Forced into an elimination game when the Georgia Bulldogs (31-30) beat them earlier in the afternoon, No. 3 Florida Gators baseball (44-16) scored a run in the top of the ninth to break a tie and advance to the finals of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament with a 3-2 win Saturday evening at Regions Park.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson got the start for Florida but gave up a run each in the bottom of the first and second. The Gators knotted the game at 2-2 just one inning later, when sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana hit his fourth home run of the year with junior left fielder Daniel Pigott on second base.
Whitson was pulled after 5.1 innings but Florida held Georgia scoreless for the duration of the contest. The Gators took advantage of a base runner to start the top of the ninth when redshirt sophomore designated hitter/first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1-4, R) doubled to right center. He advanced to third on Pigott’s (0-1, R, 2 BB, 2 SB) sacrifice bunt and scored two batters later when Fontana (1-5, HR, 3 RBI, R, SB) reached on a fielder’s choice to second base.
Sophomore RHP Austin Maddox was called on to pitch the bottom of the ninth; he allowed one hit but struck out two to earn his fifth save of the season, giving junior RHP Tommy Toledo (4-3) the victory.
With the victory, Florida will take on No. 4 Vanderbilt (47-9) on Sunday at 2 p.m. for the title. The Gators return to the SEC Tournament Championship for the first time since 2000 and have not won since 1991.
Junior RHP Alex Panteliodis (4-2, 4.65 ERA) will take the mound and match up against Vanderbilt’s Taylor Hill (4-0, 3.16 ERA). Florida was 2-1 in a regular season road series at Vanderbilt May 13-15, defeating them 6-5 and 6-3(12) but falling 14-1 in between.