UF baseball, softball struggle in rough weekend

Both holding high national rankings going into the weekend, Florida Gators baseball and softball each faltered over a three-day stretch, combining to drop five of six games to a pair of top-tier Southeastern Conference opponents

OGGOA has compiled short summaries of each of the weekend contests below as well as information on what the two teams have ahead of them this week.

BASEBALL

Facing the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks (18-5, 4-2 SEC) at McKethan Stadium over the long weekend in Gainesville, FL, No. 1 Florida (21-4, 4-2 SEC) was topped 9-2 in Friday’s opener and edged 4-3 in the series finale on Sunday. In between, the Gators took a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (4-1) dropped his first decision, allowing six earned runs on eight hits and a pair of walks in 5.1 innings on Friday. He gave up four runs in the top of the third and was pulled in the top of the fifth before additional damage could be done. Florida was scoreless until the bottom of the ninth, when senior second baseman Josh Adams and junior pinch hitter Jeff Moyer knocked in runs.

The Gators were engaged in a pitching duel Saturday with sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (4-0) tossing the first complete game of his career as the team took a 2-1 decision. Randall struck out four and did not allow a single earned run in the outing. Forrest Koumas and Matt Price combined to give up only three hits and a single unearned run for the Gamecocks, striking out eight UF batters in the process. Sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R) crossed the plate twice for Florida, initially scoring after being hit by a pitch and sacrificed home by sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-3, RBI).

Florida did themselves in on Sunday, coughing up a 3-0 lead and eventually losing 4-3 due to miscues and poor pitching. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson got the start for the Gators and pitched well, striking out five and giving up an earned run on two hits and a pair of walks. Relievers junior Nick Maronde and sophomore Austin Maddox each gave up unearned runs in the sixth, and junior Tommy Toledo (2-2) allowed South Carolina to score the game-winner in the eighth. After allowing the lead-off batter to hit a double and hitting the next man with a pitch, Toledo threw an intentional walk to load the bases and walked in the winning run on a full count. Washington (1-3, RBI, R, BB), Adams (0-3, RBI) and freshman third baseman Zack Powers (1-3, RBI) all knocked in runs for Florida while sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (3-4, R) did the best he could.

SOFTBALL

Though they undoubtedly tried, softball performed even worse than baseball did over the weekend. The No. 2 Gators (30-4, 7-3 SEC) were swept at home at Pressly Softball Stadium by the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs (27-4, 8-3 SEC) and were outscored 28-13 over the three games. With star senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (bicep) on the bench since March 12, freshman RHP Hannah Rogers and sophomore RHP Ensley Gammel struggled against one of the best offenses in the nation.

Down 6-0 in the fifth on Friday, Florida exploded with a six-run frame including home runs from senior first baseman Megan Bush (2-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R), freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle (1-3, HR, RBI, R) and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, R). Bush homered again in the sixth to put the Gators ahead 7-6, but Gammel gave up two homers and four runs in the top of the seventh to blow the lead. She pitched a complete game but gave up 10 earned runs on 12 hits and nine walks in the outing.

Gammel (0-2) produced a similar performance just one day later, allowing 10 earned runs on seven hits and 10 walks in five innings. In addition to being down 6-5 through six, the Gators allowed seven runs in the top of the seventh to put the contest out of reach. Senior 2B Aja Paculba (2-4, HR, 2 RBI, R), Bruder (2-4, RBI, R), Bush (0-3, RBI) and sophomore C Brittany Schutte (1-3, RBI) all hocked in runs for Florida.

Rogers (16-2) tried her hand at the Bulldogs on Sunday but also failed in her efforts, tossing a complete game but giving up five earned runs on nine hits. Georgia led the entire way, outscoring UF 5-0 until Bush (1-3, HR, RBI, R) hit her third homer of the series in the bottom of the fifth.

The Gators will look to rebound from their disastrous weekend with a number of contests over the next week. Baseball will take on Florida State in a rubber match on Tuesday in Jacksonville, FL prior to taking on Tennessee in a three-game weekend series at home, while softball will face South Florida on Wednesday before heading to Lexington, KY for a three-game series against Kentucky over the weekend.

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Florida baseball walks off with 5-4 win over FSU

Rallying back from a four-run deficit surrendered back in the third inning, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (15-2) utilized a walk-off single by junior left fielder Daniel Pigott in extra innings to defeat the No. 4 Florida State Seminoles (15-2) 5-4 on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL and even the season series at 1-1.

