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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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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2011 College World Series: Florida vs. Texas

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

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

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (7) TEXAS LONGHORNS
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Augie Garrido
Record: 50-17 Record: 49-17
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big 12
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida: Sophomore LHP Hudson Randall (10-3, 2.29 ERA)
Texas: Junior RHP Taylor Jungmann (13-2, 1.38 ERA)

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida and Texas met in the 2005 CWS Championship Series with the Longhorns sweeping the Gators via back-to-back 4-2 and 6-2 wins to earn the title. That is the only time that UT and UF have every gone head-to-head in baseball until Saturday.
» Florida is one victory away from tying a school record for most in a season.
» The Gators are 38-7 this year when scoring first and 40-3 when outhitting their opponent. Florida is also 34-6 when hitting a home run and 21-5 when playing error-free.
» UF has scored 201 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.
» UF is 43-2 when scoring four runs or more and 43-0 when leading after seven frames.
» 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.
» Texas is the top-ranked team in the Big 12, finishing with a 19-8 record in league play.
» The Longhorns are 13-8 when not playing at home this season.
» UT is the winningest program in college baseball history (based on winning percentage) and has the second-most wins all-time (3,149).
» Texas holds the record for most CWS appearances (34) and most games won (82).
» The Longhorns have won six NCAA baseball titles (1949, 1950, 1975, 2002, 2005) and have appeared in the Championship Series a total of 12 times.
» The Florida and Texas boast different strengths. The Gators lead the Longhorns in batting average (.311-.272), runs scored (435-345), hits (715-580), homers (67-17) and RBI (404-304). However, UT holds advantages in steals (75-56), walks (286-228), ERA (2.27-3.01), saves (23-14), strikeouts (555-504) and batting average against (.196-.245).

INJURY REPORT

Sophomore LHP/DH Brian Johnson (concussion) – Cleared to play
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 (.376), hits (92), homers (18), runs (72), slugging (.686)…and strikeouts (47). He also has 66 RBI on the season. Zunino has more home runs (18) this year than the entire Texas team combined (17).
» Junior right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 68 RBI on the season. Tucker is hitting .314 with 83 hits, 53 runs, 14 homers and 27 walks.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…arguably the strongest fielder on the team who has also broke out offensively. Fontana, as the team’s leadoff hitter, is hitting .301 with 72 hits, 55 runs, 47 RBI and a team-high 50 walks. He has 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, 2.03 ERA)…who has made a team-high 33 appearances this season and earned two saves in 40 innings pitched. He has amassed 51 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.
» Texas freshman third baseman Erich Weiss…who leads his team in batting average (.358), RBI (44), walks (53) and slugging percentage (.532) and has also scored 46 runs in 218 trips to the plate this season.
» Longhorns closer Corey Knebel (3-2, 1.15 ERA)…who has pitched in a team-high 37 games and amassed 19 saves via 60 strikeouts in 54.2 innings.

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FOUR BITS: USA Softball, Maddox, Claye, NCAA

1 » Two Florida Gators softball players, junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie and sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte, were named to the 2011 USA Softball Women’s National Team on Friday. Unfortunately, senior first baseman Megan Bush and freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle also competed for positions on the team but were not selected. Team USA will be competing in a number of events over the next five months including the World Cup of Softball VI and XVI Pan American Games.

2 » Reports coming out of Omaha, NE have Florida head baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan giving sophomore first baseman/closer Austin Maddox (foot) a thumbs up to play with the team during the 2011 College World Series. Maddox has not played since injuring his foot while catching a pop foul on June 3. Should he be a go for the CWS, Maddox will give the Gators a pair of starting two-way players [sophomore left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson (concussion)] who are returning from injury just in time.

3 » Florida junior jumper Will Claye has been named the 2011 USTFCCCA National Field Athlete of the Year, the organization announced on Thursday. A transfer from Oklahoma, Claye won the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championship and 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship in the triple jump as well as another SEC title in the long jump this year alone. He was also named 2011 SEC Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year this season.

4 » The Gators football program self-reported two secondary violations to the SEC and NCAA in January, according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Rachel George, who received the information via a records request. Florida disclosed that one assistant coach responded to a text message from a recruit and another called a recruit twice in one week. The school instituted a mandatory no-contact period from May 1-14 in order to atone for the mistakes. NCAA rules state that coaches cannot text recruits until they sign with the school; additionally, coaches can only call recruits once per week.

