Tucker sets Florida career RBI record as Gators baseball earns first series sweep of 2012

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (7-1) cruised over the weekend to their first sweep of a three-game series in 2012, defeating the William & Mary Tribe (2-5) by a combined score of 14-5 from Friday-Sunday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida did not trail for a single frame in the series’ first two games, scoring in the bottom of the first inning on Friday, adding a solo home run in the fifth by senior center fielder Tyler Thompson (2-4, RBI, R) and rallying for two more runs in the eighth to pull away with a 4-1 victory. Junior catcher Mike Zunino (1-3, R, 2 SB) and freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (0-3) added a RBI each, and sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-4, R) and freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (2-3, R) also had impressive outings at the plate.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0) picked up his first win of the season by striking out four and allowing just one earned run on five hits in 6.1 innings. Junior RHP Austin Maddox (S2) came on in the seventh to close out the game, fanning four batters of his in the final 2.2 innings.

The Gators picked up where they left off the next day with senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, 2 R, SB) hammering a solo shot in the bottom of the third. He became Florida’s all-time RBI leader with the dinger, amassing a school record 215 runs batted in over 205 games played (at that point). Tucker received a standing ovation from the home crowd, a highlight moment in the young season.

He continued his stellar outing by singling to lead off the bottom of the sixth, following it up by stealing second and eventually coming around to score thanks to a one-out double by Gushue (1-4, RBI, R), who earned his first start at first base. Turgeon (2-3, 2 RBI, R) concluded Florida’s three-run inning with a two-run homer, the first round-tripper of his career in orange and blue.

Junior left-hander Brian Johnson (1-0, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, 2 K) pitched six innings of shutout ball but was relieved shortly after giving up a solo bomb in the top of the seventh. Senior RHP Greg Larson pitched the final 2.2 innings in relief, striking out three and walking just one to clinch the victory for Johnson.

Florida fell behind early on Sunday as sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson took the hill to start the game and looked a bit out of sorts. He gave up an earned run on two hits and a walk while only registering two outs before being pulled by head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. Junior LHP Steven Rodriguez (2-0) and freshman RHP Jonathon Crawford came on in his stead and combined to earn the win by striking out seven and walking two while allowing three hits and two earned runs in the final 5.0 innings of the weather-shortened game.

Tucker (1-3, RBI, R) and Fontana (1-2, 2 RBI, R, BB) each homered in the contest, and the Gators also got solid performances at the plate from freshman left fielder Justin Shafer (2-2, 2 RBI, R) and junior 1B Austin Maddox (2-3, R).

UF faces a tough test next weekend, travelling to Coral Gables, FL to take on Miami in a three-game series from Friday-Sunday. Florida will follow that series up with an 11-game home stand, playing from March 6-20 in Gainesville.

Photo Credit: Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun

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SIX BITS: practice, Leonard, baseball, Spikes

1 » The Florida Gators announced Monday that spring football practice will begin on Wednesday, March 14 and conclude as always with the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut on April 7 at 1 p.m. Unlike the 2011 season, when all of Florida’s spring practices were closed, the Gators will open two sessions to fans this year on Friday, March 16 (4:25-6:35 p.m.) and Saturday, March 17 (12:55-3:00 p.m.).

2 » Florida freshman tight end A.C. Leonard, arrested for misdemeanor domestic battery on Feb. 15 and indefinitely suspended from the team by head coach Will Muschamp one day later, entered a “not guilty” plea in Alachua County court on Monday, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Being represented by Gainesville, FL attorney Huntley Johnson, Leonard is not allowed to have any contact with the woman he allegedly hurt by judge’s orders and had to find a separate place to live at least until the court makes a final judgment on his case.

3 » No. 1 Gators baseball (3-1) pulled out a hard-fought, come-from-behind victory at home on Tuesday, scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (2-2) 8-6 at McKethan Stadium. Florida threw a trio of freshmen pitchers over the first 6.2 innings, beginning with right-hander Johnny Magliozzi who earned the first start of his career. Magliozzi allowed three earned runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 3.2 and was followed up by left-hander Bobby Poyner and RHP Justin Shafer. The duo gave up three earned runs combined on six hits with no walks and two strikeouts in 3.0 innings. By the time Shafer left the hill, the Gators were down 6-5 after previously having leads of 4-1 through three innings and 4-3 through four innings.

