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Friday June 8, 2012No. 1 Florida & No. 11 NC State Tangle With College World Series Berth On The Line

Gainesville, Fla.

After collecting three-straight wins in its own NCAA Gainesville Regional, No. 1 Florida (45-18) will host No. 11 NC State (43-18) in a best-of-three series at McKethan Stadium. The winner will advance to the 66th NCAA College World Series in Omaha, Neb., that starts next Friday, June 15.

 

The opener will be on Saturday at 2 p.m. (ESPNUHD), game two will be on Sunday at 1 p.m. (ESPNUHD) and Monday’s if-necessary contest would be at 1 p.m. (ESPN2HD). All three games can be heard on Country 103.7 The Gator with Jeff Cardozo and Mick Hubert. The Wolfpack were 4-1 at the Raleigh Regional and rallied to defeat Vanderbilt, 9-7, in a winner-take-all game on Monday night to advance.

 

In a matchup of right-handers, junior Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (8-2, 2.83) will start the opener against NCSU junior Ethan Ogburn (5-3, 3.23). In eight NCAA Tourney appearances, all starts, Randall is 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA and has registered 45 strikeouts in 50.2 innings, with eight walks. The righty downed No. 24 Georgia Tech last Saturday night by surrendering one run over 5.2 innings.

 

The Gators will be making their fourth-consecutive Super Regional appearance and the sixth in school history, all in the past nine years. UF was swept in Coral Gables in 2004 by Miami and then rebounded the following season to oust Florida State in two games in Gainesville to punch its first ticket to Omaha in seven years. The Gators dropped two in a row to Southern Miss at home in Super Regionals in 2009 and handled Miami in two games in 2010 to reach the College World Series for the sixth time and first under Kevin O’Sullivan. UF made it consecutive trips to CWS for the first time in school history by claiming two of the three encounters with SEC rival Mississippi State last June. The Wolfpack will be playing in the Super Regional round for the third time in school history (also 2003 & 2008).

 

In its Regional opener last Friday, top-seeded Florida blanked fourth-seeded Bethune-Cookman, 4-0, thanks to a no-hitter by sophomore Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) and a four-RBI effort by freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.). The Gators downed second-seeded Georgia Tech, 6-2, in a winner’s bracket matchup on Saturday and then defeated the Yellow Jackets again on Sunday, 15-3, to lock up their 10th Regional title.

 

Hosting the Raleigh Regional as the number one seed, NC State dominated fourth-seeded Sacred Heart, 16-5, and then fell to second-seeded Vanderbilt, 9-8, the next day. On Sunday, the Wolfpack eliminated third-seeded UNC Wilmington, 17-5, and then edged the Commodores, 6-5, to force the if-necessary game. Trailing 7-3 in the eighth on Monday, NCSU scored three times in the eighth to narrow the gap to 7-6 and plated three more runs in the ninth to emerge victorious by a 9-7 score.

 

O’Sullivan has directed the Gators to four-straight NCAA Super Regionals after the program had made a pair of appearances under Pat McMahon (2004, 2005). UF is seeking to reach the College World Series for a third-straight season after making the trek to the Midwest in 1998, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010 and 2011.

 

Turgeon was voted as the Gainesville Regional’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. In his NCAA Tourney debut, he went 3-for-4 with an RBI single in the second inning and a three-run homer in the fifth inning to account for the Gators’ four runs against Bethune-Cookman and made a leaping grab for the final out to preserve Crawford’s no-hitter in the 4-0 triumph. Turgeon doubled and scored in the 6-2 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday and was 2-for-3 with a pair of runs on Sunday. He also chipped in with a double and a run-scoring single during UF’s seven-run fifth inning en route to the 15-3 victory.

 

Crawford made his NCAA Tournament debut one to remember last Friday night, as he twirled the first no-hitter by a Florida pitcher in 21 years to lead the Gators to a 4-0 victory over Bethune-Cookman. After pitching just 3.2 innings as a freshman last year, Crawford drew the starting assignment in Florida’s NCAA opener and became the first Gator hurler to register a complete-game no-hitter since John Burke accomplished the feat in a 2-0 shutout of Furman on May 23, 1991, that was the Gators’ opener in the NCAA East Regional held at McKethan Stadium. Florida’s last combined no-hitter occurred on March 19, 1993, when the duo of Doug Brennan (7.0) and Chris Nelson (2.0) defeated Pace, 16-0.

 

Crawford (6-2), whose previous career-high stint was six innings against LSU on April 6, went the distance on 98 pitches (70 of them strikes) and faced the minimum of 27 batters. The righty issued a one-out walk to Wildcat freshman Jake Welch in the third inning, who was gunned down trying to steal second by junior catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.). Crawford also benefitted from tremendous defensive plays by his teammates, including several by freshman third baseman Josh Tobias (Greensboro, N.C.) and a game-ending stab of a line drive hit by junior Carlos Delgado that required a leaping catch by Turgeon at second base. Crawford threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of 27 batters and totaled five strikeouts without permitting any runners to reach second.

