Florida squeaks by Georgia 3-2, will play for title

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.

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Mike Zunino named 2011 SEC Player of the Year; seven teammates awarded All-SEC honors

The team’s leader in hits, runs, home runs, RBI, total bases and slugging percentage, Florida Gators sophomore catcher Mike Zunino was named the 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year by the league’s coaches on Tuesday.

He is the second University of Florida baseball player to ever win the award. Former Gators first baseman Matt LaPorta captured the honor in 2005 and 2007.

A terror at the plate for Florida all season, Zunino leads the conference in home runs (15), RBI (59), runs scored (62) and total bases (141); he is second in the SEC in batting average (.383, -.002) and slugging percentage (.701, -.008). Zunino is also tied for third in doubles (19), places fifth in on-base percentage (.455) and is tied for sixth in hits (77).

He was named to the 2011 All-SEC First Team alongside teammates junior outfielder Preston Tucker and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson. Also on the team are Vanderbilt’s Aaron Westlake, Tony Kemp and Grayson Garvin; South Carolina’s Scott Wingo, Michael Roth and Matt Price; Kentucky’s Casey McElroy; LSU’s Mikie Mahtook; and Auburn’s Casey McElroy.

His Gators teammates – senior second baseman Josh Adams, sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana and sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall – were placed on the All-SEC Second Team. RHP Karsten Whitson and third baseman Zack Powers were honored on the 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team, and both Zunino and Fontana earned spots on the 2011 SEC All-Defensive Team.

It is the first time in UF history that student-athletes representing the school have won SEC Player of the Year in baseball and softball (senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder). Florida now has 11 SEC Players of the Year for 2010-11 also including Chandler Parsons (men’s basketball), Bank Vongvanij (men’s golf), Christian Taylor (men’s indoor track & field), Will Claye (men’s outdoor track & field), Conor Dwyer (men’s swimming), Monica Dodson (women’s diving), Kathryn Williamson (women’s soccer), Allie Will (women’s tennis) and Kelly Murphy (volleyball). Gators lacrosse’s Kitty Cullen also won ALC Player of the Year.

Photo Credits: The News-Press, John Korduner/Icon SMI

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Gators baseball rebounds to rout Wildcats 19-3, captures share of SEC regular season title

One day after blowing an opportunity to control sole possession of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (41-15, 22-8 SEC) earned a share of the league title by toppling the Kentucky Wildcats (25-30, 8-22 SEC) 19-3 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday afternoon.

Alone atop the SEC standings on Friday, Florida allowed Kentucky to score early and often, eventually falling 14-1. No. 2 South Carolina and No. 3 Vanderbilt, both of which lost their series openers on Thursday, claimed victories Friday to reestablish a three-way tie for first-place in the conference. Both teams also won Saturday, giving the SEC a set of tri-champions for the 2011 regular season.

The Gators’ victory Saturday marked just the second time in program history that Florida has won back-to-back conference titles (1981-82). The program now has 12 overall league titles and three-consecutive East Division championships.

The Wildcats scored first Saturday, plating a run with three consecutive hits in the first inning. The Gators responded in the bottom of the second as their lead-off batter, sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson, connected for a homer on a 1-2 count to tie the game. Florida jumped ahead for good in the third, rallying for a pair of runs to take a 3-1 lead. Senior second baseman Josh Adams scored sophomore catcher Mike Zunino via a ground out, and Johnson followed by knocking home junior right fielder Preston Tucker with a single up the middle.

With freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (7-0) holding Kentucky to its single run, the Gators exploded with seven scores in the bottom of the fourth. Men were on second and third with one out when Zunino singled to right to score the first run of the inning. Tucker followed with an RBI single to left, and Adams doubled down the left field line to score another baseman. Johnson’s (3-4, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) two-RBI single to center brought Adams and Tucker home, and a two-run homer by sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox cleared the bases for Florida, which ended up leaving two on base before Kentucky could get out of the inning.

The Gators kept the pressure on in the fifth as Zunino opened the inning with a double to left; he scored two batters later when Adams singled to left. A wild pitch advanced Adams to second and Tucker to third, respectively, sending Maddox up to the plate to connect on a three-run homer, his second deep shot of the afternoon.

