Thursday May 24, 2012No. 2 Florida & Vanderbilt Tangle At SEC Baseball Tournament Thursday Night
After a 6-1 victory over Auburn in its SEC Tournament opener on Tuesday, second-ranked and third-seeded Florida (41-16) meets fifth-seeded Vanderbilt (31-25) on Thursday night at Regions Park. The game will be carried on CSS, Channel 259 on the Cox Communications cable system in the Gainesville/Ocala area and can be heard on Country 103.7 The Gator with Jeff Cardozo and Mick Hubert. The Commodores defeated second-seeded South Carolina, 3-2, on Wednesday night for their seventh-straight triumph. The winner of the contest will earn a spot in Saturday’s semifinal round.
Junior right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (7-1, 2.89) will be facing Commodore junior southpaw Sam Selman (8-3, 3.64). Randall is making his 13th start of the season and looking to continue a hot streak in which he is 4-0 with a 1.88 earned average in his last four outings, with wins over No. 17 Arkansas, No. 3 Kentucky, No. 25 Mississippi State and Auburn. Over his last 28.2 innings, the righty has registered 12 strikeouts, issued three walks and limited opponents to a .198 batting average.
Randall has enjoyed tremendous success in his two previous starts in Hoover, downing Vanderbilt on May 28, 2010 (5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 1 K) and hurling eight scoreless innings as part of a combined shutout against Alabama on May 26, 2011 (8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 K, 1 BB).
Florida and Vanderbilt tangled six times last season, with the Gators emerging victorious five times. Kevin O’Sullivan’s club claimed two of the three regular-season encounters in Nashville, blanked the Commodores in the SEC Tournament final and then notched a pair of victories at the 2011 NCAA College World Series. UF collected a three-game sweep on the opening weekend of SEC action in Gainesville this season.
Florida opened league action by sweeping Vanderbilt for the first time since 2008 by scores of 10-2, 5-1 and 8-2 to increase its winning streak to a school-record 17 games. The Gators have started league action 3-0 for the fourth time in five seasons under O’Sullivan. Florida batted .284 (25-for-88) in the series, registered a 1.67 ERA, held a 23-5 scoring advantage and did not commit any errors.
Senior outfielder Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) started SEC action by going 4-for-11 (.364) with six RBI, four runs, two homers and a couple of walks, while senior outfielder Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) was 4-for-13 (.308), had four RBI and scored four runs. UF’s trio of starting pitchers, Randall, junior LHP Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) and sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.), each picked up victories and combined for 21 strikeouts and three walks in 17.2 innings, while limiting the Commodores to two runs for a 1.02 ERA.
Crawford tossed five shutout frames in his SEC debut and UF matched its season high with three home runs in an 8-2 win on Sunday afternoon. He was supported by a UF offense that produced solo homers from freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) in the second inning, Tucker as part of a three-run third inning and freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) in the fifth frame. Johnson allowed two singles over six shutout innings and matched his career high of nine strikeouts to lead the Gators to a 5-1 win on Saturday. UF’s victory secured their third-straight regular-season series triumph over the Commodores. Holding a 1-0 lead in the fifth, the Gators used a two-run single by Pigott and a two-run homer by Tucker to seize control of the contest. On Friday, Florida used a five-run fifth inning and added four more runs in the seventh en route to a 10-2 victory over Vanderbilt in the SEC opener. Randall allowed two runs and matched his then-season high of six strikeouts over 6.2 innings for the victory, Tucker (2-for-5) tallied three RBI and Pigott was 3-for-5 and scored twice as the hosts scored 10 unanswered runs. Three Gator relievers, junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.), freshman Corey Stump (Lakeland, Fla.) and freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.), combined to toss 2.1 scoreless innings.
In the Gators’ last action, Crawford established a career high with nine strikeouts and Shafer (2-for-4) drove in three runs to lead UF to a 6-1 victory over Auburn on Tuesday. UF broke open a 2-1 game with a three-run sixth that was highlighted by a two-run double by Turgeon and its pitching staff limited the SEC’s top hitting team to three hits and tallied 11 strikeouts.
