2011 College World Series Championship Series: No. 2 Florida vs. No. 4 South Carolina – Game 1

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – College World Series
Location: TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 24,505]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN / ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (4) SO. CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Ray Tanner
Record: 53-17 Record: 53-14
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida: Sophomore RHP Hudson Randall (11-3, 2.24 ERA)
South Carolina: Freshman RHP Forrest Koumas (6-1, 3.07 ERA)

HOME TEAMS

Game 1: Florida | Game 2: South Carolina | Game 3: South Carolina

HISTORY and STREAKS

» South Carolina is 2-1 against Florida in 2011 and 38-29 all-time. USC is also 4-1 all-time against UF in games played at neutral sites.
» The Gamecocks are the defending CWS champions after capturing the title in 2010. The Gators have never won a national title in baseball and are participating in the final series for the second time in school history (2005).
» With a series victory, Florida would be the first team in SEC history to win national championships in football, basketball and baseball. Only two other FBS schools have done so, both in the Big Ten (Michigan, Ohio State).
» South Carolina has won 14-straight NCAA Tournament games dating back to 2010.
» UF and USC are both 3-0 in the CWS thus far.
» The Gators recently set the school’s single-season wins record (53).
» Florida is 8-1 in NCAA action this year with their sole loss coming on a walk-off by Mississippi State in the Super Regionals.
» The Gators have won 13 of 15 weekend series played this season with one of their two losses coming to the Gamecocks. Florida has captured 27 consecutive series when winning the opening game.
» UF is 39-7 this year when scoring first and 43-3 when outhitting their opponent. The Gators are also 35-6 when hitting a home run and 22-5 when playing error-free.
» The Gators have scored 209 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Florida is 28-0 when holding opponents to two or fewer runs and 37-1 when allowing three runs or less. The Gators are 8-15 when scoring less than three runs and 2-13 when trailing after seven innings.
» UF is 45-2 when scoring 4+ runs and 46-0 when leading after seven innings.
» Florida and South Carolina are the only two teams to play in the final CWS held at Rosenblatt Stadium and compete in the first one at TD Ameritrade Park.
» The Gators are in the CWS in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
» Florida and South Carolina boast different strengths. The Gators lead the Gamecocks in batting average (.309-.295), runs scored (452-412), hits (741-664), home runs (68-45), RBI (418-375), slugging percentage (.465-.430), stolen bases (56-40) and fielding percentage (.975-.974). However, USC holds advantages over UF in walks (283-241), ERA (2.49-2.97) and batting average against (.227-.243).

INJURY REPORT

Sophomore 1B/RHP Austin Maddox (foot) – Able to pitch; hitting to be determined
Sophomore DH/LHP Brian Johnson (head) – Able to hit; pitching to be determined
South Carolina 1B Christian Walker (wrist) – Questionable

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.366), hits (94), homers (18), runs (73), slugging (.661)…and strikeouts (51). He also has 66 RBI on the season.
» Junior first baseman/right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 74 RBI on the season. Tucker is hitting .313 with 55 runs, 15 homers and 27 walks.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…the strongest fielder on the team who recently overcame an 0/17 slump. Fontana, as the team’s leadoff hitter, is hitting .296 with 57 runs, 49 RBI and a team-high 52 walks. He had at one point hit safely in 21-straight games.
» Maddox…who has made 20 relief appearances (26.0 innings) and has compiled a 0.69 ERA with 21 strikeouts and only three walks. He is also the team’s starting first baseman when healthy and is hitting .280 with six homers and 35 RBI.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde (0-0, 1.93 ERA)…who has made a team-high 35 appearances this season and earned two saves in 42 innings pitched. He has amassed 54 strikeouts against only nine walks this season. Just seven of the 26 hits he has allowed over the course of the year have gone for extra bases.
» Senior center fielder Bryson Smith…who leads the Gators with a .472 (17-for-36) average in NCAA play and is currently riding a career-high 13-game hitting streak. Smith is batting .325 with 40 runs, two homers, 22 RBI and 16 walks this season.
» Junior outfielder Daniel Pigott…who is hitting .412 with 10 RBI, 10 runs and a pair of walks in NCAA competition. Pigott is batting nearly 70 points higher than his season average when it matters the most.
» Walker…who is hitting .355 with 10 homers and 62 RBI this season for South Carolina. He has been the team’s best hitter all season.
» Gamecocks catcher Brady Thomas…who had a stellar 2010 CWS and is batting .314 with 70 hits, 42 RBI and 23 walks this year.
» South Carolina closer Matt Price…who has 18 saves on the season with a 1.91 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 56.2 innings. Price threw during an incredibly long outing on Friday, tossing 95 pitches in 5.2 innings.
 

