Junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) and senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) drove in four runs apiece, while junior left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) allowed one run in five innings as top-seeded Florida (45-18) exploded for seven runs on six hits with two out in the fifth frame on its way to a 15-3 victory over second-seeded Georgia Tech (38-26) to claim the NCAA Gainesville Regional on Sunday night at McKethan Stadium. The Gators set the tone by tallying four runs in the first inning and three in the second stanza.
Freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) was voted as the event's Most Outstanding Player after batting .600 (6-for-10) over UF's three victories, with five RBI, four runs, two doubles, two walks and a homer.
The Gators notched their fourth-straight Regional title under fifth-year head coach Kevin O'Sullivan and secured their sixth Super Regional berth in school history, all in the past nine years (2004-05-09-10-11-12). UF captured its 10th NCAA Regional and has swept the last five Regionals it has hosted (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012).
Next weekend, UF will host the winner of the Raleigh Regional, with Vanderbilt (35-27) and North Carolina State (42-18) playing a winner-take-all contest tomorrow night to determine who will be coming to the Sunshine State. Start times and dates for next weekend's eight best-of-three series around the country will be announced by the NCAA late Monday night.
"Obviously we're excited about moving on," O'Sullivan said. "Brian Johnson gave us a great start, especially early on – we got out to an early 7-0 lead, and Brian kept on throwing strikes. We kept tacking on runs there, which I thought was important. Georgia Tech has the type of offense where they can get a walk, then a single and the next thing you know there is a three-run homer. We needed to keep distancing ourselves and I thought we did a nice job there. We got some work out of the pen too. We're excited about moving forward, and just waiting to see who we play,"
After Johnson retired the Yellow Jackets in order to begin the game, the Gators used a pair of two-out, two-run hits by Pigott (2-for-4) and freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) off of senior Jake Davies (1-4) to build a 4-0 lead. Senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-4) and Zunino (1-for-3, three runs) had drawn back-to-back one-out walks and a grounder by Johnson advanced both runners into scoring position. Pigott opened the scoring with his 13th double just inside of the first-base bag to drive in his teammates andTurgeon (2-for-3) followed with a walk. A throwing error by Davies on a failed pickoff attempt at second base enabled Pigott to take third and Turgeon to reach second base. Shafer chopped a single up the middle that expanded the lead to four runs.
Zunino cranked a three-run homer into the left-field bleachers in the second inning to boost the Gators' lead to 7-0. Junior Nolan Fontana (2-for-4, three runs) singled into center field with one down and Tucker sliced a single through the right side of the infield before Zunino blasted his SEC-leading 18th dinger for his second-straight outing with a big fly. The All-American now has seven career homers in NCAA Tournament play.
Johnson set down the first seven Georgia Tech hitters of the contest before senior Evan Martin (2-for-3, two runs) belted his first homer of the year to left field for a 7-1 count.
Freshman Josh Heddinger replaced Davies prior to UF's third at bat after the starter yielded seven runs and five hits in two innings.
Zunino collected his fourth RBI of the night with a sacrifice fly in the fourth that increased the Gators' margin to 8-1. Fontana had drawn a leadoff walk, stolen second for his team-leading 13th theft in 14 attempts and advanced to third on a fly-out to right field by Tucker. Zunino lofted Heddinger's first pitch to straightaway center field for his team-leading ninth sacrifice fly, matching the single-season school mark shared by Fontana (2011), Mark Kiger (2000) and Brad Wilkerson (1997).
The Gators tacked on seven more runs, their most in an inning this season, with two down in the fifth to put the game out of reach. Turgeon had poked a one-out double down the right-field line and junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) drew a two-out walk before freshman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) blooped a double into left field to score both of his teammates. Fontana then singled into right field to score Tobias for an 11-1 margin. A base-hit by Tucker pushed Fontana into scoring position and Heddinger struck out Zunino on a pitch that should have ended the inning. However, a wild pitch allowed Zunino to reach base, filling the bags full of Gators, and Johnson earned a free pass to score Fontana. Pigott sliced a two-run single into right field and Turgeon added another RBI single to put Florida up 15-1 and end the night for Heddinger (2.2 IP, 6 H, 8 R).
Johnson (8-4) worked five innings, giving up three hits and a run with four Ks, before freshman Bobby Poyner (Wellington, Fla.) took the mound in the sixth. GT junior Sam Dove connected on his third homer of the year with one down for a 14-2 score.
After sophomore Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) threw a scoreless seventh with a couple of strikeouts, the Jackets completed the scoring in the eighth on a pinch-hit sacrifice fly by freshman A.J. Murray. The sac fly brought across Martin, who had a leadoff triple off of freshman reliever Johnny Magliozzi (East Milton, Mass.).
Senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (0.1 IP) and junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (1.0 IP) closed out the victory for the Gators, who held an 11-6 advantage in hits and did not commit any errors.
2012 NCAA Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team
Catcher – Mike Zunino, FLORIDA
First Base – Cody Martin, College of Charleston
Second Base – Casey Turgeon, FLORIDA
Shortstop – Nolan Fontana, FLORIDA
Third Base – Sam Dove, Georgia Tech
Outfield – Preston Tucker, FLORIDA
Outfield – Brandon Thomas, Georgia Tech
Outfield – Daniel Aldrich, College of Charleston
Designated Hitter – Zane Evans, Georgia Tech
Pitcher – Jonathon Crawford, FLORIDA
Pitcher – Matt Pegler, College of Charleston
Most Outstanding Player: Casey Turgeon, FLORIDA
· The Gators advance to their fourth-consecutive, and sixth overall, Super Regional.
· UF has now won 10 NCAA Regionals and holds a 66-38 (.635) all-time mark in them.
· The Gators outscored their opponents this weekend by a 25-5 margin to improve to 12-0 at home in Regional play under Head Coach Kevin O'Sullivan.
· UF has won 15-consecutive home Regional games, their last home Regional loss came in 2002 against Miami (Fla.).
· In its NCAA history, Florida has scored 15 runs or more in 10 games and holds a 10-0 mark in those contests.
· The 15 runs scored are the most for the Gators since a 15-2 win over Florida A&M on March 7.
· The 12-run loss was Georgia Tech's largest losing margin this season.
· Florida improves to 21-10 against top-25 teams this season.
· Eleven batters came to plate for the Gators in their seven-run fifth inning.
· UF is now 59-33-1 all-time against Georgia Tech, including a 25-21 mark at home and 2-0 in postseason play.
· Junior Mike Zunino hit his team-best 18th home run of the season, his seventh career postseason homer.
· Zunino, who homered vs. the Yellow Jackets yesterday as well, has now hit homers in back-to-back games four times this season.
· Freshman Josh Tobias knocked in his first NCAA Tournament RBIs to start the scoring for the Gators in their seven-run fifth inning.
· Freshmen pitchers Bobby Poyner and Johnny Magliozzi both saw their first postseason action in the win.