Friday May 4, 2012No. 5 UF Baseball Clinches Series With 5-1 Win Over No. 6 Kentucky
No. 5 Florida (35-12/14-9 SEC) snapped a 1-1 tie on an RBI single by freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) in the eighth inning and then tacked on three insurance runs in the ninth to post a 5-1 victory over No. 6 Kentucky (36-11/14-9 SEC) on Friday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium. With the triumph, the Gators have clinched the weekend series and moved into a tie with the Wildcats in the league standings. Co-leaders No. 3 South Carolina (34-11) and No. 4 LSU (36-10) are still in action and were each 14-7 in SEC play entering tonight.
Deadlocked at a run apiece entering the eighth, freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (3-for-4) started the frame with a triple to deep right field, his second three-bagger of the year. After UK junior starter Jerad Grundy (4-2) had freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) ground out, Tobias sent a 2-2 pitch into right center field to score Turgeon and give Florida the advantage.
UF added three important runs in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.), a pinch-hit RBI single by senior Jeff Moyer (Winter Springs, Fla.) and a sacrifice fly by Shafer. Senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) drew a leadoff walk from senior Alex Phillips and junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) notched his SEC-leading 19th double off the wall in left field to put the Gators in business. Johnson lofted a sacrifice fly to center field that brought in Tucker and Moyer came through with a pinch-hit single off junior reliever Tim Peterson to bring across Zunino for a 4-1 lead. Turgeon singled into left field off freshman A.J. Reed for two runners aboard and one out and the Gators executed a double steal for a pair of men in scoring position. A sacrifice fly by Shafer to right field scored Moyer to finalize the 5-1 count.
After sophomore righty Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) limited the Wildcats to one run over 4.2 innings, the Gator bullpen tossed 4.1 innings of scoreless ball to secure the win. Senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) entered the contest in relief of freshman Bobby Poyner (Wellington, Fla.) (1.0 IP, 2 H) in the sixth inning with the bases full and two down and had a grounder by senior Thomas McCarthy force freshman Austin Cousino at second base to end the threat. Larson worked 1.1 innings to improve his season ledger to 6-0 and junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) set down Kentucky in order in both the eighth and ninth innings and had a couple of strikeouts to record his second save in as many nights. The Wildcats left 10 runners on base in suffering their fourth-straight defeat and dropped an SEC series for just the second time this year.
The Gators seized a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by Tucker off Grundy. Junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) opened the game with a double into right field and was sacrificed to third by senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.). Tucker sliced a base-hit through the right side to break the ice in the opening frame for the second-straight night.
Kentucky answered in the bottom of the frame on a game-tying single into left field by junior Luke Maile (2-for-4) off Whitson. Leadoff batter Cousino was hit by a pitch and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. McCarthy drew a four-pitch walk and Maile delivered a single into left field that scored Cousino. Whitson had redshirt junior Cameron Flynn fly out to center field, a fielder’s choice by junior Zac Zellers force McCarthy at third base and a grounder by sophomore J.T. Riddle retire the side.
Whitson retired the first two Kentucky hitters in the second before sophomore Matt Reida beat out a bunt single and Cousino earned a free pass. The right-hander struck out McCarthy to end the inning.
Maile began the Wildcats’ third at bat with a single into left field but was erased on a fielder’s choice by Flynn before Whitson induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play on a ball hit by Zellers.
Riddle led off the home part of the fourth with a single into left center but Whitson made a nice grab of a ball hit by senior Michael Williams and threw out the lead runner at second base. Sophomore Paul McConkey (2-for-3) singled into left field to move Williams into scoring position. Whitson fanned Reida but a wild pitch enabled Williams to take third and McConkey to occupy second base. An intentional walk to Cousino loaded the bases with two down and Whitson had McCarthy ground out to strand the runners.
Whitson registered the first two outs in the fifth and Zellers doubled off the wall in right center to prompt a pitching change. Over 4.2 innings, Whitson scattered six hits and permitted one run, with three walks and a pair of strikeouts. Poyner took over on the mound and Zellers swiped third before the left-hander had Riddle ground out.
Williams started the sixth with a double down the right-field line and McConkey followed with a bloop single into right field for runners on the corners. A grounder by Reida was fielded by Johnson, who fired a strike home to Zunino to nail Williams at the plate. A fielder’s choice by Cousino forced Reida at second base and left the Wildcats with runners on the corners and two down. Larson replaced Poyner and had a grounder by McCarthy to Fontana erase Cousino at second to preserve the stalemate.
Flynn was hit with one down in the seventh but was gunned down attempting to steal second base. Larson had Zellers ground out to Tobias to keep the game tied at that point.
The teams will wrap up the series tomorrow at 2 p.m., when Johnson (5-3, 4.50) will oppose sophomore Corey Littrell (6-0, 2.44) in a matchup of lefties. The game will be carried on WRUF-TV, channel 6 on the Cox Communications cable system in Gainesville/Ocala.
· Florida has now taken the series from Kentucky in the last four seasons and claimed 10 of the last 12 series with their Eastern Division rivals.
· The Gators are now 16-8 against ranked opponents and moved to 11-5 in true road games this year.
· UF played error-free baseball for the second night in a row and is 19-2 this year with zero errors.
· Senior Daniel Pigott had his sixth sacrifice hit of the season, second of the series, in the first inning.