things off with an infield single but was erased on a fielder’s choice by junior Arby Fields (2-for-4, two runs). Foster (2-for-5) stroked a single into right field and Jones cleared the bases with his eighth two-bagger of the year down the left-field line. After Rodriguez had Dozar fly out to center field for the second out, Katz’s 10th double into center field drove in Jones to reduce the visitors’ deficit to two runs. Nola grounded out to end the frame.


Sophomore Joe Broussard replaced Eades (3.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 5 ER) prior to the Gators’ fourth at bat and set down the hosts in order. Although Hanover had a one-out double in the fifth, Rodriguez fanned Moore and fielded a comebacker by Fields to preserve the two-run lead.


Senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) replaced Rodriguez (4.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 5 K, 1 BB) prior to the sixth inning and surrendered a leadoff single to Foster. After Jones popped out in foul territory, Foster stole second base. Larson responded with a strikeout of Dozar but then uncorked a wild pitch that moved Foster to third base. Katz drew a walk for runners on the corners and a grounder by Nola forced the runner at second to complete the stanza.


In the home part of the inning, Ramjit earned a free pass from Bonvillain and moved over on Dent’s second sac bunt of the contest. A grounder by Pigott advanced Ramjit to third but Bonvillain kept the Gators off the board by having Turgeon ground out.  


Larson recorded the first two outs of the seventh before Moore punched a single into right field and Field delivered an RBI triple to the gap in right center to bring LSU within 7-6. Maddox came in for Larson (1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R) and had a wild pitch that brought home Fields with the tying run. Maddox had Foster ground out to close the frame.  


In the eighth, Dozar, Katz and Nola had consecutive one-out singles that loaded the bases and Ross delivered a sacrifice fly into right field that scored Dozar for an 8-7 LSU lead. Maddox had a grounder by Hanover force Nola at second base for the final out.


Moore and Fields opened the ninth with back-to-back hits and a sacrifice bunt attempt by Foster forced Moore at third base instead. Maddox caught Jones looking on strikes and whiffed Dozar to work out of the jam. Junior Nick Goody worked 1-2-3 ninth inning to collect his fourth save of the year and second of the series.  


“When your team is struggling like this, there are always positives and negatives,” Tucker said. “Unfortunately, if we are doing something well in one game, we are not doing something well on the other side. Whether it is defense, pitching or hitting, we can’t quite piece it all together. We just got to keep at it.”


Florida will have its third and final regular-season meeting against No. 2 Florida State in Tallahassee on Tuesday at 6 p.m. 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

·         The previous school record attendance of 6,005 occurred on March 13 in UF’s 9-2 win over Florida State.

·         Sophomore Karsten Whitson made his first weekend start since Feb. 26 against William & Mary.

·         Senior Preston Tucker’s seventh double of the year in the first inning was the 60th of his career, one shy of Mark Ellis’ career record of 61 set from 1996-99.

·         Junior Nolan Fontana had the first three-run homer of his career and increased his career big fly total to 14.

·         Senior Greg Larson made his 103rd career appearance this afternoon, tying Josh Fogg (1996-98) for fourth on the school’s all-time list.

·         Junior Cody Dent had a pair of sacrifice bunts this afternoon.


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