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Thursday May 10, 2012No. 5 UF Baseball Completes Home Schedule Against No. 25 Mississippi State

Gainesville, Fla.

With just two SEC series remaining, No. 5 Florida (36-13/14-10 SEC) hosts No. 25 Mississippi State (30-18/12-12 SEC) in another pivotal league series at McKethan Stadium. Game times this weekend are at 7 p.m. both Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. The entire series will be carried live on GatorVision Online in HD and can be heard on Country 103.7 The Gator with Jeff Cardozo and Mick Hubert. UF’s seniors will be recognized in pregame ceremonies prior to Friday’s opener.

 

The Gators enter the weekend two games behind co-leaders No. 3 LSU (38-11/16-8 SEC) and No. 4 South Carolina (36-12/16-9 SEC) and trail No. 7 Kentucky (37-11/15-9 SEC) by one game. The Bulldogs are tied for second in the Western Division with No. 20 Arkansas (34-15/12-12 SEC), four games back of the Bayou Bengals.

 

In a battle of right-handers, junior Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (5-1, 3.53) will oppose Mississippi State junior Chris Stratton (9-0, 2.19) on Friday. Junior lefty Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (5-4, 4.29) takes the hill in game two against Bulldog junior Kendall Graveman (3-3, 2.97) and UF sophomore righty Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (3-0, 3.43) will face a pitcher to be announced in Sunday’s finale.

 

Senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) leads the Gators in both overall (.335) and SEC (.337) batting average and has 37 runs, 29 RBI and 11 doubles, junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) is hitting .335 and paces the squad in RBI (45), doubles (21) and homers (12), while Johnson is batting .319 with 32 RBI and five round-trippers. Senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) is at .317 with 37 RBI and 12 dingers and junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) has a .294 clip and is the squad’s leader in runs (42), walks (35) and stolen bases (9-for-9).

 

Junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-2, 1.58) has registered 12 saves in 12 opportunities and has 51 strikeouts in 45.2 innings covering 25 appearances. Senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) is 6-0 with a 1.55 ERA, junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) is 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA and has a team-leading 65 strikeouts in 49 innings, freshman Johnny Magliozzi (East Milton, Mass.) has a 4-2 mark and a 3.69 ERA and sophomore Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) is 4-1 with a 3.61 ERA.

 

Through eight of the 10 conference series, Florida is 14-10 and Mississippi State is 12-12. The Gators have claimed five of their eight weekend sets and three of the last four. Six of UF’s last seven SEC series have come down to a deciding third game (3-3 record). The Bulldogs are 4-4 in their league series and have taken their last three (sweep of Tennessee, 2-1 over Ole Miss and Alabama). UF and MSU have faced six common league foes: Arkansas (both were 1-2), LSU (both were 1-2), Ole Miss (UF was 1-2, MSU was 2-1), South Carolina (UF was 2-1, MSU was swept), Tennessee (UF was 2-1, MSU swept) and Vanderbilt (UF swept, MSU was 2-1).

 

Florida and Mississippi State met seven times on the diamond last season, with the Gators taking five of the matchups. The Bulldogs captured the initial encounter in Starkville on April 8 (7-5), before UF claimed the regular-season series with two wins (18-0, 3-1). The Orange and Blue notched a 7-5 victory in the opening round of the 2011 SEC Tournament and the teams split the first two meetings of a classic NCAA Gainesville Super Regional (UF 11-1, MSU 4-3) before the Gators punched their ticket to Omaha with a come-from-behind 8-6 triumph.

 

Tucker clubbed a three-run homer in the seventh inning to turn a 6-4 deficit into an eventual 8-6 victory for Florida over Mississippi State in the decisive third game of the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional on June 12, 2011. The Gators used a season-high five homers, their most in a game since six against Florida Atlantic on June 6, 2010, to account for their eight runs. Florida jumped out to a 4-0 lead on a solo homer by Zunino (2-for-4) in the first inning and back-to-back homers by Pigott (3-for-3, three RBI, two homers) and Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) in the second inning. The Bulldogs narrowed the gap to 4-3 in the fourth on a three-run blast by Nick Vickerson (2-for-5, four RBI), and used three two-out runs in the seventh to take a 6-4 lead.

