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Thursday February 21, 2013No. 13 Florida Meets FGCU In Weekend Series At McKethan Stadium

Gainesville, Fla.

After splitting a pair of mid-week games, winning at UCF on Tuesday (5-3) and losing at home in 12 innings to Georgia Southern on Wednesday (8-7), No. 13 Florida (3-2) hosts Atlantic Sun favorite FGCU (2-1) in a weekend set at McKethan Stadium. Game times will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, 4 p.m. on Saturday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. The Eagles claimed two of three games to start the season last weekend in Sarasota, Fla., blanking St. John’s twice (6-0, 4-0) and falling to Notre Dame in 10 innings (6-5).

 

All three games between the Gators and Eagles will be available on GatorVision and Sunday’s finale will be carried on FOX Sports Florida with Nick Belmonte and Mick Hubert. Jeff Cardozo and Steve Russell will call the action for the Gator IMG Sports Network, live audio and stats will be available on GatorZone.com and fans can also follow updates of each game on @GatorZoneBB, the official Twitter account of the Gator baseball team.

 

In a meeting of highly-touted junior right-handers to begin the series, Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) 0-0, 4.91) will face FGCU’s Ricky Knapp (1-0, 1.00). Crawford gave up three hits and two runs, with four strikeouts and a walk over 3.2 innings last Friday against Duke but was not involved in the decision. Knapp hurled six scoreless frames and totaled five K to collect the season-opening victory over St. John’s.

 

Right-hander Tucker Simpson (Oxford, Ala.) will oppose Eagle junior LHP Brandon Bixler (0-0, 0.00) in game two of the series. Simpson made his collegiate debut last Saturday by working the first four innings against Duke (2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K). He became the first Gator freshman pitcher to start on an opening weekend since Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) tossed five scoreless frames and registered nine strikeouts during Florida’s 5-0 shutout of USF on Feb. 20, 2011, that completed a sweep of the Bulls.

 

Florida will send freshman RHP Eric Hanhold (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (0-0, 6.75) to the mound for Sunday’s series finale against FGCU freshman RHP Michael Murray (1-0, 0.00). Hanhold debuted with two strikeouts in retiring the side to finish last weekend’s series against Duke and worked 1/3 of an inning on Wednesday versus Georgia Southern (2 H, 3 R, 1 ER).

 

With Simpson going on Saturday and Hanhold getting the nod on Sunday, this weekend will mark the earliest that the Gators have used 2 freshmen in their weekend rotation since March 19-21, 2010, when LHP Brian Johnson (Saturday) and RHP Hudson Randall (Sunday) faced Mississippi State.

 

 

Quick Hits About the Gators

·         Florida saw its three-game winning streak end with an 8-7 defeat to Georgia Southern in 12 innings on Wednesday night.

·         The Gators had trailed the Eagles by a 6-1 margin before tying the game with a five-run fifth inning and seizing a 7-6 advantage in the sixth inning. However, GSU used a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the ninth and a bases-loaded walk in the 12th to leave Gainesville with the victory.

·         The contest was Florida’s first in extra innings since downing NC State, 9-8 in 10 innings, in Game 2 of the 2012 NCAA Gainesville Super Regional to punch its ticket to Omaha.

·         The series with FGCU triggers a stretch of nine-consecutive games versus a Sunshine State foe, as the Gators will host North Florida next Tuesday and then Miami for three games before a home-and-home set with Jacksonville on March 5 & 6.

·         Sophomore 2B Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) is the lone Gator with at least one hit in every game this season; he is 6-for-20 (.300) with 6 RBI, 5 runs and 3 walks, drove in a season-high 3 runs and was 2-for-5 against Georgia Southern.

·         Freshman LHP Parker Danciu (Delray Beach, Fla.) has picked up two of Florida’s three wins out of the bullpen. He scattered five hits and allowed two runs over 3.1 innings at UCF after taking over for junior RHP Keenan Kish (Worcester, Pa.), who made his collegiate starting debut and threw two scoreless frames.