Whitson (5.0 IP, ER, 7 H, 4 K) was pulled for junior RHP Tommy Toledo to start the sixth. Florida ensured his victory would be realized by adding another pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. Zunino (4-4, RBI, 4 R, BB) singled with two outs to get on base, Tucker (5-6, 2 RBI, 5 R) doubled him home, and Adams (3-6, 4 RBI, 2 R) made sure Tucker crossed the plate with a single to center during his at bat.

The Gators added three more in the eighth; Maddox’s (3-6, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R) ground out RBI scored freshman pinch runner Keenan Kish, junior pinch hitter Tyler Thompson’s two-out single to left scored Tucker, and redshirt sophomore pinch hitter Vickash Ramjit’s subsequent single scored junior pinch hitter Ben McMahan.

Florida, which allowed Kentucky to score two runs of errors in the top of the ninth before ending the game, also earned the No. 3 seed in the 2011 SEC Tournament with their victory. The Gators combined for 25 hits on the afternoon, their most against any opponent this season. Florida will face No. 6-seed Mississippi State in the first round of the tournament on Wednesday in the second match-up at their site.

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Florida shares SEC lead after Vanderbilt series

Fighting and clawing their way through a three-game road series against the No. 2 Vanderbilt Commodores over the weekend, No. 5 Florida Gators baseball won two of three games over a four-day span that included an extra-inning finale to create a three-way tie for first place in the Southeastern Conference regular season standings.

FRIDAY: Florida hit the road hoping to take advantage of Vanderbilt early and often. They had no such luck during their first day as sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall drew the start and gave up four runs (two earned) on eight hits in five innings without striking out a single batter. The Gators trailed the Commodores 4-2 through five innings before rain and lightning suspended the game until Saturday.

SATURDAY: The second half of the game begin with a pair of scoreless frames. Then Florida tied it up 4-4 in the top of the seventh. With one out and redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1-2, R) on base after smacking a lead-off single up the middle, sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB) homered to right field to even up the contest. Vanderbilt took a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, but UF did what they could to take advantage of their three remaining outs.

Senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) led off the inning with a solo shot to left to tie the game. Then, after junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-4, R) singled to left field with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch, senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-5, RBI) doubled to right to score Pigott before the frame ended two batters later. Junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani (5-2) picked up the win after getting the final two outs of the eighth, and sophomore RHP Austin Maddox earned his second save of the season by pitching a hitless ninth.

Just a few hours later, the Gators and Commodores went at it again. Florida took an early 1-0 lead in the second game of the series after Smith (1-4, HR, RBI, R) homered in the top of the third, but Vanderbilt piled it on from there scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning, six in the fifth, two in the sixth and four more in the seventh to annihilate UF 14-1. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (7-3) had the worst start of his career, allowing eight earned runs on nine hits in 4.1 innings of work. If that wasn’t enough, freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, the second reliever out of the bullpen, coughed up five earned runs on five hits in two-thirds of an inning.

SUNDAY: With the series even and VU still holding down first place in the SEC, the Gators had their work cut out for them in the rubber match. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson got the call for Florida but only lasted 4.1 innings after giving up three earned runs on five hits while striking out five. Vanderbilt led 3-1 through the first four innings with UF’s sole run coming on a solo homer by Maddox in the top of the second.

Junior LHP Nick Maronde relieved Whitson and played top-notch ball for the Gators, striking out three and only allowing a single hit in 3.1 innings. His efforts allowed Florida to tie the game with single runs in the seventh and eighth inning. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino smacked a solo shot to start the seventh, and the Gators rallied in the eighth to get Fontana (3-5, 2 R) home from third base. With the bases loaded and one out, Zunino hit a sacrifice fly to left field to tie the game 3-3.

The Commodores blew a chance in the ninth by stranding a pair of runners, and both teams left two on base with one out in their portion of the 10th. Vanderbilt got Florida to ground out thrice in the 11th, and junior RHP Tommy Toledo struck out back-to-back batters with the winning run on third base in the bottom of the inning.

The Gators took a breath and entered the 12th hoping to bring the game home. Fontana walked on a full count to start the inning, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and was joined on base by Tucker, who was intentionally walked. The Commodores called for a pitching change, replacing Jack Armstrong with Navery Moore. After working Moore to a full count, Zunino (2-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R) hit a three-run homer to right field to give UF (39-13, 20-7 SEC) a 6-3 lead and clinch the series at VU (42-8, 20-7 SEC). Toledo (3-3) picked up the win after striking out three in two full innings.