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Bulldogs smack walk-off, two-run homer to top Gators 4-3, force game three in Super Regional

No. 2 Florida Gators baseball looked to be in control all afternoon, but it took a single pitch from sophomore left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez to change that. Down 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Mississippi State Bulldogs second baseman Nick Vickerson hit a walk-off, two-run homer to give his team a 4-3 victory and force game three in the Super Regionals at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

MSU (38-24) came from behind to tie the game 2-2 in the seventh and capitalized on a pitching change by Florida (49-17) to require the winner-takes-all contest on Sunday.

Hoping to continue his exceedingly successful freshman campaign, right-handed pitcher Kasrten Whitson got the start for the Gators on Saturday and looked great most of the game, only allowing one hit while striking out six batters in his first six innings before being pulled after getting into trouble in the seventh.

The contest began with two scoreless innings until Florida rallied in the top of the third. With freshman third baseman Cody Dent (1-4, R) on via a lead-off walk and senior center fielder Bryson Smith (3-5) joining him on the bags with a double to right-center, sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-3, RBI, BB) stepped up and hit a sacrifice fly and score UF’s first run of the game.

The Gators added another in the fourth off a solo homer to right-center by senior 2B Josh Adams (2-4, HR, RBI, R) but also stranded men on first and second by getting back-to-back outs to end the inning.

Whitson retired 13 consecutive Bulldogs and headed into the seventh with a one-hitter. Then, with one out in the inning, he allowed three-straight singles and Mississippi State plated their first run. UF head coach Kevin O’Sullivan immediately pulled him for junior RHP Tommy Toledo, who entered with one out and runners on the corners.

Toledo gave up a RBI single up the middle to his first batter, which tied the game 2-2, before forcing a 5-3 double play to end the inning. Whitson’s day concluded with two earned runs on four hits in 6.1 innings.

Florida looked to get their lead back right away, beginning the eighth with sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-5, R) doubling off the wall in center and eventually nabbing third by taking advantage of a ball in the dirt two batters later. He was plated soon after by junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-4, RBI), who smacked a two-out, two-strike stand-up triple to deep left-center, giving Florida a 3-2 lead.

Toledo notched the first out in the eighth and was relieved by junior left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde. He forced the final two outs of the inning and sent the game into the ninth, where he allowed a lead-off hit to start the inning and was pulled for Rodriguez (3-2), who gave up the homer to Vickerson on his very first pitch.

Bulldogs pitcher Caleb Reed, the team’s closer all season, earned the victory after being substituted in relief and tossing the final 5.1 innings of the game. He only allowed a single earned run on four hits with one walk and two strikeouts.

The Gators are now 34-10 all-time at home during NCAA play and lost for the seventh time all season when scoring first and third time when out-hitting their opponent. Florida and Mississippi State will play again Sunday at 1 p.m. for the opportunity to advance to the 2011 College World Series. The game will air live on ESPN.

Either sophomore RHP Brian Johnson (8-3, 3.66 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) or junior RHP Alex Panteliodis (6-2, 3.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) will likely get the start for UF on Sunday.

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Gainesville Super Regional: Florida vs. Miss. State

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – Super Regional
Location: McKeethan Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 5,500]
Time: 12:00 p.m. (ET)

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

(2) FLORIDA GATORS MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: John Cohen
Record: 48-16 Record: 37-23
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Game 1: Sophomore LHP Hudson Randall (9-3, 2.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)
Game 2: Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.42 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)
Game 3: Sophomore RHP Brian Johnson (8-3, 3.66 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) OR
junior RHP Alex Panteliodis (6-2, 3.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is 53-40 in the all-time series against Mississippi State, though MSU is 1-0 vs. UF NCAA Tournament play.
» The first team to win two games in the three-game series will advanced to the 65th NCAA College World Series.
» This is the Gators’ third-straight Super Regional appearance and fifth in the last eight years. Florida has only been to five in school history.
» This is the Bulldogs’ fourth Super Regional appearance in school history.
» Should Florida advance to the CWS, it will be the first time in school history they have done so in back-to-back seasons.
» The Gators are 33-9 (.786) all-time at home during NCAA play.
» Florida is 3-1 against Mississippi State this season, losing the first of a three-game series in Starkville, MS (7-5) before winning three-straight games including a SEC Tournament first-round match-up (18-0, 3-1, 7-5).
» MSU head coach John Cohen is a former UF assistant under Pat McMahon.
» This is the first time the Gators have faced a SEC opponent in Super Regional action.
» The UF and MSU boast different strengths. Florida leads Mississippi State in batting average (.311-.282), runs scored (413-369), hits (683-566), homers (58-28), RBI (382-327), ERA (2.97-4.24), strikeouts (486-471) and fielding percentage (.974-.973). However, the Bulldogs hold advantages in steals (88-56), walks (260-214), on-base percentage (.384-.382) and saves (16-14).