       

In UF’s seventh at bat, Bryson Smith and Fontana drew walks to start the frame and were sacrificed into scoring position on a bunt by Zunino. Tucker (2-for-3) then cranked a three-run homer to straightaway center field to give Florida a 7-6 lead. It was the 40th homer of his career, 14th of the campaign and was the eighth of his career in NCAA Tourney action to set a school record. Pigott provided the Gators with a valuable insurance run in the eighth with a leadoff homer, marking the first time he had a pair of dingers in the same contest. Tommy Toledo retired the first two Bulldogs in the ninth before having Vickerson fly out to left field to trigger a wild celebration on the field. Over 2.1 innings, Toledo allowed two hits and two runs to pick up the victory.

 

Vickerson delivered a game-winning two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to lift Mississippi State to a dramatic 4-3 victory in game two of the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional. With MSU trailing by a run and down to its final three outs, Jarrod Parks led off with a single through the left side. Vickerson (2-for-4, two runs) smacked a pitch into the left-field bleachers to help the Bulldogs even the best-of-three series.

       

Caleb Reed threw 5.1 innings out of the bullpen, in which he allowed four hits and a run, to earn the decision. The right-hander came into the contest with Florida holding a 2-0 lead in fourth and had kept the Gators off the scoreboard until Tyler Thompson’s (Tequesta, Fla.) two-out RBI triple in the eighth scored Zunino for a 3-2 UF lead. Whitson held Mississippi State scoreless until the seventh, when the Bulldogs plated two runs on four hits.

 

Zunino drove in three runs and Florida scored in each of the first five innings to defeat Mississippi State, 11-1, in the opening game of the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional. Randall held the Bulldogs scoreless into the seventh inning and was supported by a balanced offense that plated four runs in the first, two in the second, one in the third, two in the fourth and one in the fifth to build a 10-run cushion. Over eight full innings, his longest stint in NCAA play, Randall registered a season-high eight strikeouts, scattered six hits and permitted one run.

 

Johnson belted a grand slam in the seventh inning to turn a 5-2 deficit into an eventual 7-5 win for third-seeded Florida over sixth-seeded Mississippi State on day one of the SEC Tourney last May. With the Gators trailing by a 5-2 score entering the bottom of the seventh, Smith was hit by a pitch and Tucker (2-for-4, two RBI) drew a walk from Taylor Stark to cause a pitching change. Luis Pollorena came in for Stark (1.0 IP, 2 BB) and surrendered a single into center field to Zunino (2-for-5) that loaded the bases with none out. Johnson sent a fly ball into right field that appeared to be headed foul but instead cleared the right-field wall in fair territory to empty the bases and give Florida 6-5 lead. It was Johnson’s fifth homer of the campaign, his third career grand slam and the sixth grand slam for the Orange and Blue last season.

       

Florida tacked on an insurance run in the eighth on a two-out RBI single by Tucker. Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) (1-for-2, two walks) had drawn a leadoff walk, was sacrificed to second by Fontana and went to third on a fly-out by Smith. Tucker delivered a base-knock into left field to bring home Dent and put the Gators ahead by two runs but was later thrown out at the plate attempting to score on a single into left field by Zunino. After Rodriguez pitched 1.2 scoreless and hitless innings, Maddox took the mound in the ninth and set down the first two Bulldogs on fly balls. Cody Freeman kept the game alive with a single into right center and Maddox responded by catching Jarrod Parks looking on strikes to close the contest and register the save.