·         Sophomore RHP Johnny Magliozzi (East Milton, Mass.), who converted his first two save opportunities, had retired the first 12 batters he has faced this season before yielding a one-out single in the ninth to Georgia Southern. After his team-leading sixth strikeout for the second out, the Eagles stole second and then knotted the game on a base-hit through the left side.

·         After leading the nation with 75 dingers last spring, the Orange and Blue has six big flies in its first five games and has homered in the last four games.

·         Junior OF/RHP Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) clubbed a three-run blast, the first jack of his career, to even the score Wednesday night. The Gators’ starting pitcher, he set career bests for innings pitched (4.0) and strikeouts (4) and was 1-for-4 with a pair of intentional walks in extra innings.

·         Florida is seeking its first error-free game, as it has committed 15 errors through five games for a .932 fielding percentage. The six errors in the setback to Georgia Southern was the squad’s most since six in a 10-4 loss to Arkansas on April 13, 2008.

·         Sophomore RHP Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.) has four relief appearances to lead a bullpen that is 3-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 31.2 innings, with 22 strikeouts and eight walks, while limiting opponents to a .214 batting average.

·         Florida has used 14 pitchers already this season, half of which are freshmen (six true, one redshirt).

·         The Gators have not dropped a home weekend series to a non-conference foe since the 2009 Gainesville Super Regional (Southern Miss).

 

Series Nuggets

The Gators have captured 6 of the 7 meetings with FGCU, including a three-game weekend sweep from March 9-11, 2012. Kevin O’Sullivan is 6-1 (.857) against the Eagles, 5-1 (.833) in Gainesville and 1-0 (1.000) at a neutral site in Fort Myers. The teams will meet again on April 16 at Hammond Stadium.

 

Last March, Florida posted three wins over FGCU by scores of 4-2, 8-3 and 3-2 at McKethan Stadium. UF limited the Eagles to a .188 batting average over the weekend and its bullpen threw eight scoreless frames. UF’s pitching staff had 27 strikeouts and one walk in 27 innings of work versus FGCU.

 

Offensively, the Gators were led by Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) (.375), Mike Zunino (.333) and Nolan Fontana (.300) despite the team hitting .209 (18-for-86). On Sunday, UF was hitless for the first 4.1 innings before Gushue (2-for-3) doubled with one down in the fifth and Turgeon connected on a two-run shot to give the hosts a 2-1 lead. Gushue finalized the 3-2 margin with his fourth dinger on a 1-2 count in the seventh. Crawford went a then-career-high 5.2 innings (5 H, 2 R, 3 K, 1 BB) but was not involved the decision. Lefty Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) (1-0) did not allow any hits or runs over a career-high 2.1 innings, with a career-high four strikeouts, and Austin Maddox worked a 1-2-3 ninth to nail down his fifth save in as many chances to equal his total from 2011.

 

UF scored four runs in the first inning and Johnson (2-0) had a season-high six strikeouts over six innings in a series-clinching 8-3 victory over FGCU on Saturday. Zunino (2-for-5) had a two-run single and Fontana (2-for-3) had a two-run homer in the win.

 

Zunino (2-for-4) had a game-tying homer in the sixth and delivered a two-run shot with two outs in the eighth to help Florida take the opener, 4-2. It was Zunino’s third multiple-homer outing of the season. After Randall went a then-season-high 7.1 innings, Steven Rodriguez (3-0) entered the game with an Eagle runner aboard with one down in the eighth and Zunino gunned down a runner attempting to steal second with a perfect strike to Turgeon and Rodriguez had a strikeout. Maddox kept the Eagles off the board with three K in the ninth around a single.

 

Powers’ Sibling Rivalry

Gator redshirt sophomore Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) has an older sister, Stephanie, who was the starting goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team at FGCU. She graduated as the program’s all-time leader in saves (261), save percentage (.835), goals against average (0.71), wins (42) and shutouts (31).

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