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Gators fight to top Commodores 6-4, advance to College World Series Championship Series

The No. 2 Florida Gators and No. 6 Vanderbilt Commodores were evenly matched all season long. Though Florida held the head-to-head wins advantage, Vanderbilt made them fight for each of them and did the same on Friday, turning a 4-1 deficit into a 4-4 tie before the Gators (53-17) pulled away from the Commodores (54-12) and advanced to the 2011 College World Series Championship Series with a 6-4 victory after more than three hours at TD Ameritrade Park.

Florida beat Vanderbilt five of the six times that the two (of three) Southeastern Conference champions squared off in 2011 including twice in the CWS and thrice overall during the postseason. The Gators advanced to the school’s second-ever championship series, having last played for the national title in 2005.

After getting the first two outs of the game, Florida junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis allowed Vanderbilt first baseman Aaron Westlake to power a homer to right to put the Commodores ahead a run early in the game.

The Gators stranded two in the bottom of the second, and VU did the same in the top of the third, helping Panteliodis get out of a jam. UF freshman third baseman Cody Dent helped take some weight off his shoulders in the bottom of the inning, smacking a lead-off, stand-up triple to right-center.

Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana walked to put runners on the corners, and junior 1B Preston Tucker dribbled a ball down the first base line to score Dent from third even though he was tagged out.

Florida took the lead in the bottom of the fourth with a small rally. Senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-3, R, BB) and junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-4, R) hit one-out singles to left, and Dent was walked to load the bases. Fontana, stuck in a 0-17 hitting slide, hopped the ball up the middle to score two, giving the Gators a 3-1 lead.

Sophomore right fielder Daniel Pigott kept the momentum going in the sixth, starting the inning off for Florida with a double. The bases were then loaded with no outs after Dent was walked and Fontana had a bunt bobbled; a subsequent 6-4-3 double play scored Pigott from third and put the Gators up 4-1 through six.

Before the seventh could begin, Panteliodis (6.0 IP, ER, 3 H, HBP, 3 K) was replaced by junior right-handed pitcher Tommy Toledo. Panteliodis concluded his outing by retiring the last eight batters he faced and 11 of the final 12 Commodores who stepped to the plate. He also had three 1-2-3 innings on the afternoon including the fifth and sixth.

Toledo (0.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H) stepped in and allowed one-out and two-out singles to put runners on the corners before a single to left reduced Vanderbilt’s deficit to 4-2. With two down and runners on first and second, he was replaced by junior LHP Nick Maronde, who walked consecutive batters to load the bases and let another run cross the plate. Stuck in a pickle with the bases loaded, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan went to the bullpen again and brought out junior RHP Greg Larson, who immediately forced a fly out to right to end the inning.

Florida went down in order in the bottom of the inning, and O’Sullivan went to the bullpen again, bringing in sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez. After striking out Westlake, Rodriguez gave up a single to center and a chopper up the middle to put the tying run on second and the potential winning run on first.