With one out in the bottom of the 10th, sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4, R, 2 BB) smacked a triple to put the potential game-winning run in scoring position. Pigott (3-4, 4 RBI, 2 BB) followed by stepping up to the plate and hitting his career-high fourth RBI of the game to score Fontana and conclude Florida’s come-from-behind victory.

Scoreless through two, Gators junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis had a rough go of it in the top of the third. After the lead-off batter singled to center field, Seminoles right fielder James Ramsay homered to right to put Florida State up 2-0. When Panteliodis (2.1 IP, 3 ER, 3 K) gave up a double two batters later, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan replaced him with junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson, who promptly allowed SS Justin Gonzalez to hit FSU’s second two-run home run of the evening.

Florida cut the deficit to three runs by having a single batter cross home plate in the bottom of the inning. Senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-3, R) led off with a single to center and advanced around the bases on a pair of ground outs. Pigott hit a double to left center for his first RBI of the game to get the Gators on the board.

One inning later, sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-4, R, BB) smacked a ball up the middle before being driven home two batters later by junior center fielder Tyler Thompson (1-5, RBI). Florida left three on base in the fourth and stranded a total of five more batters over the next three innings.

Still down two in the bottom of the eighth, the Gators found the bases loaded on a pair of hits and a walk. Pigott came through in the clutch for the second time on the night, tying the game at four runs apiece by hitting a two-RBI single to center to score junior 2B Jeff Moyer (1-2, R) and sophomore pinch hitter Kamm Washington (1-1, R).

After Larson (3.2 IP, ER, 2 K) and junior LHP Nick Mardone (1.1 IP, 3 K) did most of the heavy lifting in relief, junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani (3-0) stepped in at the top of the ninth. He promptly retired FSU’s batters in order in each of the next two innings, paving the way for Pigott’s game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th.

The Seminoles utilized nine pitchers on the evening and attempted to disrupt any rhythm the Gators could get going by stalling on the mound.

Florida will conclude the week by opening up Southeastern Conference competition with a three-game series on the road in Baton Rouge, LA against No. 5 LSU (15-1). The trio of contests will be played on Friday (7 p.m. – ESPN3.com), Saturday (7:30 p.m. – FSF) and Sunday (1 p.m. – CST).

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TWO BITS: Baseball falls, tennis defeats FSU

1 » While Florida Gators fans in Gainesville, FL were busy cheering on the No. 14 basketball team to their first Southeastern Conference regular season title since 2007, those in Tampa, FL were in agony watching No. 5 Florida State Seminoles baseball (8-0) put together a five-run third inning and hold on to defeat No. 1 Florida (7-1) 5-3 on Tuesday. Taking part in the Florida Four event at George M. Steinbrenner Field, the two teams renewed their rivalry with FSU once again coming out on top. UF junior right-handed pitcher Tommy Toledo (0-1) was brushed off the mound quickly after giving up three earned runs on two hits and three walks in 2.1 innings. Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis came in to stop the bleeding with one out in the third but coughed up four hits and a walk to allow Florida State to complete their impressive rally.

The Gators added a single run in the bottom of the third as junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) singled home freshman third baseman Zack Powers (1-4, R) and posted two more in the sixth on a rally with a RBI each from sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-3, RBI, BB) and junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-4, RBI). Scott Sitz (2-0) earned the win for the Seminoles, and closer Mike McGee (S1) got the save.

2 » Earlier in the day, No. 1 Florida women’s tennis (11-1) spanked No. 22 Florida State 6-1 on the road at Scott Speicher Tennis Center in Tallahassee, FL. The No. 1 doubles pairing of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Alex Cercone led the way for the Gators with an 8-1 victory. Florida’s two other duos – No. 58 freshman Olivia Janowicz/junior Joanna Mather and No. 75 sophomores Lauren Embree/Caroline Hitimana were also victorious. No. 7 Will fell in singles competition, but No. 26 Embree, No. 35 Cercone, No. 34 Janowicz, No. 125 Hitimana and freshman Sofie Oyen all won their individual matches.

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TWO BITS: baseball and softball complete sweeps

1 » Simply put, the Boston College Eagles (2-4) were no match for No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (7-0). Already up two games, Florida completed the series sweep against Boston College with a 7-2 victory Sunday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (2-0) had another stellar outing as the team’s starter; he allowed one earned run and five hits but struck out five in 5.1 innings of work. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) led the Gators offensively with an outstanding performance including a two-run homer.