The victory propels Florida into a three-way tie for the SEC lead with Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Each team sports a 20-7 conference record and is set for a separate three-game series next weekend. UF will host Kentucky Thursday-Saturday at home after facing Jacksonville on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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Florida softball sweeps Tennessee, wins SEC East; baseball falls to Arkansas in road series

It was a special weekend for Florida Gators softball, which sent its seniors off with a two-day celebration concluding in the team’s fourth-straight Southeastern Conference East division title. The baseball team, on the other hand, fought through a three-game road series that left their chances at a regular season title up for grabs.

SOFTBALL

Just two days after a hard-fought 1-0 victory at home against Florida State, No. 4 Florida softball was just as scrappy against the No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers on Friday, breaking a 3-3 tie with a solo home run from lead-off hitter freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) in the bottom of the seventh inning to earn a 4-3 victory. Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher drew the start for the Gators but was pulled after giving up three earned runs and only striking out two batters in 4.2 innings. Florida was down 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth but rallied with two outs to tie the game. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers came on for the final 2.1 innings, striking out four and only allowing a single hit to earn the victory.

The Gators took advantage of the Volunteers early in Saturday’s game and held on to a two-run lead earned in the first frame to win the series with a 2-0 victory. With one out, senior second baseman Aja Paculba (2-3, R) singled to left field; senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) followed her by stepping up to the plate and smacking a homer to center field on a full count for the game’s only runs. Brombacher (3.1 IP, 2 K, 3 H) once again earned the start for Florida, but Rogers (3.2 IP, 4 K, 3 H) threw the second half of the contest to earn her second win over Tennessee. Saturday also marked the first half of UF softball’s Senior Day. Brombacher and catcher Tiffany DeFelice were honored prior to the game, which resulted in the team’s 24th shutout win on the year.

Putting everything together on Sunday, the Gators (47-8, 21-7 SEC) started hot out of the gate and routed the Volunteers (44-10, 20-8 SEC) 7-2 to conclude regular season action with nine-straight victories while simultaneously capturing the SEC East division title. Rogers (30-5) tossed a complete game, allowing single runs in the first and fifth innings on a total of five hits. Down 1-0 after the first three outs, Florida scored two runs in the bottom of the first and added another in the second. The Gators then poured on four runs in the fourth including a lead-off dinger from designated player Kelsey Horton (2-3, HR, RBI, R) on the first pitch she saw. Also performing well Sunday were junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2-4, 2 R), Paculba (2-3, RBI, 2 R, BB), Bruder (1-3, RBI, R, BB) and sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte (2-4, 2 RBI, R). Florida honored Bruder, Paculba and first baseman Megan Bush before the game as the second half of the school’s senior day festivities. The day ended with the Gators not only capturing their fourth-straight SEC East crown (fifth overall) but also having won 17 of their last 18 games.

With their regular season now complete, UF has earend the No. 2 overall seed in the 2011 SEC tournament, which they will begin on Thursday with a first-round game against No. 7-seed Auburn. The game will air live on ESPNU at 1:30 p.m.

BASEBALL

No. 4 Florida baseball saw its dominant seven-game winning streak come to an end Thursday in Fayetteville, AR as they blew a 3-1 lead through six innings to fall 4-3 to the No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks. After scattering hits through his first five innings, starter sophomore RHP Hudson Randall (8-2) allowed a triple and home run in back-to-back at-bats in the bottom of the sixth that let Arkansas tie the game at three runs apiece. Randall gave up his second homer of the game two innings later, and the Razorbacks escaped the first game of the series with a victory. Three Gators – junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R), senior 2B Josh Adams (2-3, R) and junior LF Daniel Pigott (2-2, RBI) – notched pairs of hits in the contest, but the team simply could not capitalize when it counted.

Florida fought from behind all night on Friday and eventually fell to Arkansas 5-3, dropping the road series after the first two games. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (7-2) lost his second game of the season after allowing three earned runs (four total) in just four innings of work. The Gators trailed from the first inning on, taking their only lead at 2-1 in the third before the Razorbacks scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to jump back ahead 4-2.