Trying to stop the bleeding, O’Sullivan made yet another pitching change and called upon sophomore RHP Austin Maddox, who had not pitched since May 29 after injuring his foot. Commodores third baseman Jason Esposito legged out an infield single to short to load the bases, and Maddox hit the following batter on the foot to keep the bases loaded and tie the game up 4-4.

Fontana saved more runs from scoring by diving to his left to grab a liner for the second out of the inning, and a ground out just one batter later stopped the bleeding.

The Gators got things going again in the eighth. Pigott (2-4, 2 R) led off with a single, and Florida loaded the bases on picture perfect bunts from Dent and Fontana (2-3, 2 RBI, BB) – both down the third-base line. At that point, Vanderbilt decided to pull starter Sonny Gray (12-4, 7.0 IP, 5 ER, 12 H, 5 BB, 8 K) and dip into their bullpen.

Senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-5) popped out, but Tucker (1-5, 2 RBI) followed by hitting a floater to deep left, scoring one and keeping the bases loaded. The next batter, sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-5), went down on strikes, but a wild pitch strike three allowed Dent (2-2, 2 R, 2 BB) to steal home, giving the Gators a 6-4 lead and continuing the inning.

Maddox returned for the final three outs of the ballgame and got the first two batters out before allowing Westlake to double to right-center, putting the game-tying run at the plate. However, just a few pitches and a fly out later, Maddox (3-0, 1.2 IP, 2 H) clinched the championship series berth for Florida.

UF will face either No. 1 Virginia or No. 4 South Carolina in the College World Series Championship Series beginning Monday at 8 p.m. Game two is set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. and game three (if necessary) for Wednesday at 8 p.m. All three contests will air live on ESPN and ESPN3.com with full coverage here on OGGOA.

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2011 College World Series: Florida vs. Vanderbilt II

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – College World Series
Location: TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 24,505]
Time: 2:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN / ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (6) VANDY COMMODORES
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Tim Corbin
Record: 52-17 Record: 54-11
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida: Junior LHP Alex Panteliodis (6-2, 3.95 ERA)
Vanderbilt: Junior RHP Sonny Gray (12-3, 2.12 ERA)

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 4-1 against Vanderbilt in 2011 including 2-1 on the road and 2-0 at neutral sites. UF is 124-63-1 in the all-time series between the two teams.
» The Gators recently the school’s single-season wins record (52).
» Florida is 39-7 this year when scoring first and 42-3 when outhitting their opponent. The Gators are also 35-6 when hitting a home run and 21-5 when playing error-free.
» UF has scored 207 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Florida is 28-0 when holding opponents to two or fewer runs and 37-1 when allowing three runs or less. The Gators are 7-15 when scoring less than three runs and 2-13 when trailing after seven innings.
» The Gators are 44-2 when scoring four runs or more and 45-0 when leading after seven full innings.
» Florida is making its seventh appearance in the CWS and third since 2005. UF has never won a national championship in the sport of baseball.
» The Gators are one of two teams (South Carolina) to play in the final CWS held at Rosenblatt Stadium and compete in the first one at TD Ameritrade Park.
» UF is in the CWS in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
» Vanderbilt finished the regular season tied with Florida atop the SEC East with a 22-8 conference record. UF topped VU in the SEC Tournament.
» The Commodores are making their first-ever appearance in the CWS.
» Florida and Vanderbilt boast different strengths. The Gators lead the Commodores in hits (728-704), home runs (68-50), RBI (414-409) and slugging percentage (.465-.453). However, VU holds advantages in the majority of categories including batting average (.315-.308), runs scored (455-446), stolen bases (80-56), walks (194-123), ERA (2.38-2.95), strikeouts (557-525) and batting average against (.215-.242).
» For the first time in CWS history, three teams from the same conference (and same division) are among the final four to play for the title.

