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Friday May 25, 2012No. 2 UF Baseball Eliminates No. 4 South Carolina, 7-2; Faces Vanderbilt In SEC Tourney Semifinals

Hoover, Ala.

Junior left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) notched the first complete game of his career and was supported by an 11-hit offensive attack as No. 2 Florida (42-17) ousted No. 4 South Carolina (40-17) from the 2012 SEC Tournament, 7-2, on Friday night in front of 9,067 fans at Regions Park. Johnson (7-4) limited the Gamecocks to two runs on five hits and threw 89 pitches in going the distance. He also registered five strikeouts and permitted zero walks in the first complete game by a Gator at the SEC Tourney since Bryan Augenstein accomplished the feat in a 3-2 victory over Alabama on May 24, 2007.

 

With the win, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club advances to tomorrow’s semifinal round for the third-straight year and will meet Vanderbilt (32-25) again 30 minutes after the conclusion of the matchup between No. 12 Kentucky (43-15) and No. 25 Mississippi State (37-22) that starts at 1 p.m. ET. Sophomore righty Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (3-0, 3.07) will oppose Commodore sophomore lefty Kevin Ziomek (5-6, 4.79) in the teams’ second encounter in Hoover. The action will be shown 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. Tomorrow’s winners will play in the championship game on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

 

Junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (1-for-3) drove in three runs, highlighted by a two-run homer in the third inning, while junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-3) scored three runs out of the leadoff spot and freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (2-for-4) had a two-run single during a three-run fifth stanza.

 

The Gators seized a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning against junior Colby Holmes (6-1) on a fielder’s choice by Zunino. Fontana had opened the game with a double into the right-field corner and senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-5) followed with a single just beyond the reach of junior second baseman Chase Vergason. Zunino sent a grounder to first base that junior Christian Walker fielded and threw out Tucker at second base, enabling Fontana to score the game’s opening run.

 

A two-out RBI single by freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) (2-for-4) provided Florida with a 2-0 advantage in the second inning. Turgeon led off with a base-hit into right field and advanced to second on a grounder by junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.). With two down, Tobias roped a single into left field that plated Turgeon but was thrown out trying to reach second base.

 

Zunino crushed a two-run homer to left field with one down in the third to boost UF’s lead to 4-0. Fontana drew a leadoff walk and Zunino socked a 0-1 pitch out of the yard for his SEC-leading 16th round-tripper of the season to end the night for Holmes (2.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R) in favor of freshman Evan Beal.  

 

Johnson retired the first eight Gamecock hitters of the contest before Vergason (2-for-3) sliced a two-out single into right field in the bottom of the third. The left-hander responded by having freshman Joey Pankake fly out to straightaway center field.

 

The Gators tacked on three more runs in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk to Johnson and a two-run single by Turgeon to build a 7-0 margin. Fontana and Tucker had consecutive one-out singles and moved over on a wild pitch by Beal before Zunino was walked intentionally to load the bases. A free pass to Johnson brought home Fontana to increase UF’s lead to 5-0 and Beal countered with a strikeout of senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.). Turgeon came through on a 0-2 count with a single into left center that brought across Tucker and Zunino and prompted a pitching change. Junior Nolan Belcher replaced Beal (2.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R) and had freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) fly out to right field to complete the frame.

 

Freshman Tanner English beat out an infield single to start USC’s sixth and went to third on a base-hit down the left-field line by Vergason. Johnson induced a 5-4-3 double play by Pankake that put the Gamecocks on the board as English came in for a 7-1 score.

 

Shafer began the eighth with an infield single and went to second on a throwing error on the play by sophomore Forrest Koumas, who had relieved Belcher (2.1 IP, 1 H). Koumas worked out of the jam by setting down Ramjit and Tobias and then picked Shafer off second base to end the frame.

 

Fontana started the ninth with a walk and Zunino was hit by a pitch with one down before Koumas (1.1 IP, 1 H) was taken out with an arm issue. Senior Logan Munson had freshman pinch hitter Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) fly out to center field, pushing Fontana to third. However, the lefty had Pigott pop up to Walker to complete the inning.

 

Johnson recorded the first two outs in the bottom of the ninth before junior Evan Marzilli doubled down the left-field line and Walker had an RBI single to finalize the 7-2 count. Florida held an 11-5 advantage in hits and played flawless defense.   

 

Game Notes

·         Florida defeated South Carolina at the SEC Tournament for the first time since May 20, 2000, ending a three-game losing streak.

·         The Gamecocks hold a 4-2 advantage over the Gators in the SEC Tournament.

·         UF has claimed three of the four meetings versus USC this season.

·         Junior Brian Johnson had matched his career-long of seven innings in his last start at Auburn on May 18.

·         Junior Mike Zunino delivered his 44th career homer in the third inning that was his fourth all-time against South Carolina and third this season.

·         Opponents are hitting .148 in three SEC Tourney games against Florida’s pitching staff.

·         Junior Nolan Fontana is 4-for-10 (.400) with five runs and three walks in Hoover.

·         Freshman Casey Turgeon (.364) and Zunino (.250) have driven in four runs apiece.

 

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