 

The Gainesville Regional All-Tournament squad had an Orange and Blue tint to it, as Florida notched a team-high five selections. In addition to MOP Turgeon, other recipients included Crawford (no-hitter vs. Bethune-Cookman), junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (.364, four runs, two RBI, 2-for-2 stolen bases), senior right fielder Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (.385, four runs, two RBI) and Zunino (solo homer in game one against Georgia Tech and three-run bomb in game two).

 

Tucker became the first Gator to achieve Regional All-Tournament status all four years of his career and is the lone UF player to earn Most Outstanding Player recognition twice (2009 & 2011). Fontana and Zunino each made the team for the third-straight year.

 

This season marked the 11th time that McKethan Stadium has hosted NCAA Regional action and the fourth-straight year for the first time in school history. The Gators have gone on to the College World Series from Gainesville on six previous occasions: 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010 and 2011. Florida is 38-10 (.792) on its own turf during NCAA play and has now swept the Regional round that last five times it has hosted. O’Sullivan is 16-3 (.842) in NCAA play at home, 12-0 (1.000) in Regionals and 4-3 (.571) in Super Regionals.

 

Zunino 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 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 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.

 

UF banged out 11 hits, highlighted by a four-run first inning that featured a two-run double by Pigott and a two-run single up the middle by freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.). Zunino expanded the Gators’ lead to 7-0 with a three-run blast to left center in the second and the squad sent 11 batters to the plate in the fifth to put the game out of reach. The trio at the top of the order, Fontana, Tucker and Zunino, each scored three runs and were a combined 5-for-11 with five RBI.

 

Randall allowed one run over 5.2 innings to pick up the win and Florida used a three-run fourth inning and home runs by Zunino and Tucker on its way to a 6-2 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday night. The Yellow Jackets opened the scoring in the second with three-straight singles before the Gators answered with a game-tying sacrifice fly by Fontana. UF erupted for three runs on three hits in the fourth on a leadoff homer by Zunino, an RBI single by Shafer and a sacrifice fly by junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.).

 

After Georgia Tech pulled within 4-2 in the eighth, Tucker launched a two-run shot in the ninth to finalize the margin. Over 5.2 innings, Randall scattered eight hits and gave up one run, with five strikeouts and one walk. Junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) picked up his fourth save by working 3.1 innings in which he scattered four hits and allowed one run.

 

Florida and NC State have only met on the diamond four times and every encounter has come during the NCAA Tournament. The Wolfpack posted a 13-3 victory in the 1988 NCAA East Regional held in Tallahassee and the Gators reeled off three-consecutive wins to earn the program’s first berth into the College World Series. The teams met twice during the 1991 East Regional at McKethan Stadium and UF notched a 9-4 victory and a 3-2 decision in 10 innings to punch its second ticket to Omaha. The Orange and Blue out-slugged the Wolfpack, 12-9, during the 1996 East Regional in Gainesville on its way to Rosenblatt Stadium for the third time.

 

NC State becomes the fifth different Super Regional opponent that Florida has faced and the third from the ACC. The Gators have played Miami (Fla.) twice (2004, 2010), as well as Florida State (2005), Mississippi State (2011) and Southern Miss (2009).

 

Zunino has had the type of week that some people dream about. On Monday afternoon, he was named as one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, along with Mitchell Garver of New Mexico and Kevin Plawecki of Purdue. That night, Zunino was chosen by the Seattle Mariners with the third pick of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft, becoming the highest drafted Gator in school history. On Tuesday, he was announced as one of the three finalists for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, joining Brad Wilkerson (1997) and Matt LaPorta (2007) as Florida finalists in school history. Zunino is up for the award along with Mark Appel from Stanford and Carlos Rodon from NC State. On Thursday, Zunino added another line to his resume by being tabbed one of three finalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, along with Utah Valley’s Goose Kallunki and LSU’s Raph Rhymes. No Gator had ever been a finalist for the Howser.

 

O’Sullivan’s club tallied nine selections over the three-day event that spanned 40 rounds, tied for the second-highest total in the country. The Gators have now had 39 picks in his five-year tenure (three in 2008, 10 in 2009, six in 2010 and 11 in 2011). Before O’Sullivan’s arrival, Florida’s previous high number of picks was eight in both 1999 and 2002. Zunino (3rd, Seattle) and Johnson (31st, Boston) were taken in the first round, while Fontana (61st, Houston) and Rodriguez (82nd, Los Angeles Dodgers) were second-round choices. Junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) went in the third round at No. 118 to Boston, while Tucker (219th, Houston) and Randall (244th, Detroit) went in the seventh round. Senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) wrapped up the Florida contingent by going in the 20th round at No. 631 to Boston.

 

Gator Bytes

*Kevin O’Sullivan has a 19-9 (.679) NCAA Tournament mark, going 12-2 (.857) in Regionals, 4-3 (.571) in Super Regionals and 3-4 (.429) at the College World Series.

*O’Sullivan was the first Florida head coach to capture four NCAA Regional titles and is the first to lead the Gators to four Super Regionals.

*In his five years at Florida, O’Sullivan is 153-34 (.818) at McKethan Stadium, 53-46 (.535) at opponents’ stadiums and 15-20 (.429) at neutral sites.