Shafer provided the Gators with a 2-0 lead in the second inning with a two-out, two-RBI single off senior Jon Luke Jacobs (5-4). Johnson (2-for-4, two runs) and Pigott (2-for-3, two runs) opened the frame with consecutive singles into center field and were sacrificed into scoring position by Turgeon.
Auburn narrowed the gap to 2-1 on a sacrifice fly by senior Creede Simpson in the third and Florida expanded its advantage to 5-1 in the sixth on a two-run double by Turgeon and a two-out RBI single by Shafer. Junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) finalized the margin in the seventh with his SEC-leading 25th double that brought home junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.). Crawford (5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 9 K, 4 BB) was followed to the mound with scoreless efforts from Rodriguez (1.2 IP), senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (0.2 IP) and junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (1.0 IP).
*Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is 15-5 (.750) against Vanderbilt, 8-1 (.889) in Gainesville, 3-3 (.500) in Nashville, 2-1 (.667) at the SEC Tourney and 2-0 at the NCAA Tourney (both at the CWS).
*O’Sullivan and Vandy skipper Tim Corbin served together on Jack Leggett’s staff at Clemson. Corbin was with the Tigers between 1994-2002, while O’Sullivan was at the ACC school from 1999-2007 before coming to Gainesville.
*Thursday’s starter, junior RHP Hudson Randall, is 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA in four career starts versus the Commodores. In 22.2 innings against VU, he has allowed 26 hits and 10 runs (seven earned), with 13 strikeouts and six walks.
*Florida is 10-2 (.833) in Randall’s 12 starts this year and is averaging 4.9 runs in his starts. The righty has turned in nine quality starts this season and the rest of the team has combined for 13, including seven by junior Brian Johnson.
*UF is 23-6 (.793) against non-ranked opponents and 18-10 (.643) versus top-25 foes this season.
*This will be the 10th meeting between the two Eastern Division rivals in the past two seasons. Florida claimed five of the six encounters last year, including both in Omaha, and is riding a seven-game winning streak in the series.
*Senior Preston Tucker has a .310 (18-for-58) average in 16 career games against the Commodores, with 24 RBI, 11 walks, 10 runs and six homers.
*Senior righty Greg Larson’s next appearance will tie him for second on the school’s all-time list with Darren O’Day at 117.
*Junior Mike Zunino enters the meeting with Vanderbilt on a team-high six-game hitting streak in which he is 7-for-20 (.350) with seven RBI and four runs. He paces the squad’s offense in RBI (52), doubles (25) and homers (15) and is hitting .322.
*Last season’s SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player, senior Daniel Pigott, opened this year’s event by going 2-for-3 against Auburn and scored twice.
*With 12 saves in 12 opportunities, junior Austin Maddox needs more save to tie the school’s single-season mark held by Danny Wheeler (1994) and Josh Fogg (1998). Maddox’s last save came on April 27 against Arkansas.
*The Gators are 29-13 (.690) in games that are part of a weekend series and are 12-3 (.800) in mid-week contests. The Orange and Blue has an 11-3 (.786) weekend series ledger, with four sweeps.
*UF was 7-3 (.700) in their 10 SEC series, with a sweep of Vanderbilt and 2-1 series victories over No. 6 South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, No. 3 Kentucky, No. 25 Mississippi State and Auburn. The Gators were on the short end of 2-1 margins to No. 16 Ole Miss, No. 7 LSU and No. 17 Arkansas.
*Breaking down Florida’s 18-12 (.600) league record, UF was 7-3 (.700) in game one, 6-4 (.600) in game two and 5-5 (.500) in game three.
*The Gators were 11-4 (.733) against the East during the regular season and 7-8 (.467) against the West.
*Twenty-seven of Florida’s 66 homers have come on the road, where the squad has a .292 batting average and an 15-8 (.652) record.