LAST TIME OUT…

Down 5-2 in a close game in the first round of the SEC Tournament, the Gators used a grand slam by sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson to take a 7-5 lead and eventually advance in the event.

KNOW THE OPPONENT

Mississippi State is the second-ranked team in the SEC West after finishing with a 14-16 record in league play. The Bulldogs are 11-9 away from home and 9-10 against top 25 opponents this season. Florida has won six of the last seven meetings against MSU dating back to a three-game series that took place in 2010.

INJURY REPORT

Sophomore LHP/DH Brian Johnson – concussion
Out for game one
Sophomore 1B/RHP Austin Maddox – foot
Out for game one, day-to-day for series

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» UF’s starting pitchers…which are a combined 21-2 (.913) with a 2.01 ERA in the friendly confines of McKethan Stadium this season.
» The Gators’ bats…which have scored 190 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Early offense…Florida is 36-6 (.857) when scoring first and 39-2 (.951) when out-hitting their opponent in a contest.
» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.371), hits (86), homers (16), runs (68), slugging (.668)…and strikeouts (45). He also has 62 RBI on the season.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…arguably the strongest fielder on the team who has also come on as of late offensively. Fontana, as the team’s leadoff hitter, is hitting .309 with 71 hits, 52 runs, 44 RBI and a team-high 45 walks.
» Junior right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 65 RBI on the season. Tucker is hitting .319 with 81 hits, 51 runs, 13 homers and 24 walks.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde…who has made a team-high 31 appearances and has posted a 1.66 ERA with two saves in 38 innings. He has amassed 50 strikeouts compared to only seven walks this season, and only six of the 24 hits he has allowed have been for extra bases.
» Third baseman Jarrod Parks…who leads MSU in batting average (.365), hits (73), RBI (36) and walks (43) and has also scored 50 runs in 200 at-bats this season.
» Second baseman Nick Vickerson…the Bulldogs’ speedster who hits .314 with a team-high 53 runs scored, seven homers, 35 walks and a team-high 25 stolen bases.

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FOUR BITS: Johnson, Thornqvist, Whitson, Weis

1 » No. 2 Florida Gators baseball’s sophomore left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson will be active for the Super Regionals beginning on Friday. After missing the Gainesville Regional while recovering from a concussion suffered during the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament, Johnson feels fine and is raring to go, according to head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who spoke with reporters after practice on Wednesday. Sophomore first baseman/closer Austin Maddox, who sprained his foot in the first game of the Gainesville Regional, remains day-to-day.

2 » Florida women’s tennis head coach Ronald Thornqvist has been named the 2011 ITA National Coach of the Year. Thornqvist, who coached the No. 2 Gators to the 2011 NCAA Championship in May, led Florida to a 31-1 overall record and helped sophomore Lauren Embree reach the semifinals of the NCAA Individual Championships. This is Thornqvist’s first national coach of the year award.

3 » Florida freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson was named to the 2011 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American team, as selected by the Collegiate Baseball newspaper, on Wednesday. Posting an 8-0 record with a 2.42 ERA so far this season, Whitson was one of 20 freshmen starting pitchers who received the honor.

4 » According to The Gainesville Sun, the property purchased by Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis is a 10.5-acre estate located in Reddick, FL right near I-75 worth $1.1 million. Currently on the land are a 4,041-square-foot house and 6,336-square-foot horse barn, undoubtedly a selling point for Weis’s wife Maura, an avid horse enthusiast and rider.

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