INJURY REPORT

Sophomore 1B/RHP Austin Maddox (foot) – Able to pitch; hitting to be determined

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.369), hits (93), homers (18), runs (73), slugging (.671)…and strikeouts (49). He also has 66 RBI on the season.
» Junior right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 72 RBI on the season. Tucker is hitting .315 with 86 hits, 55 runs, 15 homers and 27 walks.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…the strongest fielder on the team who has also broke out offensively. Fontana, as the team’s leadoff hitter, is hitting .291 with 72 hits, 57 runs, 47 RBI and a team-high 51 walks. He had hit safely in 21-straight games.
» Maddox…who has made 19 relief appearances (24.1 innings) and has compiled a 0.74 ERA with 21 strikeouts and only three walks. He is also the team’s starting first baseman when healthy and is hitting .380 with six homers and 35 RBI.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde (0-0, 1.93 ERA)…who has made a team-high 34 appearances this season and earned two saves in 42 innings pitched. He has amassed 54 strikeouts against only seven walks this season. Just seven of the 26 hits he has allowed over the course of the year have gone for extra bases.
» Senior center fielder Bryson Smith…who leads the Gators with a .516 (16-for-31) average in NCAA play and is currently riding a career-high 12-game hitting streak. Smith is batting .329 with 53 hits, 40 runs, two homers, 22 RBI and 16 walks this season.
» Vanderbilt junior 1B Aaron Westlake…who leads his team’s power surge with 17 homers this year. He is also hitting .343 with 55 RBI, 58 runs scored and has team-highs in walks (47) and slugging percentage (.629).
» Commodores junior third baseman Jason Esposito…who is batting .341 and is just as dynamic offensively as his teammate with nine homers, 55 runs scored, 15 stolen bases and a team-high 59 RBI.
» VU closer Navery Moore (4-2, 1.21 ERA)…who has made 28 appearances this season and amassed 11 saves via 25 strikeouts in 29.2 innings.

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FOUR BITS: Jenkins, MLB, basketball, CWS

1 » Former Florida Gators cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was kicked off the team by head coach Will Muschamp following multiple brushes with the law, has officially signed a scholarship with the North Alabama Lions, where he will play under head coach Terry Bowden. “I talked to everybody that I could possibly talk to at Florida, who had a relationship with him,” Bowden told ESPN.com. “From Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp to Jeremy Foley, they all said he is a guy who made a mistake. But it does not represent his character or his time at Florida. They all thought he deserved a second chance.” North Alabama actually represents Jenkins’s fourth chance.

2 » A pair of former Florida baseball players are in the process of being removed from the disabled list by their respective MLB teams. Oakland Athletics second baseman Mark Ellis (hamstring) came off the 15-day list Wednesday and will continue to serve as a utility player with the squad. Texas Rangers relief pitcher Darren O’Day (hip) has been out much longer after having surgery in late April. He was placed on the 60-day list and will likely rejoin Texas on Tuesday.

3 » With the NCAA recently coming down hard on the Kentucky Wildcats for celebrating head coach John Calipari’s “500th” victory, the Gators have decided to adjust their men’s basketball record books due to sanctions levied against the team for the actions of former head coach Norm Sloan. “According to the NCAA infractions report, Sloan paid child support to keep one of his players out of jail and paid transportation from Gainesville to Boston to allow one of his players to work as a counselor at a summer basketball basketball camp,” The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway explains. The player in question is presumed to be Vernon Maxwell, who has his final two seasons with the team erased from the media guide. Florida has placed asterisks next to NCAA Tournament games and adjusted their books .

4 » Already 4-1 against the No. 6-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores this season (2-1 on the road, 2-0 at neutral sites), No. 2 Gators baseball will once again take on their Southeastern Conference East division rivals in the semifinals of the 2011 College World Series on Friday at 2 p.m. Florida (52-17) is one win away from advancing to the Championship Series, while Vanderbilt (54-11) would need to defeat UF twice in order to move forward. OGGOA will have complete coverage of the upcoming CWS game, including a full preview, throughout the day on Friday.