 

In the teams’ 2011 series, Florida captured its sixth-consecutive SEC road series from April 8-10 at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs took the opener, 7-5, before the Gators responded with an 18-0 triumph on Saturday and a 3-1 win in Sunday’s rubber game. The Gators batted .333 (39-for-117) over the three games in Starkville, led by Zunino (6-for-12, six runs, six RBI, two doubles, grand slam) and Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) (4-for-8, two runs, two walks). Maddox went 5-for-14 (.357) and preserved the series triumph with his first career save after coming into Sunday’s game with one out and the bases loaded. UF’s pitching staff registered a 2.77 earned run average, with 23 strikeouts and five walks.

 

Tucker delivered a two-out, two-run single to snap a 1-1 tie in the seventh to lift UF to a 3-1 victory in the decisive game three. The Bulldogs loaded the bases with one down in the ninth but Maddox took over on the mound and retired the final two batters to collect his first career save. With MSU down to its final three outs, Anthony DeSclafani entered the ballgame and issued a leadoff single before getting a strikeout. Adam Frazier hit a comebacker to the mound that DeSclafani threw away while trying to get the lead runner at second base, resulting in a couple of runners aboard. Jaron Shepherd poked a single into left field to fill the bags and prompt a pitching change. Wes Thigpen greeted Maddox with a liner into right field and Kamm Washington made a tremendous sprawling catch for the out and managed to hold the runners. Facing  C.T. Bradford, Maddox was ahead in the count 0-2 and induced a pop-up in foul territory that third baseman Powers snagged up against the netting to complete the game.

 

Zunino belted a grand slam during an eight-run second inning and drove in five runs as the Gators evened the series with an 18-0 shutout on Saturday afternoon. All nine Gator starters had at least one hit in UF’s most lopsided triumph over the Bulldogs in school history. Johnson tossed six scoreless innings to earn the win and was followed to the mound by Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) (2.0 IP, 2 H) and Matt Campbell (1.0 IP) in Florida’s seventh shutout of the season. The Gator offense recorded then-season-bests in SEC action for runs (18) and hits (18) and the 18 runs at the time were the most scored by UF in conference play since a 24-2 win at Auburn on April 11, 2009. Florida exploded for a season-high eight runs in the second inning, highlighted by a grand slam by Zunino (3-for-4, career-high four runs), who had a pair of hits in the frame. Fontana was 2-for-4 with two RBI and a pair of runs, Josh Adams went 2-for-5 with a couple of RBI singles, Maddox was 2-for-5 and scored twice and Pigott (2-for-6, two runs) tallied three RBI.

 

Mississippi State rode a four-run first inning and a pair of homers by senior Jonathan Ogden to a 7-5 series-opening victory...The Gators pulled within two runs in the sixth but were held scoreless for the final three innings by the duo of Stark and Reed, who registered four K over the last two frames to pick up a save. MSU handed Randall his first defeat after five wins by totaling nine hits and six runs over the first 2.1 innings. Randall entered the game having allowed six runs (three earned) in 49.2 innings. Tucker was 3-for-5, while the trio of Adams, Johnson and Zunino chipped in with two hits apiece.

 

Prior to coming to Florida, Kevin O’Sullivan was the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Clemson. In 2007, the Tigers were defeated by Mississippi State in the Super Regional held in Starkville on June 8-9 (8-6, 8-5). Five days later, O’Sullivan was introduced as the 21st head baseball coach in school history by Athletics Director Jeremy Foley.

 

Gator Bytes

*Kevin O’Sullivan is 8-2 (.800) against Mississippi State, 5-1 (.833) in Gainesville, 2-1 (.667) in Starkville and 1-0 (1.000) at the SEC Tournament.

*The Gators have taken seven of their last 10 regular-season series versus the Bulldogs since 2000. Florida enjoyed a run of five-consecutive triumphs from 2001-05, MSU posted a pair of 2-1 decisions in 2006 & 2007 and the Gators have won the last two with a sweep in 2010 and a 2-1 victory last season.