Florida started things off in the bottom of the second with a four-run rally that included RBI hits from sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-2, RBI, R), senior second baseman Josh Adams (0-3, RBI) and sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-3, 2 RBI, R), who drove in two on a one-out triple. The Gators added another run in the third when left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-3, RBI) singled to second base to score first baseman Brian Johnson (1-4, R), who tripled to center field with one out. After Whitson gave up his sole earned run in the sixth, Zunino added his two RBI in the eighth. The duo of juniors left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone and RHP Greg Larson got UF into the ninth, combining to strike out three in 2.2 innings. The Eagles had once last chance in the top of the ninth with sophomore third baseman/RHP Austin Maddox (2-4, R) on the mound; he surrendered one run before retiring the final two batters to end the inning.

2 » Playing all weekend at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, CA, No. 4/5 Florida softball (14-0) dominated their competition, winning a total of five games against Indiana, No. 11/12 Texas, San Diego State, No. 2/2 UCLA and the Utah Utes (5-10). The Gators took down the Utes 7-3 on Saturday to conclude the event behind 6.2 innings from ace senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher. Brombacher struggled with her command a bit, giving up six hits and four walks while only striking out three; the defense behind her was porous as well, committing two errors and allowing an unearned run. Junior CF Michelle Moultrie (3-3, 3 RBI, R) was clutch at the plate for Florida, as was 1B Megan Bush (1-2, HR, RBI, R, BB), who hit a solo shot in the fourth to tie the game at 1-1. Moultrie finished the event 10-17 with three triples, a double, nine RBI, five runs, three walks and 17 total bases. Senior 2B Aja Paculba (2-4, RBI) hit 9-18 with two doubles, four RBI and two walks at the event.

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FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (11-1, 5-1 SEC) suffered its first defeat of the season on Friday, falling 196.70-196.10 to the No. 15 Arkansas Razorbacks (5-3, 5-1 SEC) in Fayetteville, AR. Florida captured three individual events with sophomore Ashanée Dickerson winning the vault and floor exercise and freshman Mackenzie Caquatto taking home the even bars; however, Arkansas surpassed UF in their team totals and came out on top. The Gators final match before the 2011 SEC Championships begin on March 19 is against Utah next Friday in Salt Lake City, UT.

2 » Florida’s other top-ranked team, No. 1 baseball, had better luck Friday, taking down the Boston College Eagles 9-3 in the second game of the teams’ three-game series. The Gators (6-0) scored three runs in the seventh inning alone to escape a 3-3 tie and move past the Eagles (2-3) for the victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1.64 ERA) got the start for Florida and tossed four innings of shutout ball before giving up an earned run in the fifth and getting pulled at the end of the inning. The Gators led 2-1 at that point on a solo homer from junior right fielder Preston Tucker (3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R) in the third and an RBI from junior first baseman Ben McMahan (2-2, RBI) in the fourth. Junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone allowed a batter on via a bunt in the top of the seventh and junior RHP Greg Larson, coming into relieve him, let another batter hit himself on base. Freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, trying to get out of the inning, struck out his first batter before giving up a two-RBI triple to clear the bases and put Boston College up 3-2.

Looking to get out of a jam, Florida utilized the infamous hidden-ball trick to get the final out of the inning. With Eagles shortstop Brad Zapenas (2-4, 2 RBI) on third after his game-tying triple, freshman third baseman Zach Powers corralled the ball as Gibson pretended to wind up. Once Zapenas took a lead, Powers tagged him out, ended the inning and stopped the bleeding. The Gators responded with a three-run bottom of the seventh including a RBI each from Tucker (via a bases loaded walk), sophomore catcher/1B Austin Maddox (1-5, RBI) and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (3-5, 3 RBI, R). Florida added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth with sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-1, RBI, R) doubling down the left field line to score sophomore C Mike Zunino (BB, R) and Johnson singling through the left side to bring home sophomore SS Nolan Fontana (1-2, 2 R, 3 BB) and Washington. Gibson (1-0) earned the win after juniors RHP Tommy Toledo and LHP Alex Panteliodis combined to strikeout three in 1.2 innings.

3 » No. 4 Gators softball (13-0) earned a pair of victories Friday at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, CA, defeating the San Diego State Aztecs (5-6) 4-2 in the afternoon and the No. 2 UCLA Bruins (10-2) 4-1 in the evening. Junior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (7-0) earned the win in the early game after giving up two earned runs in 5.1 innings. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (6-0), who tossed the final 1.2 innings of the San Diego State game in relief of Brombacher, threw a complete game against UCLA; she struck out 10 and only gave up a single earned run in the second inning. Senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder led the way for Florida offensively, combining to go 4-6 with three RBI and a walk in the two games. Junior CF Michelle Moultrie scored three runs and notched a pair of RBI on a 4-8 outing from the plate.

