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Sunday April 22, 2012Pigott's Three-Run Homer Lifts No. 1 UF Baseball To Series Win Over Georgia, 6-3

Gainesville, Fla.

Senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) cranked a three-run homer in the sixth inning that snapped a 3-3 tie and propelled No. 1 Florida (31-9/11-7 SEC) to a 6-3 victory over Georgia (24-17/8-10 SEC) in the deciding game of the Eastern Division rivals’ series in front of 4,492 fans on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium.

 

Pigott (3-for-3) matched his career best by driving in four runs as the Gators claimed the regular-season series against the Bulldogs for the sixth-consecutive year. Junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) was 2-for-4 with his team-leading 11th homer, sophomore Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (2-0) picked up the win in relief and junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) had a perfect ninth to secure his 11th save in 11 opportunities this season.

 

“I thought it was another one of those days where the whole team contributed,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I thought that we got a really good start out of Hudson Randall; it was great to see him back on the mound. I thought, for the most part, all of the relievers came in and did a really, really nice job. It was nice to get Karsten [Whitson] out there again. Steven [Rodriguez] and Austin [Maddox] did a great job there at the end for the last five outs or so and I thought our hitters did a nice job. We didn’t strike out the entire game, and put the ball in play. I have to commend Georgia. They played outstanding defense all weekend long. It was a good SEC series.”

 

“All of these wins are important. We’re still two games back from Kentucky for the SEC lead. South Carolina continues to win so they’re tied with us in second place, and we are actually one game back from LSU. So, there are four of us within two games of the lead. The wins are all important, but it gives us momentum going into Tuesday night.”

 

Senior Peter Verdin opened the game with a single into right center off junior Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) and the right-hander retired the next two hitters on fly-outs before Verdin stole second base. Randall had junior Brett DeLoach fly out to left field to strand the runner.

 

Junior Kevin Ruiz drew a one-out walk in the second inning, the first of the series issued by the Gator pitching staff, and stole second base. Randall answered by having senior Colby May fly out and then struck out sophomore Brandon Stephens.

 

Zunino broke the ice with a solo shot to start the home part of the frame, belting freshman Luke Crumley’s first pitch into the left-field bleachers.

 

Georgia had runners on the corners in the third with one down but came away empty-handed. Verdin was hit by a pitch and went to third on a one-out single into left field on a hit-and-run by sophomore Conor Welton. Randall worked out of the jam by having junior Kyle Farmer hit into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.

 

The Bulldogs seized a 2-1 lead in the fourth on RBI doubles by senior Levi Hyams and May. DeLoach begin the inning with a two-bagger into left field, prompting a pitching change. Sophomore Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) took over for Randall (3.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 K) and yielded a game-tying double to Hyams. A grounder by Ruiz advanced Hyams to third and May moved the Bulldogs in front with a double to the fence in right field. Senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) replaced Gibson (0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R) and had Stephens fly out to right field before plunking junior Curt Powell. The right-hander prevented further trouble by catching Verdin looking on strikes.

 

Pigott tied the game in the bottom of the frame with a two-out double into left field. Senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) drew a leadoff walk and redshirt freshman Jay Swinford was summoned from the bullpen for Crumley, who gave up one hit, one run and had three free passes in three innings in his first career start. Swinford had Zunino ground into a 6-4-3 double play and junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) raised his hitting streak to nine games with a base-hit into right field. Pigott knotted the game at 2-2 with his eighth double of the season to left field.

 

A two-out single by Stephens in the sixth provided Georgia with a 3-2 advantage. Freshman Justin Bryan ripped a one-out pinch-hit single into left field and went to second on a grounder by May. Stephens blooped a single into center field to bring across his teammate with a run for a 3-2 count. Whitson came in for Larson (2.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 K) and yielded a single to Powell before having Verdin ground out.

 

The Gators erupted for four runs in the home part of the inning, highlighted by a go-ahead three-run homer by Pigott. Freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) greeted junior reliever Bryan Benzor (4-2) with a single to start the frame and Tucker tied the game with a double into the left-field corner that scored Shafer all the way from first base. After Zunino collected his second hit of the afternoon, Johnson laid down a sacrifice bunt to move his teammates into scoring position. Pigott cleared the bags with his fifth big fly of the season, second of the series, to right field that barely eluded the glove of Bryan. Senior Chase Hawkins took over for Benzor (0.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R) and recorded the final two outs of the inning.

 

Georgia put its first two runners aboard in the seventh, as Welton walked and Farmer legged out an infield hit. A fielder’s choice by DeLoach forced Farmer at second base and left runners on the corners with one down. Rodriguez entered the game for Whitson (0.2 IP, 2 H) and junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) made a leaping grab to rob Hyams of a hit for the second out. Rodriguez induced a grounder by Bryan that sophomore third baseman Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) picked up and threw to second base to force DeLoach for the final out of the frame.

 

Rodriguez struck out the side in the eighth by setting down freshman pinch hitter Heath Holder, senior pinch hitter Joey Delmonico and Powell. In Florida’s final at bat, Pigott had a one-out single to right center off redshirt freshman Ross Ripple and moved to second base on a wild pitch. After freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) was hit by a pitch, junior Earl Daniels took over on the mound. The righty induced an inning-ending 4-3 double play from junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) to keep the Bulldogs down by three runs.

 

Maddox took over for Rodriguez (1.2 IP, 3 K) prior to the ninth and retired the side in order to nail down the victory. UGA held a 9-8 advantage in hits and neither team committed any errors. The Gators return to action on Tuesday, when USF (27-14/11-4 Big East) visits for a 7 p.m. contest.

 

Game Notes

·         Florida has now taken the last six regular-season series against Georgia: 2007 (3-0), 2008 (2-1), 2009 (3-0), 2010 (3-0), 2011 (2-1) and 2012 (2-1).

·         Kevin O’Sullivan improved to 13-4 against the Bulldogs, including 7-2 in Gainesville.

·         Junior Hudson Randall saw his first action since March 30 at Ole Miss and made his eighth start of the year.

·         The Gators earned their 18th come-from-behind win of the season.

·         UF played error-free for the 17th time this year and have a 15-2 record in those outings.

·         Senior Daniel Pigott’s previous four-RBI effort came against Florida State on March 15, 2011.

·         Junior Nolan Fontana and senior Preston Tucker each drew a pair of walks today

·         The Gators did not strike out at all for the second time this year (Bethune-Cookman, Feb. 21.).

 

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