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In all kinds of weather, Florida storms past Vanderbilt for 3-1 College World Series win

It may have taken two days to complete, but No. 2 Florida Gators baseball returned after a 14-hour weather delay to run through the No. 6 Vanderbilt Commodores 3-1 in the winner’s bracket of the 2011 College World Series on Tuesday.

Restarting the contest in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE, Florida (52-17) and Vanderbilt (53-11) combined to retire 19 of the 20 batters who stepped to the plate. Each team walked one but did not allow a single hit in the final 3.1 innings of the contest.

The Gators now hold a 4-1 record against the Commodores this season and are 2-0 when taking on their Southeastern Conference East division rivals in postseason play.

Vanderbilt squandered two opportunities early in the game, stranding a runner 90 feet from home plate in both the first and third inning.

Florida, on the other hand, took advantage of their first real chance to score. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-3, R, BB) earned a one-out walk in the top of the fourth and moved over to third after sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-4, R) legged out an infield single and Commodores starter Grayson Garvin committed a throwing error.

Working his way to a 2-1 count, junior right fielder/first baseman Preston Tucker (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) powered a three-run bomb to right to give the Gators a 3-0 lead.

VU would not make the same mistake a third time and finally got the best of Florida freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson. After allowing only two hits through the first four innings of the game, Whitson gave up pair of singles and a walk in the bottom of the fifth, letting Vanderbilt plate their first runner of the game. The Commodores would not continue the rally, however, as Whitson (4.2 IP, ER, 4 H, BB, 5 K) was pulled for sophomore left-hander Steven Rodriguez, who struck out 1B Aaron Westlake to end the inning.

Rodriguez kept on rolling in the sixth, but high wind warnings and severe weather delayed the game for nearly three hours with the Gators looking to get the final out of the inning. Action would never resume Monday evening as the NCAA called the contest for the night around 11:30 p.m., but Rodriguez returned to the mound Tuesday at 11:06 a.m. and struck out the final batter to move the game into the seventh.

Vanderbilt replaced Garvin (13-2, 6 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, BB, 9 K) with Will Clinard when play resumed Tuesday, and he followed the game’s trend by also being dominant on the hill and holding Florida scoreless for the duration.

However, it was Rodriguez (4-2) who stole the show, retiring 13 of the 14 batters he faced with a career-high seven strikeouts in 4.1 innings.

Tucker’s 23rd double of the year in the sixth set a new single-season UF record, and Rodriguez’s 4.1 innings pitched was a career-high. The Gators also set a new single-season wins record with their 52nd victory of the year on Tuesday.

Florida will move on in the winner’s bracket and play their next game Friday at 2 p.m. against either Vanderbilt or North Carolina; those two teams will square-off Wednesday at 7 p.m. in an elimination game. The Gators need one more victory to advance to the CWS Championship Series for the first time since 2005.

POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE AUDIO
Courtesy of Heath Cline (@heathradio)

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Weather forces Florida vs. Vandy postponement

Nearly six full innings into the winner’s bracket match-up between the No. 2 Florida Gators and No. 6 Vanderbilt Commodores, severe weather forced a stoppage and ultimately a postponement play at the 2011 College World Series. High wind warnings sounded and were heard throughout TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE with one out in the bottom of the sixth, and the players were ordered off the field one out later after NCAA officials consulted about the weather conditions.

The contest is set to resume at 11 a.m. (ET) on Tuesday with the winner one victory away from the Championship Series and the loser one defeat away from elimination.

Vanderbilt squandered two opportunities early in the game, stranding a runner 90 feet from home plate in both the first and third inning.

Florida, on the other hand, took advantage of their first real chance to score. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana earned a one-out walk in the top of the fourth and moved over to third after sophomore catcher Mike Zunino legged out an infield single and Commodores starter Grayson Garvin committed a throwing error.

Working his way to a 2-1 count, junior right fielder Preston Tucker powered a three-run bomb to right to give the Gators a 3-0 lead.

