Friday May 11, 2012No. 5 Baseball Takes Opener Over No. 25 Mississippi State, 4-1
Junior right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) pitched seven strong innings and senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) hit a key two-run homer in the eighth inning as No. 5 Florida (37-13/15-10 SEC) posted a 4-1 victory over No. 25 Mississippi State (30-19/12-13 SEC) in the series opener between the teams on Friday night at McKethan Stadium. With victories by SEC co-leaders LSU and South Carolina, as well as Kentucky, the Gators remain two games behind the Tigers and Gamecocks and one back of the Wildcats in the conference race.
Randall (6-1) limited the Bulldogs to one run and five hits in his longest SEC start of the campaign and junior southpaw Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) hurled a pair of scoreless innings and registered four strikeouts to collect his third save. UF handed Bulldog junior Chris Stratton (9-1) his first loss since May 21, 2011, against LSU.
“We put the ball in play tonight; it’s as simple as that,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Chris Stratton, he’s really good and we hung in there with him. The bottom line is, we got some timely hits. Hudson Randall is one of the best pitchers I’ve ever coached. He has a knack for what he’s doing, he keeps the ball off the barrel, he matches every other Friday-night guy pitch-for-pitch and we certainly would not have been in the position to win if Hudson didn’t pitch the way he did.”
“Obviously, Steven Rodriguez also pitched well. Mike Zunino hit the ball hard to left center, Brian Johnson put a couple of good swings on some balls and Daniel Pigott had the big two-run home run in the eighth. The bottom half of the order did a nice job, too. Casey Turgeon had a really good at-bat in the eighth, Justin Shafer hit a couple of balls hard and Josh Tobias, once again, hit the ball hard in the eighth to start the inning. We had a lot of contributions from a lot of different guys, but it all starts on the mound. I couldn’t be more proud of Hudson.”
“Coming into the latter part of the season, we are starting to hit our stride collectively as a team,” Randall acknowledged. “Especially on the mound, I'm feeling more comfortable than ever.”
On his homer in the eighth, Pigott said, “It is always nice to have a little insurance for your pitching. Hudson [Randall] threw great and Paco [Steven Rodriguez] came in and shut the door. We had a lot of confidence, even being up one run”.
The Gators opened the scoring in the second when freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) was hit by Stratton with the bases full and two down to bring home junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.). Johnson had opened the frame with a single into left field to raise his hitting streak to five games and Pigott (2-for-4) followed with a base-hit up the middle. Stratton had freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) pop up a sacrifice attempt and then walked freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) on a full count to load the bases with one down. After freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) went down on strikes, Tobias was plunked on a 1-2 offering to score Johnson. Stratton had junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) foul out to strand the runners.
In the third, junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) roped a one-out double to the gap in left center and went to third on a grounder by Johnson. A grounder by Pigott was misplayed by sophomore Adam Frazier, enabling Zunino to come across for a 2-0 score. Pigott moved into scoring position with his fifth stolen base and Stratton worked out of further trouble by having Turgeon ground out.
Mississippi State narrowed the gap to 2-1 in the fifth inning on an RBI single by freshman Matthew Britton. Sophomore Hunter Renfroe (3-for-4) doubled with one down for the Bulldogs’ second hit of the contest and Britton followed with a sharp single into center field. A grounder by redshirt freshman Wes Rea advanced Britton to second and Randall had junior Sam Frost ground out to end the frame.
Stratton had retired nine-consecutive batters until issuing a two-out walk in the bottom of the stanza to Turgeon. After a single into left field by Shafer, the right-hander completed the inning by having Gushue ground out.
Randall registered the first two outs in the seventh before Renfroe collected his third hit of the contest with a single to the edge of the outfield grass in left field. Randall had Britton ground out to close the frame.
Tobias began the seventh with a single into shallow center field and Stratton countered with a strikeout of Fontana and had consecutive fly outs by senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) and Zunino.
Rea started the eighth with a base-hit into left field, prompting a pitching change. Over seven innings, Randall allowed five hits and one run, with two strikeouts and zero walks. Frost greeted Rodriguez with a bunt that moved redshirt freshman pinch runner Demarcus Henderson to second base. However, the reliever caught Frazier looking on strikes and had freshman Tyler Fullerton fly out to right field to preserve the Gators’ one-run advantage.
Pigott belted a two-run homer in the home part of the frame to give Florida a 4-1 lead. Johnson started the inning by reaching on a dropped fly ball in left field by Fullerton and was replaced by junior pinch runner Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.). Pigott tagged a 1-0 offering from Stratton into the left-field bleachers for his seventh round-tripper of the season, sixth in SEC play. Stratton (7.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 6 K, 2 BB) was replaced by junior Nick Routt, who surrendered a base-hit into left field by Turgeon and then had Shafer line into a double play before Gushue fouled out.
Rodriguez fanned the first two Bulldogs in to the ninth before senior Brent Brownlee singled through the left side to extend the contest. The left-hander nailed down the win by whiffing Renfroe on three pitches. Florida held a 7-6 edge in hits. Johnson (5-4, 4.29) will draw the start tomorrow for the Gators and will oppose junior Kendall Graveman (3-3, 2.97). Game time is at 7 p.m. and can be watched on GatorVision Online and heard on Country 103.7 The Gator.
· Kevin O' Sullivan improved to 9-2 in his career against Mississippi State.
· After tonight's win, the Gators are 25-7 in home games, night games, and games versus a right-handed starter.
· UF posted its 20th win when scoring first.
· The Gators are 6-3 in series openers in SEC play.
· Junior Steven Rodriguez has left opposing hitters scoreless in seven-straight appearances (14 innings).
· This is the second-straight game that Randall has limited the Bulldogs to one run, last occurring in the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional opener on June 10, 2011.
· Senior Preston Tucker is now second on the all-time games played list with 248. He only trails former teammate Josh Adams’ school-record total of 253 games.
· UF has doubled in four-straight games, hitting six in the last two contests.
· Junior Mike Zunino has doubled in two-straight contests and leads the team with 22 on the season.
· Senior Daniel Pigott's two-run bomb in the eighth was his seventh home run of the season. Six of his seven dingers have come during SEC play.
· The Gators have hit 15 two-run homers this season.