Florida (36-12, 18-6 SEC) got back to its winning ways on Saturday, rallying for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to slay Arkansas (32-15, 12-12 SEC) 5-3; it was the Gators’ first road win against the Razorbacks since 2005 (eight games). Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (5.2 IP, 6 K, 3 ER, 6 H) shut out Arkansas through the first four innings of the game and allowed Florida to take an early 2-0 lead. The Razorbacks would respond with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth, but sophomore RHP Austin Maddox came in to get the final out and stop the bleeding for the Gators. Florida responded with a fierce rally that scored three in the seventh. Three-straight singles ending with one from Tucker (1-4, RBI, R) scored sophomore SS Nolan Fontana (2-5, RBI, 2 R) from third to tie the game and another up the middle by Pigott (2-4, 2 RBI, R) allowed two more runs to cross the plate for the Gators. Maddox (2-0) tossed the final three innings, striking out one and walking one as Florida held on for the victory.

The Gators remain in the hunt for the SEC title but have two more series (on the road against Vanderbilt and at home against Kentucky) to play along with two non-conference games (home vs. North Florida and Jacksonville) before the regular season concludes. Vanderbilt leads the SEC with a 19-5 record, but Florida and South Carolina are both just a game back at 18-6.

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Florida baseball, softball win six in three days

It was another dominant weekend for the Florida Gators baseball and softball teams, which combined to win six games while outscoring their opponents by an impressive total of 41-7. Below are abbreviated recaps of each victory to keep you up-to-date with how Florida is performing week-in and week-out on the diamond.

BASEBALL

Hosting the Ole Miss Rebels at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL, No. 4/5 Gators baseball barely allowed their visitors to catch a breath on Friday, scoring in every inning except one on the way to a 9-3 victory fueled by 17 hits and a pair of 4-5 performances from senior second baseman Josh Adams (RBI, R) and redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (RBI, 2 R). Florida had plenty of offense with two RBI each coming from sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-4, BB), sophomore third baseman Austin Maddox (2-4, R) and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-4, R). Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (8-1) picked up the victory by striking out six and only allowing three earned runs on six hits in 7.1 innings of work.

The Gators kept their foot on the pedal Saturday, scoring pairs of runs in four innings on the way to an 8-1 victory behind a superb performance from left-handed pitcher Johnson (7-1), who struck out a career-high nine batters in 6.2 innings. Zunino (2-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) and junior third baseman Jeff Moyer (2-4, HR 2 RBI, R) each hit a home run in the contest with Johnson (2-3, R) and Maddox (1-4, RBI, R) also contributing at the plate.

Wrapping up the series Sunday was freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (6-0), who remained undefeated by tossing four strikeouts in six scoreless innings. Florida (34-10,17-4 SEC) jumped up 2-0 early and led 7-0 before Ole Miss (24-20,9-12 SEC) even got on the board in the seventh. Zunino (4-4, 4 RBI, 2 R) continued his scorching weekend, and junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, 2 RBI) drove in runs in the first and fifth innings to give the Gators a 7-2 victory.

A home game against Bethune-Cookman is upcoming for Florida on Tuesday before they hit the road for a three-game series at Arkansas Thursday-Saturday.

SOFTBALL

No. 5/7 Gators softball hit the road to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks for their three-game weekend series. Florida shut out South Carolina 5-0 on Friday behind five strong innings from senior ace RHP Stephanie Brombacher (16-1). She was supported by freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB), senior 1B Megan Bush (1-3, 2 RBI) and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (2-4, 2 R) as well as freshman RHP Hannah Rogers, who threw the final two innings of the game to close things out.

Brombacher got the nod again on Saturday for UF but only threw four innings before Rogers was given the reigns the rest of the way and picked up the win. The Gators torched the Gamecocks 6-1, scoring six-straight runs in the final three innings of the game after being faced with a 1-0 deficit since the first inning. Sophomore RF Brittany Schutte (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) was the offensive star and was supported by solid efforts from Bush (1-3, 2 RBI, BB) and Coyle (1-2, RBI, BB).

Rogers (27-5) was left to her own devices Sunday and came through in a big way, tossing a complete game and only giving up a single earned run. Schutte (2-3, HR 2 RBI, R, BB) and Coyle (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) continued their phenomenal weekends at the plate as Florida (43-8, 18-7 SEC) led South Carolina (25-27, 6-19 SEC) from start-to-finish and proved they were the team to beat over the weekend.

UF faces a four-game homestand to end the regular season this week, taking on Florida State on Wednesday before going up against Tennessee in the weekend series.

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Florida baseball sweeps Alabama; Bruder helps Gators softball top Crimson Tide (twice)

Each competing against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Gainesville, FL over the weekend, the Florida Gators baseball and softball teams combined to defeat their opponent five of six times – all in exciting fashion. No. 5/5 Florida baseball outscored Alabama 18-3 over a three-day span, while No. 8/9 Gators softball won back-to-back games against the Crimson Tide after being shutout in the series opener.

