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Saturday April 14, 2012Tennessee Hangs On To Defeat No. 4 UF Baseball, 5-4, To Even Series

Knoxville, Tenn.

Holding a 5-4 lead in the top of the ninth with the bases full and one out, Tennessee (21-14/7-7 SEC) turned a game-ending double play to even its weekend series with No. 4 Florida (27-8/8-6 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in front of 2,838 fans.

 

With the Gators down to their final three outs, junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) was hit by junior Nick Blount to begin the frame. Junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (3-for-5, two RBI) followed with a single into left field that moved Zunino to second base and was replaced by freshman pinch runner Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.). A grounder to first base by junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) put two runners in scoring position for Florida and senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) was walked intentionally to load the bases with one down. The move paid off when Blount had junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) send a grounder to third that junior third baseman Zach Luther caught, stepped on the bag and threw over to first base to end the game. Blount collected his ninth save in relief of sophomore Dalton Saberhagen (4-0), who threw 1.2 scoreless innings. Freshman Johnny Magliozzi (East Milton, Mass.) (4-1) permitted one run and two hits over a career-high five innings but was on the hook for the defeat.

 

Johnson opened the scoring in the second inning with a leadoff homer to right center field off of Tennessee freshman starter Robbie Kidd. It was Johnsonís fourth dinger of the year and second this week after belting a solo shot in the ninth at No. 1 Florida State on Tuesday night. Fontana followed with his first of four walks in the outing but was erased on a fielderís choice by Pigott. A wild pitch enabled Pigott to move into scoring position but Kidd struck out freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) and had freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) (2-for-4) pop up to second base.

 

Tennessee answered in the home part of the inning with two runs on two hits off sophomore Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) to take a 2-1 lead. Junior Chris Fritts (2-for-3) was hit by a pitch to start the frame and scored all the way from first base on a double into the left-field corner by freshman Richard Carter (2-for-3, three RBI). Senior Chris Pierce advanced Carter to third with a sacrifice bunt and sophomore Ethan Bennett brought home the Volsí second run with a double into left center. Bennett moved to third on a wild pitch but was thrown out at the dish on a fielderís choice by senior Zach Osborne, as Whitson corralled the ball and threw home to Zunino.

 

The Gators took advantage of a two-out fielding error by senior first baseman Davis Morgan to seize a 3-2 lead in the third inning. After Kidd recorded the first two outs, a double by senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-5) enabled the Gator to tie the school record of 61 career doubles held by Mark Ellis (1996-99). It was his eighth two-bagger of the campaign. Zunino followed with a ground ball to first base that was misplayed, allowing Tucker to score the tying run. Johnson ripped Kiddís next pitch down the right-field line and Zunino beat the throw to the plate to move Florida back in front.

 

The Vols countered with two runs on three hits and an error in the home part of the stanza to re-claim the lead at 4-3. Whitson plunked Luther to begin the inning and a one-out single by Morgan left Tennessee with runners on the corners. A bunt single by Fritts scored Luther and a throwing error on the play by Gushue allowed Morgan to take third. Carter laid down another bunt single to score Morgan, while Fritts went to second. Whitson had Pierce pop up and Bennett fly out to keep the deficit at a run.

 

Florida tied the game again in the fourth on Tuckerís second double of the contest. With one out, Shafer blooped a single just beyond the reach of Luther and junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) followed with a drag bunt up the first-base line. A fly out to right field by freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) enabled Shafer to take third and Tucker tied the game with his second double of the afternoon to right field. With a pair of runners in scoring position, Kidd induced an inning-ending fly out to right field by Zunino.

 

Magliozzi replaced Whitson prior to UTís fourth after the Gator starter gave up six hits and four runs (three earned) over three innings. Magliozzi set down the hosts in order, with a pair of fly outs and a grounder to Fontana.

 

Saberhagen replaced Kidd (4.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER) to start the fifth and yielded a one-out walk to Fontana. An infield hit by Pigott gave the Gators two runners aboard and a fielderís choice by pinch hitter Ramjit forced Pigott at second but allowed Fontana to occupy third. Saberhagen stranded the runners when Fritts made a spectacular grab on a ball hit by Shafer.

 

UT took a 5-4 lead in the fifth on a successful squeeze bunt by Carter that scored Morgan, who had doubled down the left-field line with one out. Fritts dropped a single into shallow field for runners on the corners and Carterís bunt just inside of the first-base line brought across Morgan with the go-ahead run.

 

In the sixth, Turgeon with hit by a pitch with one down and Saberhagen struck out Tucker before being junior Drew Steckenrider took over on the mound. A two-base throwing error by Steckenrider pushed Turgeon to third and Zunino grounded out to end the frame. ††

 

Fontana drew a one-out walk in the seventh, with his fourth free pass matching a career high set against USF on April 21, 2010. Fontana swiped second base for his eighth theft in eight attempts but was left aboard when Steckenrider struck out Pigott and retired Ramjit on a line drive to second base after an 11-pitch at bat.

 

Shafer opened the eighth with an infield single and was moved into scoring position on Dentís team-leading sixth sacrifice bunt of the year. Turgeon advanced Shafer to third with a fly ball to straightaway center field and Steckenrider (2.1 IP, 1 H) jammed Tucker on an infield fly to keep the Vols ahead.

 

Magliozzi retired the final 10 batters he faced, including three in a row in the eighth, to set the stage for the ninth-inning rally that fell short. Florida held a 9-8 advantage in hits and the teams combined for three errors, two by the Vols and one by the Gators. The teams will play the rubber match of the series at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

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