VU would not make the same mistake a third time and finally got the best of Florida freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson. After allowing only two hits through the first four innings of the game, Whitson gave up pair of singles and a walk in the bottom of the fifth, letting Vanderbilt plate their first runner of the game. The Commodores would not continue the rally, however, as Whitson was pulled for sophomore left-hander Steven Rodriguez, who struck out first baseman Aaron Westlake to end the inning.

Rodriguez kept on rolling in the sixth, but high wind warnings and severe weather delayed the game for nearly three hours with the Gators looking to get the final out of the inning. Action would never resume as the NCAA called the contest for the night around 11:30 p.m. (ET), setting the stage for the final 3.1 innings to be played on Tuesday.

OGGOA will continue our coverage of the Florida-Vanderbilt contest early in the afternoon. The remainder of the game will air live on ESPN and ESPN3.com.

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2011 College World Series: Florida vs. Vanderbilt

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – College World Series
Location: TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 24,505]
Time: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2 / ESPN2HD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (6) VANDY COMMODORES
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Tim Corbin
Record: 51-17 Record: 53-10
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida: Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.45 ERA)
Vanderbilt: Junior RHP Grayson Garvin (13-1, 2.36 ERA)

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 3-1 against Vanderbilt in 2011 including 2-1 on the road and 1-0 in the SEC Tournament. UF is 123-63-1 in the all-time series between the two teams.
» One more victory will give the Gators the school record for most in a season.
» Florida is 38-7 this year when scoring first and 41-3 when outhitting their opponent. The Gators are also 34-6 when hitting a home run and 21-5 when playing error-free.
» UF has scored 205 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Florida is 27-0 when holding opponents to two or fewer runs and 36-1 when allowing three runs or less. The Gators are 7-15 when scoring less than three runs and 2-13 when trailing after seven innings.
» The Gators are 44-2 when scoring four runs or more and 44-0 when leading after seven full innings.
» Florida is making its seventh appearance in the CWS and third since 2005. UF has never won a national championship in the sport of baseball.
» The Gators are one of two teams (South Carolina) to play in the final CWS held at Rosenblatt Stadium and compete in the first one at TD Ameritrade Park.
» UF is in the CWS in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
» Vanderbilt finished the regular season tied with Florida atop the SEC East with a 22-8 conference record. UF topped VU in the SEC Tournament.
» The Commodores are making their first-ever appearance in the CWS.
» Florida and Vanderbilt boast different strengths. The Gators lead the Commodores in hits (723-692), home runs (67-48), RBI (411-403) and slugging percentage (.467-.455). However, VU holds advantages in the majority of categories including batting average (.318-.310), runs scored (449-443), stolen bases (79-56), walks (253-234), ERA (2.39-2.98), strikeouts (541-513) and batting average against (.217-.244).

INJURY REPORT

Sophomore 1B/RHP Austin Maddox (foot) – Able to pitch; hitting to be determined

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.371), hits (92), homers (18), runs (72), slugging (.677)…and strikeouts (49). He also has 66 RBI on the season.
» Junior right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 69 RBI on the season. Tucker is hitting .312 with 84 hits, 54 runs, 14 homers and 27 walks.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…the strongest fielder on the team who has also broke out offensively. Fontana, as the team’s leadoff hitter, is hitting .295 with 72 hits, 56 runs, 47 RBI and a team-high 50 walks. He had hit safely in 21-straight games.
» Maddox…who has made 19 relief appearances (24.1 innings) and has compiled a 0.74 ERA with 21 strikeouts and only three walks. He is also the team’s starting first baseman when healthy and is hitting .380 with six homers and 35 RBI.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde (0-0, 1.93 ERA)…who has made a team-high 34 appearances this season and earned two saves in 42 innings pitched. He has amassed 54 strikeouts against only seven walks this season. Just seven of the 26 hits he has allowed over the course of the year have gone for extra bases.
» Senior center fielder Bryson Smith…who leads the Gators with a .556 (15-for-27) average in NCAA play and is currently riding a career-high 11-game hitting streak. Smith is batting .331 with 52 hits, 40 runs, two homers, 22 RBI and 16 walks this season.
» Vanderbilt junior 1B Aaron Westlake…who leads his team’s power surge with 17 homers this year. He is also hitting .349 with 55 RBI, 58 runs scored and has team-highs in walks (47) and slugging percentage (.643).
» Commodores junior third baseman Jason Esposito…who is batting .350 and is just as dynamic offensively as his teammate with nine homers, 55 runs scored, 15 stolen bases and a team-high 59 RBI.
» VU closer Navery Moore (4-2, 1.21 ERA)…who has made 28 appearances this season and amassed 11 saves via 25 strikeouts in 29.2 innings.