BASEBALL

Coming off a tough road loss to Central Florida where head coach Kevin O’Sullivan emptied the bullpen, Florida upended Alabama 7-0 in the first game of the weekend series on Friday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (7-1) continued to pitch with confidence, scattering four hits in 6.1 innings for the victory. After manufacturing a single run in the third inning, the Gators rallied to score a total of six in three consecutive innings. Junior first baseman Preston Tucker (1-5, HR, 3 RBI, R) and senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) hit a pair of homers, while sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-5, RBI) couldn’t be kept off the bases. Florida amassed 14 hits in the game and saw seven different players cross the plate.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (6-1) got the call for the Gators on Saturday and, after allowing a single run in the first and solo shot in the top of the second, held the Crimson Tide scoreless for his final three innings to pick up the win. Junior RHP Greg Larson, sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez and freshman RHP Keenan Kish combined to strike out six over the final four innings of the contest to solidify anther victory for Florida. The offense did their part to make Johnson feel comfortable early, rallying for pairs of runs in their first two frames to negate Alabama’s production. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) and junior pinch hitter Ben McMahan (1-1, HR, RBI, R) each hit homers and Adams (1-3, 2 RBI) continued his hot streak at the plate.

The Gators (31-10, 14-4 SEC) completed the weekend sweep by squeaking out a 2-1 victory over the Crimson Tide (25-18, 8-10 SEC) on Sunday. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson(5-0) looked fantastic, striking out seven and only giving up three hits over 6.2 innings. Whitson held Alabama without a single run until his finally batter capitalized with two men on base to smack an RBI. He was promptly pulled for Rodriguez who, along with juniors RHP Anthony DeSclafani and LHP Nick Maronde (S2), closed out the victory for Florida. Fontana (3-4, 2 RBI) knocked in both runs, hitting a double to score junior right fielder Daniel Pigott (1-3, R) in the third and a single to help junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-2, R) cross the plate in the fifth.

With the three victories, the Gators have now defeated the Crimson Tide in eight of their last 10 meetings and can look ahead to a home series against Ole Miss next weekend.

SOFTBALL

Still fighting her way back from an arm injury, senior ace RHP Stephanie Brombacher (15-1) drew the start Friday but coughed up two runs (one earned) after tossing three shutout innings for her first loss of the season. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers, who had been handling the pitching duties in Brombacher’s stead, was roughed up in her four innings as well, striking out six but allowing three earned runs on three hits and three walks. Alabama starter Kelsi Dunne (21-2) looked strong in the effort, limiting Florida to only three hits in seven innings while striking out six.

Not allowing themselves to get down after such a tough loss, the Gators responded in a big way in the next two games, ending both with exciting finishes. Senior LF Kelsey Bruder, who has been nearly unstoppable at the plate recently, hit a walk-off three-run home run on Saturday followed by a walk-off infield single on Sunday (in extra innings) to send her team to two victories.

Brombacher got the call again Saturday, pitching 6.1 innings and striking out four but also allowing four earned runs. The Gators were faced with a 2-0 deficit early but rallied with back-to-back homers by senior 1B Megan Bush (1-2, HR, 2 RBI, R) and senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, HR, RBI, R) in the fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead. Brombacher allowed a solo shot in the fifth to tie the game and gave up a two-run bomb in the seventh to put the Crimson Tide ahead 5-3 before Rogers came in to get the final two outs. Florida benefited with a lead-off walk in the bottom of the inning, and junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, R, 2 BB) followed with a single through the right side to put the game-winning run at the plate. With one out, Bruder (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) hammered the first pitch she saw to pick up the win (see video below).

Bruder’s weekend heroics were not done, however, as she came through in the clutch once again on Sunday. Rogers and Dunne each pitched fantastic games on the day, holding shutouts through regulation. A fielding error in the top of the eighth allowed two Alabama batters to score, but Florida rallied to tack on two runs (including a RBI by Bruder) in the bottom of the inning to keep the game going. After Rogers (25-5) retired the side one-two-three in the top of the ninth to complete the longest outing of her career, Bruder (2-5, 2 RBI) found herself back at the plate with the winning run in scoring position. On a 1-0 count, she smacked a single to second base to score freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle (1-4, R) from third and give the Gators (40-8, 15-7 SEC) an impressive extra innings victory over the Crimson Tide (42-7, 16-6 SEC).