*The Gators are 29-8 (.784) at McKethan Stadium this season and are 6-2 (.750) in home weekend series.

*UF is 24-8 (.750) against non-ranked teams and 21-10 (.677) versus top-25 foes in ’12.

*O’Sullivan has a 42-19 (.688) home record against top-25 teams and is 10-6 (.625) this season.

*The Gators were 29-13 (.690) this year in regular-season games that were part of a weekend series and were 11-3 (.786) in mid-week contests. The Orange and Blue has an 11-3 (.786) weekend series ledger, with four sweeps.

*With 118 appearances, senior righty Greg Larson is second on the school’s all-time list behind Connor Falkenbach (124, 2002-05).

*With 12 saves in 13 opportunities, junior Austin Maddox needs one 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 Gator pitching corps has permitted three runs or less in 16 of its last 19 outings.

*Florida is 36-3 (.923) when leading after six innings, 37-1 (.974) ahead after seven innings and 40-1 (.976) when leading after eight innings.

*The Gators are 2-12 (.143) when trailing after six innings, 2-15 (.118) behind after seven innings and are 1-15 (.063) when trailing after eight frames.

*Florida has outscored opponents, 25-5, in its three postseason games. In the past four NCAA Regionals, the squad has outscored its opponents, 122-35, and has a 12-0 record.

*UF’s team ERA of 2.85 is the lowest since the 1983 Gator pitching staff posted a 2.85 ERA.

*The Gators have allowed just 2.02 walks per game this season, the second-fewest for a single season in school history and second in the country behind Cal State Fullerton (1.87). In 2011, UF set the school record allowing just 1.81 walks per game.

*The Orange and Blue leads the country in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.71) and WHIP (1.12).

*Florida has 17 saves on the season, one shy of the season record set in 1991 and matched again in 2010.

*In records dating to 1977, the team’s fielding percentage of .978 is currently tied with the school record set in 2010 and is 10th in the country.

*The Gators’ 71 home runs this season is tied for 10th in school history for a single season and currently leads the nation.

*Junior Vickash Ramjit totaled 20 putouts in the game against Georgia (April 20), surpassing the school record of 18 – last accomplished by Matt LaPorta versus Vanderbilt in 2005.

*Junior Mike Zunino has hit 27 doubles already this season, surpassing the previous record of 23. Zunino and senior Preston Tucker each hit 23 doubles in 2011, which shared the record with Greg Catalanotte (1998), Mike Moberg (1990) and Chris Lombardozzi (1985).

*Zunino has 18 home runs this season, tied for 10th in school history for a single season with Catalanotte (1998) and Chuck Hazzard (1996).

*Zunino is six total bases away from entering the top-10 list for the second year in a row. Last season, he totaled 178 bases, which ranks fourth all-time in school history for a single season.

*Zunino has nine sacrifice flies on the season, tying the single-season school record. Nolan Fontana had nine in 2011, while Mark Kiger (2000) and Brad Wilkerson (1997) also had seasons with nine sac flies.

*Junior Steven Rodriguez has 32 appearances on the season, three shy of the top-10 list. Josh Edmondson (2006), Connor Falkenbach (2004) and Danny Wheeler (1994) are currently tied for ninth with 35 appearances in a season.

*Larson currently has an ERA of 1.31, which would rank seventh in school history for a single season. Glen Pickren finished with a 1.29 ERA in 1968 and ranks sixth. Larson’s ERA is currently the lowest for a single season since Wayne Rogers had a 0.91 ERA in 1968.

*Larson has held opponents to a .195 batting average, a total that would rank sixth in school history for a season.

*Preston Tucker has risen to the top of nearly all offensive categories in his career at Florida. He currently ranks first in the Florida record book for games played (261), games started (255), at bats (1,020), hits (335), doubles (69) and RBI (254). He is the first player in school history to have over 1,000 at bats in his career. In addition, Tucker currently ranks second in career home runs (56), sixth in runs scored (206) and ninth in walks (123).

*Senior Daniel Pigott has broken into the top 10 in several offensive categories in the Gators’ record book. For his career, he ranks tied for sixth in games played (239) and ninth in games started (203), doubles (50) and hit by pitch (24).

*Zunino, in just three years on campus, ranks fourth in career doubles (57) and career home runs (46) and he ranks seventh in career RBI (168).

*Junior Nolan Fontana currently ranks fourth all-time in career walks (151) and is tied for 10th in career triples (8).

*Junior Hudson Randall has made 14 starts this season, upping his career total to 50 games started, the second-most in school history. Brian Johnson has 45 career starts, sixth-most in school history.

*Randall’s 27 career wins place him third on Florida’s chart, trailing only Marc Valdes (31, 1991-93) and Rob Bonanno (28, 1991-94).

*Over his last three starts, Johnson has defeated Auburn (7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER), South Carolina (9.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 5 K, 0 BB) and Georgia Tech (5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 4 K, 0 BB) and boasts a 1.29 ERA in that span, with 16 strikeouts and two walks.

*Freshman Casey Turgeon is batting .452 (14-for-31) during his career-long nine-game hitting streak with 11 RBI and seven runs.

 

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