4 » Struggling all season, Gators women’s basketball (16-13, 6-9 SEC) scored a much-needed 74-69 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (18-10, 9-6 SEC) on the road in Nashville, TN on Friday. Postponed a day due to severe weather, the game marked Florida’s first win on the road against Vanderbilt since 2004. Three Gators junior starters – center Azania Stewart (14) and guards redshirt Jordan Jones (16) and Lanita Bartley (15) – scored in double figures as Stewart also grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. UF has now won back-to-back contests after dropping four-in-a-row to begin the month of February.

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Florida baseball routs FAU 13-2 in Jupiter

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (4-0) did not waste much time in piling it on the Florida Atlantic Owls (3-1), scoring three runs in the opening frame and going on to rout their opponent 13-2 on Tuesday night at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL.

Junior right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani (1-0), who is primarily a reliever but filled in as a starter at the last minute for junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (illness), tossed four innings of shutout ball while striking out three. By the time he was replaced on the mound, Florida was already up 8-0 on FAU.

Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (RBI, 2 R), junior right fielder Preston Tucker (4-5, 2 RBI, R) and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-3, RBI, 2 R) all scored unearned runs in the first inning due to the Owls committing a pair of errors. After an inning off, the Gators powered up in the third with sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox (2-6, RBI, R) scoring on a sacrifice fly and both sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-3, RBI, R) and Johnson crossing the plate on a two-RBI double by junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (4-5, 2 RBI, 2 R).

Senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-4, RBI, R) scored on a single to right center by sophomore third baseman Cody Dent (1-2, RBI) in the top of the fifth, and Pigott would touch home plate on a sacrifice fly by Fontana one batter later.

Senior RHP Matt Campbell relieved DeSclafani in the fifth and threw a shutout inning but freshman RHP Jonathon Crawford and junior LHP Nick Maronde each gave up an earned run in their subsequent innings. Florida piled on further in the seventh after a rally that saw sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-3, RBI, R), Tucker and Maddox drive home four runs on three singles (and a throwing error).

Junior RHP Tommy Toledo struck out two batters in a scoreless eighth, and the Gators added another run at the top of the ninth when redshirt junior RF Paul Wilson (2 R) scored on a wild pitch. Maddox, making his first appearance as a pitcher in the orange and blue, closed out the game with two strikeouts in the ninth.

Up next for Florida is a three-game series on Thursday (5 p.m.), Friday (5 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) against Boston College at home in Gainesville, FL.

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Gators OF Kamm Washington out for season

In addition to being dominated 12-4 by the Tennessee Volunteers in the second contest of a three-game series last Saturday, No. 7/9 Florida Gators baseball lost two freshmen – starter Brian Johnson and right fielder Kamm Washington – to injury in the process.

Johnson strained his shoulder in the fifth inning of the game and left immediately; one of the team’s best pitchers, he is out indefinitely. The news is worse for Washington, who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a torn hamstring he suffered after diving for a fly ball but instead crashing into a fence.

Washington started all 18 games in right field before his injury and was hitting .308 with 15 runs, six RBI, nine walks and eight stolen bases.

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No. 6/8 Gators baseball tops No. 5/4 Seminoles 8-5

Squaring off for the second of four times over the course of the season, No. 6/8 Florida Gators baseball (13-3) avenged a 10-5 loss on March 2 in Tampa, FL, taking down the No. 5/4 Florida State Seminoles (13-3) 8-5 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Freshman starter Hudson Randall was knocked around for five runs in the game’s first two innings with his biggest mistake coming on a three-run home run by FSU outfielder Mike McGee in the top of the first. Florida responded with a two-run shot by junior second baseman Josh Adams in the bottom of the inning, but Randall would give those back in the top of the next frame. He would eventually settle down and pitch two shutout innings before being pulled.

The Gators’ answered back with a run in the third and three more in the fourth to permanently take the lead. Sophomore Nick Mardone (1-0) picked up the win with two hitless innings in relief as junior closer Kevin Chapman (S3) continued his hot streak by grabbing a three-inning save.

The top of Florida’s order – senior OF Matt den Dekker (3-5), Adams (2-4) and sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (2-3) – combined to go 7-12 with seven RBI and four runs. Freshman OF Kamm Washington went 3-3 in the eight hole, scoring every time he stepped on base.

Gators baseball will continue its 11-game home stand with a three-game series against the Mississippi State Bulldogs to open Southeastern Conference play. The series begins Fri., March 19 and continues through the weekend.

Photo Credit: Tricia Coyne/Gainesville Sun

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