*In his five years at Florida, O’Sullivan is 148-33 (.818) at McKethan Stadium, 51-44 (.537) at opponents’ stadiums and 13-18 (.419) at neutral sites.

*UF is 20-4 (.833) against non-ranked opponents and 16-9 (.640) versus top-25 foes this season.

*O’Sullivan is 38-18 (.679) at home against top-25 teams during his tenure, 6-5 (.545) this year.

*Entering the weekend, 25 of Florida’s 49 games have been against ranked opposition. - good for 51 percent.

*The Gators are 25-11 (.694) in games that are part of a weekend series and are 11-2 (.846) in mid-week contests. The Orange and Blue has a 9-3 (.750) weekend series ledger, with four sweeps.

*In SEC series this year, the Gators are 5-3 (.625) in game one, 5-3 (.625) in game two and 4-4 (.500) in game three. Mississippi State is 6-2 (.750) in series openers, 2-6 (.250) in game two and 4-4 (.500) in game three.

*Florida starting pitchers are 19-5 with a 3.58 ERA and have 176 strikeouts and 46 walks in 221.1 innings. 

*The Gator bullpen is 17-8 with 15 saves and a 2.24 ERA this season, with 207 strikeouts and 44 walks in 212.1 innings.

*UF’s pitching staff is ranked No. 1 in the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio, with 383 K-to-90 BB (4.26).

*Thirty-seven of Florida’s 59 homers have come at McKethan Stadium, where the squad has a .285 batting average and a 24-7 (.774) record. With 59 homers, the Gators are tied with Eastern Kentucky for the most in Division I.

*Florida’s seniors will be recognized in pre-game ceremonies on Friday night. This group includes right-hander Greg Larson, infielder Jeff Moyer, outfielder Daniel Pigott, outfielder Tyler Thompson, infielder/outfielder Preston Tucker and student manager Dustin Kline.

*Junior Steven Rodriguez has registered a team-high 65 strikeouts in 49 innings and is 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA in a team-high 26 appearances. He saved both of the wins at Kentucky for his first two saves of the season and tossed 2.2 scoreless and hitless frames with four strikeouts versus North Florida.

*Larson is third on UF’s all-time list with 112 appearances. The righty is a perfect 6-0 with a team-low 1.55 ERA in 25 games this season, and has 31 strikeouts and seven walks in 40.1 innings.

*Junior Hudson Randall is 1-1 with a 4.60 ERA in three starts against Mississippi State. In 15.2 innings, the righty has allowed 19 hits and eight runs, with 15 strikeouts and five walks. Randall limited the Bulldogs to one run on six hits over eight innings and had 8 K in the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional opener on June 10, 2011, to pick up the victory after suffering the loss in the teams’ regular-season opener in Starkville on April 8 last year (2.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R).

*Saturday’s starter, junior Brian Johnson, has enjoyed success against Mississippi State in his career when pitching, going 1-0 with a 0.73 ERA in two starts. The lefty helped even the road series last season with six shutout innings in which he scattered six hits and had three strikeouts. As a freshman at McKethan Stadium in game two, Johnson went 6.1 innings and gave up one run and five hits but did not factor in the decision.

*Sophomore Karsten Whitson will be making his third career start versus MSU and is 0-0 with a 2.31 ERA after a pair of starts against the Maroon and White last year. Over 11.2 innings, the righty totaled nine strikeouts, issued three walks and allowed three runs. Whitson went 5.1 innings in the regular-season finale (5 H, 1 R, 3 K, 2 BB) and worked 6.1 frames (4 H, 2 R, 6 K, 1 BB) in game two of the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional.

*Over seven meetings with Mississippi State last year, junior Mike Zunino batted .467 (14-for-30) with 11 runs, 10 RBI, three homers and three doubles. He has a .378 (14-for-37) average in 10 career games against the Bulldogs after going 0-for-7 in his freshman campaign.