Florida will get a week of rest before jumping on the road to face South Carolina in a three-game weekend series. The Gators will then play four-straight home games to end the regular season the following week.

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Gators baseball, softball each win weekend series

Both suffering through some midseason struggles, Florida Gators baseball and softball each won their respective three-game series over the weekend. No. 4/4 Florida baseball (28-9, 11-4 SEC) won two of three in Athens, GA, while No. 10/10 softball (37-7, 13-6 SEC) swept a three-game road series in Auburn, AL.

BASEBALL

Coming off a hard-fought 3-1 loss to Florida State, the Gators were faced with the tough test of facing another rival on the road just a few days later. Florida rebounded, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 5-4 in Friday’s contest behind a solid effort from sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (6-1). Randall allowed three runs (two earned) but tossed 6.1 innings for UF before giving way to three relievers. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez came through with his second save of the season after striking out the final batter. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-5, R), junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) and junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-3, RBI) each connected twice, but sophomore first baseman/reliever Austin Maddox (3-4, 2 RBI, R) led the way offensively with a two-RBI single to center in the sixth.

The Gators were not as lucky Saturday, falling 7-2 to the Bulldogs after junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani (4-2) blew a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning. Relieving sophomore LHP Brian Johnson (6.0 IP, 4 K, ER), DeSclafani got one out before walking the next batter, giving up two hits and intentionally loading the bases before being pulled. Senior second baseman Josh Adams (3-3, BB) hit two singles and a double but his teammates were never able to capitalize.

Wrapping up the series, Florida watched as Tucker took over Sunday’s contest with an absolutely explosive performance. Down 7-6 to Georgia through six innings, UF jumped on the back of Tucker, who came through in the clutch. He hit home runs in back-to-back innings in one of the best performances all season for the Gators. Tucker (2-4, 6 RBI, 3 R) hit a two-run moon shot in the seventh and grand slam in the eighth to propel his team to a 14-7 victory over the Bulldogs (19-18, 9-6 SEC).

Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (5.0 IP, 5 K, 3 ER) got the start but lost his opportunity at a win when junior LHP Alex Panteliodis coughed up four earned runs on four hits without recording a single out in his relief appearance. Junior RHP Greg Larson (1-1), pitching the final 3.2 innings of the game, recorded the win striking out one and scattering five hits. Other top-notch offensive performances came from Fontana (1-3, RBI, 2 R, 2 BB), sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (3-4, 3 R, BB), Maddox (3-4, RBI, 2 R, BB) and DH Johnson (3-4, 3 RBI, R).

SOFTBALL

Rebounding from a six-game losing streak with seven-straight wins, Florida softball outscored the Auburn Tigers (32-12, 11-9 SEC) 35-10 over the weekend beginning with an impressive 14-4 victory early Saturday.

Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers earned the victory in a complete game performance due to an impressive rally by her offense over the final four innings. Down 4-1 through three, the Gators scored 13 runs in the last four frames including five in the seventh. Junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2-5, 3 RBI, R), senior LF Kelsey Bruder (2-4, HR, RBI, 2 R), senior 1BMegan Bush (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB), senior C Tiffany DeFelice (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB) and freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle (2-2, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB) all showed major power with a combined five home runs.

Coming back out for the second game of the Saturday doubleheader, Florida saw the return of ace senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher. Out since March 12 (bicep), Brombacher (15-0) did not throw her normal complete game effort but earned the win by striking out four and only allowing one earned run in 4.2 innings. Rogers (S2) got the save while Bruder (2-5, HR, 2 RBI, R), sophomore RF Brittany Schutte (3-3, R, BB), Coyle (2-3, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) and sophomore designated hitter Kelsey Horton (2-2, RBI) did the heavy lifting for the team offensively.

Rogers (22-5) completed the weekend with two victories and a save, earning her second win Sunday in yet another complete game performance. The Gators’ bats were alive once again as the team connected for eight total home runs. Senior 2B Aja Paculba (2-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R), Bruder (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R), Schutte (2-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R), DeFelice (1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB), Horton (1-4, HR, 2 RBI, R) and freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan (2-4, HR, RBI, 2 R) all connected to earn Florida the series sweep.

Bruder ended the weekend 7-13 with three homers, five RBI and four runs, while Coyle was an outstanding 5-7 with three homers, five RBI, seven runs and five walks.

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