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Saturday June 2, 2012No. 1 Florida Baseball Defeats No. 24 Georgia Tech, 6-2, In Winner's Bracket Contest

Gainesville, Fla.

Junior Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) allowed one run over 5.2 innings to pick up the win and No. 1 Florida (44-18) used a three-run fourth inning and home runs by junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) and senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) on its way to a 6-2 victory over No. 24 Georgia Tech (37-25) in front of 4,584 fans on Saturday night at McKethan Stadium.

 

With the triumph, the top-seeded Gators improved to 2-0 in the NCAA Gainesville Regional and await the winner of tomorrow’s elimination game at noon between the second-seeded Yellow Jackets and third-seeded College of Charleston (38-21), which ousted fourth-seeded Bethune-Cookman (34-27) this afternoon by an 8-2 margin. Florida can advance to next weekend’s Super Regional with one more win, while the survivor in tomorrow’s first game will need a victory over the Gators to force an if-necessary game on Monday at 7 p.m.

 

“I think it was a very well played game by both sides,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It was emotional on both sides. It felt like a Friday night game in our league, and I’m sure in their league as well. We just got that one inning in the fourth where we scored three runs, and I really think [Preston] Tucker’s home run in the ninth was huge. It gave us a little bit more cushion. Hudson [Randall] was great, as always. He battled tonight, gave up some hits, but made some great pitches when he needed to, and then Steven [Rodriguez] came in behind him. I think the home run by Mike [Zunino] changed the momentum for us. It was a great game by both teams; we just had a couple of innings where we scored quickly in numbers. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

 

In the top of the second, senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) drew a one-out walk from junior starter Buck Farmer (8-4), stole second with two down and advanced to third base when the relay throw by sophomore catcher Zane Evans went into center field. Farmer countered with an inning-ending strikeout of freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.).

 

Georgia Tech used three-straight singles in the bottom of the inning off of Randall (8-2) and broke the ice on a two-strike base-hit by sophomore Mott Hyde (2-for-4) into left center field.  Sophomore Daniel Palka (3-for-4, two runs) had a one-out single into right field and Evans followed with a base-hit into left field for runners on the corners. Hyde opened the scoring with a RBI single that brought home Palka but Randall prevented further trouble by having sophomore Paul Kronenfeld hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

 

The Gators answered in the third on a game-tying sacrifice fly by junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-3). Junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) (2-for-3) began the inning with his fifth double of the campaign into right center and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.). Fontana’s fly ball to straightaway center field, his third sac fly of the year, enabled Ramjit to come home with the equalizer.

 

Sophomore Kyle Wren poked a one-out double to left field in the home part of the stanza and Randall responded with a strikeout of junior Sam Dove before walking junior Brandon Thomas. The right-hander thought he had struck out senior Jake Davies to close the frame but the umpires reversed the call and sent the Gators back onto the field. Randall then ended up striking out the slugger.

 

Florida erupted for three runs on three hits in the fourth to build a 4-1 advantage. Zunino began the inning with his SEC-leading 17th homer that cleared the wall in left center. It was his sixth career round-tripper in the NCAA Tournament and came on a 0-1 pitch from Farmer. Pigott was plunked with one down and freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) doubled to right field to give the Gators a pair of runners in scoring position and raise his hitting streak to eight games. Shafer blooped a single into left field to bring across Pigott and alertly took second on the relay throw. Ramjit’s third sacrifice fly into left field plated Turgeon with the fourth run.

 

Randall retired the first two Yellow Jackets in their at bat before yielding back-to-back singles by Hyde and Kronenfeld. The righty caught freshman Thomas Smith looking for his third strikeout to send the game to the fifth inning with the Gators ahead by a 4-1 score.

 

Fontana earned a free pass to start the fifth and was safe at second on a fielder’s choice by Tucker, as Hyde committed a throwing error. Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall was ejected for arguing with the umpires about the play. Farmer had Zunino line into an 8-4 double play, erasing Fontana at second base, then had junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) fly out to center field.

 

Palka doubled with one down in the sixth for Georgia Tech and went to third on an infield single by Evans (2-for-4). With runners on the corners, Randall struck out Hyde and was replaced by junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.). Over 5.2 innings, Randall scattered eight hits and gave up one run, with five strikeouts and one walk. Rodriguez had senior pinch hitter Evan Martin line out to Tucker in right field to strand the runners and preserve UF’s three-run margin.

 

The Gators’ bid for another run on a two-out single by Johnson in the seventh fell by the wayside when Fontana was thrown out at the plate on a throw by right fielder Palka. Fontana had led off with a base-hit into left field and had stolen second with two down before attempting to scamper home on a hard-hit single into right field by Johnson.

 

Rodriguez recorded the first two outs in the bottom of the seventh via groundout and his first strikeout of the outing before Dove and Thomas connected on back-to-back base hits to left field. Rodriguez forced Davies into a fielder’s choice for the out at second to maintain the three-run Gator lead heading to the eighth.

 

Senior Jarrett Didrick took over for Farmer (7.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 5 K, 3 BB) prior to the eighth and set down the Gators in order. Palka started the bottom of the inning with a single up the middle and went to second on a grounder by Evans. Rodriguez had Hyde ground out to Tobias for the second out and Martin brought the Jackets within 4-2 on an RBI single into left field. Although an error on the relay throw home by Shafer allowed Martin to take second, Rodriguez had Smith ground out to Fontana to complete the inning.

 

The Gators finalized the 6-2 margin in the ninth on a towering two-run blast by Tucker that cleared the scoreboard overlooking right field. Fontana had singled with two down through the left side and Tucker belted a 1-1 offering from Didrick (2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R) out of the yard for his 15th round-tripper of the year and 10th in NCAA play to extend his school record. Rodriguez put down the Yellow Jackets 1-2-3 to nail down his fourth save of the season. The lefty permitted four hits and one run over 3.1 innings and had a pair of strikeouts. Georgia Tech out-hit Florida, 12-9, but saw its six-game winning streak halted with the defeat.

 

Game Notes

·         The Gators improved to 11-0 at home in Regional play under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

·         UF notched its 22nd come-from-behind victory of the season.

·         The Orange and Blue is now 20-10 against top-25 teams this year.

·         Junior Hudson Randall threw 5.2 innings in the victory to improve to 8-2 on the season and 4-1 in postseason outings.

·         Junior Mike Zunino hit his team-leading 17th home run of the season, his sixth career postseason homer, to break a 1-1 tie in the top of the fourth.

·         Freshman Justin Shafer tallied his first-career RBI in the NCAA Tournament in the top of the fourth.

·         Senior Preston Tucker hit his 10th postseason home run in the top of the ninth inning. Tucker also has 38 postseason hits and 37 RBI. All three are UF records for postseason play.

·         After going a combined 6-for-8 for seven RBI in the Regional opener against College of Charleston, Georgia Tech’s three and four hitters, Brandon Thomas and Jake Davies, went a combined 1-for-8 with two strikeouts vs. Randall and Steven Rodriguez.

·         Florida improved to 58-33-1 all-time against Georgia Tech, including a 24-21 mark at home. This was the first meeting between the programs in postseason play.

·         Junior Vickash Ramjit matched his single-game best of two doubles for the third time in his career and second time this season, last vs. LSU on April 5.

 

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