Junior catcher Mike Zunino hit a solo home run in the bottom of the second to get Florida on the board, and the Gators rallied in the bottom of the third and fourth as four more runs crossed the plate. Zunino (2-3, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB) led off the seventh the same way he did the second, with another solo shot to tie the game 6-6. With junior RHP Austin Maddox (1-0) taking over to hold Bethune-Cookman to six runs, Florida again rallied in the eighth and took the lead with a RBI single by senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-5). Junior first baseman Brian Johnson (1-4) had a two-RBI night for the Gators, and both senior left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-4, RBI, 2 R, BB) and freshman catcher Taylor Gushue (2-5, RBI) knocked in runs on Tuesday.

4 » New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes underwent surgery on Monday. The Boston Herald reports that the surgery was performed on his right kene and done in order to “clean out some cartilage.” A source told the paper that the procedure “went very well.” Spikes, who returned late in the season after spraining his MCL, was a tremendous contributor for New England on defense in 2011 (when he was on the field).

5 » Florida is attempting to secure a sixth year of collegiate eligibility for offensive lineman James Wilson, ESPN reported on Monday. Wilson, who has broken his foot twice and had four knee surgeries in the last five years, has played in 38 games for the Gators and is talented enough to potentially start for Florida in 2012 if he is able to return. What may hurt his chances at a NCAA waiver is the fact that he played in 11 games in 2011, his redshirt senior season. ESPN notes that the Gators expect to have an answer sooner than later.

6 » North Texas Mean Green head coach and former Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney was released from the hospital on Feb. 16 after suffering a stroke and being rushed to the emergency room four days earlier. McCarney has since returned to work and is expected to continue coaching the team beginning with spring practice in March.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, NBA, Tebow

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (1-0) played like the top team in the country during their season opener on Friday, fighting back every time they were down and eventually toppling the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton Titans (0-1) 7-3 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Down a run after a throwing error in the top of the second, the Gators tied the game when freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1-4) turned on his first collegiate pitch and belted a homer to left field. Behind 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Florida used another solo shot – this time from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3) – to even things up again. The Gators’ clutch hitting continued as a four-run seventh inning – including to pair of RBI singles by juniors catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) and first baseman Brian Johnson (2-4) – to jump ahead 7-3 and hold on for the victory. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for UF but gave up three earned runs on five hits with only one strikeout in 5.2 innings for the no decision. Coming on in relief with his team down a run, junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (1-0) struck out three and gave up just one hit in 2.1 innings before senior RHP Greg Larson tossed the final inning to clinch the victory. Florida’s series with Cal State Fullerton continues Saturday and Sunday though neither game is being televised.

2 » No. 1 Florida softball (7-0) continued its hot start to the 2012 season with yet another run-rule victory as the Gators shut out the Michigan State Spartans (1-5) 8-0 in five innings Friday night at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth but crossed the plate five times in the inning to take a 7-0 lead. A RBI single by sophomore left fielder Kasey Fagan (1-2) in the bottom of the fifth wound up being a walk-off hit as it became the game-deciding run. Freshman 1B Lauren Haeger (2-2) led the way for the Gators with four RBIs, and junior C Brittany Schutte supported her with a 3-3 performance and a RBI of her own. Freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3) also plated two runs and crossed home once herself. Continuing to prove her dominance on the mound, sophomore pitcher Hannah Rogers (5-0) tossed a complete game one-hitter with four strikeouts and a walk in 5.0 innings. UF will take on Michigan State twice more before the weekend concludes.

3 » It was a big night in the NBA for four former Gators stars. Friday night’s standout performance came from Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer, who scored a team-high 26 points (10-of-14 shooting) with five rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes. Joining him at the top of their team’s respective box scores were Golden State Warriors forward/center David Lee with a team-high 23 points (8-of-17 shooting) and eight boards in a team-high 30 minutes; Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons with a team-high 18 points (8-of-15 shooting), a team-high six rebounds and three assists in a team-high 40 minutes; and Memphis Grizzlies C Marreese Speights with a double-double of 12 points (5-of-8 shooting) and 10 boards with two blocks in 35 minutes.

Parsons also learned Friday that he will be participating in the NBA’s All-Star Weekend as one of three players representing Houston in the Shooting Stars competition.