*Tucker sports a .341 (14-for-41) career clip versus MSU, with 12 RBI, 10 runs, three doubles and three homers. Junior Austin Maddox has driven in eight runs and has a .333 (10-for-30) showing in seven games, while Johnson is 5-for-16 (.313) with six RBI, two doubles and a grand slam in four games since he did not participate in the Super Regional last June.

*Pigott leads the Gators in both overall (.335) and SEC (.337) batting average this year and is 9-for-25 (.360) in his career against Mississippi State. He has 17 multiple-hit games in 2012 to rate third on the Orange and Blue and five of his six homers this season have come in conference play.

*Sophomore Keenan Kish (0-0, 1.06) has matched his career long of four innings in his last two outings, on Tuesday against North Florida (4 H, 0 R, 3 K) and on April 28 versus Arkansas (0 H, 0 R, 4 K).

*Zunino’s two-run blast in the sixth inning against USF on April 24 was the 40th dinger of his career, putting him in a tie for fourth place on the school’s career list with Ben Harrison (2001-04).                        

*Maddox (2-2, 1.58) is 12-for-12 in save opportunities and has 51 strikeouts and eight walks in 45.2 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 5-for-35 (.143) against Maddox, who is tied for fifth on the school’s career list with 17 saves with Jamie McAndrew (1987-89). Current Baltimore Orioles’ pitcher Darren O’Day is fourth with 20 saves.

*Tuesday night’s winning pitcher, freshman Ryan Harris (2-0, 2.25), has not been scored upon in his last eight appearances since giving up three runs at South Carolina on March 22. He has allowed zero runs in 11 of his 12 outings.

*Florida holds a 292-161 scoring advantage and has out-scored foes, 85-36, over the final three innings and extra frames combined.

*Twenty of UF’s 36 victories have been come-from-behind. Last season, 20 of the Gators’ school-record 53 wins came after they were trailing.

*The Gators have clubbed 59 homers in 49 games after totaling 69 HR in 72 games last season. Ten different players have left the yard, led by Zunino (12), Tucker (12), junior Nolan Fontana (9), Pigott (6), freshman Taylor Gushue (5) and Johnson (5). The Orange and Blue has multiple homers in 19 games and has at least one jack in 33 of 49 contests this season.

*Fontana has already set his career high for homers after having three as a freshman and five as a sophomore. He leads UF in stolen bases by going 9-for-9.

*Steady with the glove, Fontana has just three errors in 201 chances this season for a .985 clip and has yet to commit any miscues in SEC games.

*Tucker had a couple of doubles versus Tennessee on April 14 to eclipse Mark Ellis’ school-record total of 61 set between 1996-99. He recently became just the second player in Gator baseball history to reach the 300-hit plateau. With 317 career hits, Tucker needs three more to surpass Ellis’ record (319). Against Arkansas, Tucker surpassed the school-record total of 941 at bats shared by Ellis and Josh Adams (2008-11) and now has 962.

*Freshman Justin Shafer (.286, 17 RBI) is 7-for-17 (.412) over his last five games, with three RBI and two doubles. He was 2-for-3 with the first two sacrifice hits of his career on Tuesday night.

*With 241 career starts entering the series with Mississippi State, Tucker is second at UF behind Adams (252). The senior is up to third in games played (247), tied with Mario Linares (247, 1988-91), and trailing only Adams (253).

*The Gators are 17-9 (.654) this year when opponents score first and are 28-4 (.875) when out-hitting their foe.

*After committing two errors in the win over UNF, Florida has 39 errors through 49 games for an SEC-best .980 fielding percentage and has played error-free in 21 contests (19-2). The percentage is fourth in the country, while Sacramento State’s .981 is first.

*The Gators’ 33 sacrifice flies are over halfway to the school’s single-season mark of 48 done in 2000. UF had 27 sac flies last year, led by nine from Fontana.

 

 

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