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Gators open CWS by defeating Longhorns 8-4

Though power has been their trademark all season long, the No. 2 Florida Gators beat the No. 7 Texas Longhorns at their own game Saturday, using a combination of strong pitching and clutch hitting to win the second game ever played at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE. The Gators (51-17) came back from a three-run deficit to beat the Longhorns (49-18) 8-4 and advance to the winner’s bracket of the 2011 College World Series.

Texas took advantage of consecutive errors by Florida to get on the board first in the third inning. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana and junior first baseman Preston Tucker allowed the first two batters on after bobbling easy outs, and the Longhorns utilized a RBI single and two sacrifice flies to score a trio of unearned runs and take an early 3-0 lead.

The Gators got a similar opportunity in the bottom frame, starting off with consecutive walks. A single to right by senior center fielder Bryson Smith and a passed ball with Tucker at the plate scored freshman third baseman Cody Dent and Fontana (0-5, R), respectively, reducing UT’s advantage to a single run.

Drawing a two-out walk one inning later, sophomore left fielder Tyler Thompson moved to second on a wild pitch and scored as junior right fielder Daniel Pigott hit a double to deep right. Pigott (2-3, RBI, R, BB) was rewarded by Dent (1-3, RBI, R, BB), who smacked another two-out double down the left field line to put Florida ahead 4-3.

Smith again got things rolling for the Gators in the fifth, taking first base after getting hit by a pitch. Tucker powered a gapper to deep right-center to plate him and give his team a 5-3 lead, but not before forcing Texas starter Taylor Jungmann into his shortest outing of the season. Jungmann (13-3) left after allowing five runs (four earned) on three hits with four walks, a hit batter and a pair of wild pitches while striking out three.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (11-3), who started on the hill for Florida, was terrific throughout the evening, tossing four 1-2-3 innings (including three in a row) and retiring 13 consecutive batters at one point. He was pulled after allowing a RBI double to left in the seventh, finishing the contest having given up four runs (one earned) on five hits with five strikeouts and no walks in 6.2 innings.

The Gators answered the Longhorns immediately in the seventh. Smith walked with one out and advanced to second after Tucker (1-4, RBI, R) ran through an infield single hit after the pitcher balked. With two outs, sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-4, 2 RBI) hit what should have been a three-run homer to right-center but was instead ruled a two-RBI double off the top of the wall due to the inability to utilize instant replay.

Florida would end up earning that run the next inning when, with runners on first and second, Smith (2-2, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 BB) hit a liner to center to score Thompson (1-3, 2 R, BB) and give the Gators an 8-4 lead.

Junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson struck out the only batter he faced in the seventh, and junior left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde came on to toss the final two innings of the contest, striking out three batters without allowing a single hit.

With the victory, Florida improves to 41-3 this season when out-hitting their opponent, 44-2 when scoring four or more runs and 44-0 when leading after seven innings. The Gators’ 51st victory of the year ties a single-season record.

UF will face No. 6 Vanderbilt (53-10) in the winner’s bracket on Monday at 7 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. Florida is 3-1 against their Southeastern Conference Eastern division rival in 2011 with all four games played away from home.

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