4 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has officially scheduled his “experience” event at the new D1 Sports Training and Therapy facility in Citrus Park, FL. Tebow will hold a special training session at D1 on March 10 where members and special guests will have the opportunity to train alongside him while checking out the new workout center. For more information on D1 and Tebow’s involvement with the company (he’s a part-owner of two facilities), check out OGGOA‘s post from Jan. 17.

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Tucker’s three-run blast powers Gators past Bulldogs 8-6 and into College World Series

It took a day longer than they may have liked, but No. 2 Florida Gators baseball (50-17) advanced to its second-straight College World Series on Sunday with a come-from-behind 8-6 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (38-25) in game three of the Super Regionals at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators will compete at the CWS in Omaha, NE in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history, using a three-run homer by junior right fielder Preston Tucker in the seventh to take back a lost lead and propel themselves to victory. UF hit five bombs Sunday, setting a season-high for home runs in a single game as part of their win.

Florida jumped on Mississippi State early, hitting three home runs in the first two innings and taking an early 4-0 lead. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino got things started by cranking a solo shot with two outs in the first. Junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott lined a two-run homer over the left field wall in the second and the very next batter, redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB), followed suit with the first dinger of his college career.

Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis got the start for the Gators and retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced through three innings. Things fell apart for him in the fourth after he allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning. With no outs, Bulldogs second baseman Nick Vickerson tagged Panteliodis for a three-run bomb to left-center, cutting Florida’s big lead to 4-3.

Pulled after allowing the tying run on in the fifth, Panteliodis (4.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 H) was substituted for with junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson, who let the runner advance to second on a wild pitch but got out of the inning unscathed. Larson was pulled just one inning later after getting Vickerson to ground out but allowing the game-tying and go-ahead runs on base via consecutive singles.

At that point Larson (IP, 2 H, K) was replaced by junior LHP Nick Maronde (1.1 IP, ER, H, K), who got out of the sixth but left in the seventh after giving up a two-out double. Junior RHP Tommy Toledo looked to save the day but struggled mightily at first, walking the first batter on four-straight pitches and allowing Vickerson to hit a liner to right to tie the game 4-4. He then gave up a bases loaded single to left fielder Brent Brownlee, who plated two more and put Mississippi State ahead 6-4 on six unanswered runs.

The Gators started the bottom of the inning with back-to-back walks before Bulldogs closer Caleb King was called upon to get Zunino out. Zunino (2-4, HR, RBI, R) instead threw down a sacrifice bunt to place the game-tying run on second with one out. Faced with a 3-1 count, Tucker (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, R, BB) powered the ball to deep center field, hitting a go-ahead three-run homer to give Florida a 7-6 lead.

Toledo sat down all three batters he faced in the top of the eighth, sending the game into the bottom of the inning where Pigott (3-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) hit his second homer of the afternoon to put the Gators ahead 8-6 with just three outs to go. Toledo (6-3) returned for the ninth and retired the side again, forcing Vickerson to fly out to center for the final out of the game. He finished the contest with 2.1 strong innings and threw the final seven outs of the game after giving up two earned runs on two hits with two walks.

Panteliodis set a school record with his sixth NCAA Tournament start, and senior second baseman Josh Adams set another for most games played in a Florida uniform (248). With his three-run homer, Tucker joined the school’s three-man 200 RBI club (Brad Wilkerson, Matt LaPorta) and proved how dangerous he is behind Zunino.

The 65th College World Series is set to begin on June 18 with the Gators holding the No. 2 overall seed as long as top-seed Virginia advances.

 

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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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Florida baseball sweeps Gainesville Regional with 11-4 rout of Miami, will host Super Regional

The Miami Hurricanes hoped to end their drought against No. 2 Florida Gators baseball on Sunday but failed to keep the momentum they had at the end of their game earlier in the day against the Jacksonville Dolphins. In the final game of the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament at McKethan Stadium, the Gators (48-16) scored early and often, routing the Canes (38-23) 11-4 to advance to the Super Regionals.

Florida got things rolling right out of the gate. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana reached on a single, senior center fielder Bryson Smith followed him with a walk, and junior right fielder Preston Tucker capitalized by hitting a three-run bomb down the right-field line to give the Gators an early 3-0 lead. Miami got out of the inning with three-straight outs but not without first being placed in a decent hole.

After a scoreless second, Florida poured it on in the third by scoring eight runs and coming away up 11-0. With men on first and second and no one out, sophomore catcher Mike Zunino bunted to advance the runners; however, Smith would score from third on a throwing error from the catcher to the third baseman, which allowed Zunino to reach base. Junior left fielder Tyler Thompson then singled up the middle, scoring Zunino (0-3, R, BB) and Tucker; he would advance to second on the throw home.

Junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott (1-5, RBI, R) doubled to left center to plate Thompson (1-5, 2 RBI, R) after a pitching change. He crossed home just one batter later when redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (3-4, RBI, R, SB) singled to right. Ramjit then stole second, advanced to third on a single to right by sophomore third baseman Cody Dent, and ran home when Fontana (1-5, RBI, R) hit a sacrifice fly to left. Dent (1-3, R, 2 BB) and Smith (2-4, 3 R, 2 BB), who singled to right with two outs, both came home when Tucker (2-4, HR, 5 RBI, 2 R) ended the hit parade with a two-RBI double off the right field wall.

The Gators held the Hurricanes scoreless for much of the contest thanks to a top-notch outing from junior left-hander Alex Panteliodis. Panteliodis (6-2) tossed 6.2 innings of shutout ball before giving up a solo shot in the bottom of the seven. He finished with four strikeouts on 66 pitches and gave up one earned run while scatting five hits.

Miami rallied to score three runs in the bottom of the eighth but could not reduce their deficit any further. UM has now lost eight-straight games to UF and 11 of the last 12.

As the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Florida will also host Super Regional action, which begins on June 10. The Gators will take on the winner of the Atlanta Regional, either Mississippi State or Georgia Tech, in a three-game series to determine who will advance to the 2011 College World Series.

2011 Gainesville Regional Honors
Most Outstanding Player: Preston Tucker
All-Tournament Team: Nolan Fontana, Alex Panteliodis, Daniel Pigott, Tyler Thompson, Preston Tucker, Mike Zunino

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Florida routs Manhattan 17-3 in NCAA regional

The truth is that the Manhattan Jaspers never had much of a chance on Friday, squaring off against No. 2 Florida Gators baseball in the second game of the Gainesville Regional at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida (46-16) scored five runs in the first inning, four in the second and seven in the third to demolish Manhattan (34-18) 17-3 in the late afternoon game and advance to the winner’s bracket.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (8-0) got the call Friday and delivered in spades, striking out three and only allowing two hits in 3.1 innings. He was pulled early simply because of the advantage UF held after three innings.

The Gators’ offense supported him early and often, posting a five-spot in the bottom of the first inning to kick things off. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-6, RBI, R) led off the inning with a single and was moved over to second when senior center fielder Bryson Smith (2-4, 2 RBI, 3 R) was hit by a pitch; junior right fielder Preston Tucker singled home Fontana and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino plated Smith.

An infield single and subsequent error gave junior left fielder Tyler Thompson a spot on second and scored both Tucker and Zunino; Thompson (4-4, RBI, 3 R, BB) crossed the plate shortly after when junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott smacked a single to left.

Florida added four more runs the next inning, beginning with three via back-to-back home runs. Tucker launched a two-run shot to right-center, and Zunino (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R) followed him by hitting his ball to almost the exact same spot. Pigott (4-5, 3 RBI, R) earned another RBI a few batters later, singling to right field and sending senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-5, 2 R) home to give the Gators a 9-0 lead.

Tucker (3-6, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R) did what he could to keep the momentum going, smacking another two-run homer in the third. Florida led 11-0 at that point but added five more runs in the inning to hold a 16-0 advantage through three. Sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox was pulled in the top half of the inning after spraining his foot. His availability going forward is currently unknown.

Manhattan’s starter, John Soldinger, left the bases loaded with no one out upon exiting in the top of the third. He tossed two innings and surrendered an astonishing 15 earned runs on 16 hits with three homers, two walks, two hit batters and one strikeout.

Replacing Whitson, freshman RHP Keenan Kish was looking solid until the fifth inning when he gave up four hits and allowed three unearned runs, reducing the Jaspers’ deficit to 16-3. The Gators rallied to add another run in the seventh, which marked the end of Kish’s career-long outing of 3.2 innings. He struck out three and walked one.

With the victory, Florida moves on to the winner’s bracket to face Miami (37-21) on Saturday at 4 p.m. The game will air live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com. The winner will advance to the finals of the Gainesville Regional, while the loser will face the victor of the elimination game between Jacksonville-Manhattan at noon to determine who will take the other spot in the finals.

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