UF baseball, softball struggle in rough weekend

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

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

BASEBALL

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

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

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

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

SOFTBALL

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

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

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

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

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

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Florida baseball walks off with 5-4 win over FSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Georgia Southern shocks No. 1 Florida baseball

Coming off a three-game sweep of No. 24 Miami, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball did not expect the Georgia Southern Eagles to put up much of a fight Tuesday night. With the game scoreless entering the fifth inning, Georgia Southern (8-5) exploded for seven runs over the final four innings of the game to rout Florida (10-2) 7-0 and end their 24-game home winning streak at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Looking to give their starters a rest, the Gators began the game with junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone on the hill. Mardone struck out five in only 2.2 innings before being replaced by junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson (0-1), who gave up two earned runs on three hits in three innings to earn the loss.

Only one of the four other runs Florida allowed was earned as errors and miscues cost the Gators dearly. None if it mattered, however, as Florida’s offense was only able to muster three singles over the course of the game. Eagles pitchers Chris Beck, Josh Adams (3-1) and Matt Murray (S2) teamed up to complete Georgia Southern’s shutout. The trio combined to strike out 11 UF batters, with Beck giving up his team’s only walk.

GSU center fielder Shawn Payne (2-5, 2 RBI, R), first baseman Steve Cochrane (1-5, 2 RBI, R) and shortstop Ben Morgan (3-4, 2 R) led the way for their team offensively.

Florida faces South Florida in Tampa on Wednesday before returning home for a three-game weekend series against Rhode Island from Friday-Sunday.

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No. 1 Florida baseball sweeps Miami in series

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (10-1) completed a three-game series sweep of the No. 24 Miami Hurricanes (4-7) over the weekend with a 5-3 win on Sunday.

Florida was also victorious 8-3 on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday to sweep Miami in Gainesville, FL for the first time in school history.

The Gators have now won nine of their last 10 match-ups against the Hurricanes including six-straight. This weekend they did so in front of a combined crowd of 13,552.

Friday: Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (3-0) struck out nine in five scoreless innings to help Florida prevail. Senior second baseman Josh Adams (3-3, 3 RBI, R) and sophomore third baseman Austin Maddox (2-5, HR, 2 RBI, R) led the way for the offense as the Gators scored eight unanswered runs and eventually won 8-3.

Saturday: Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall picked up right where Johnson left off, tossing seven one-hit innings while striking out five before being relieved by RHP Anthony DeSclafani in the top of the eighth. After DeSclafani (2-0) forced three consecutive ground outs, Florida decided to bring in senior Bryson Smith to pinch hit with Adams on second after a lead-off walk. Smith (1-1, RBI) knocked Adams home with a single to right center and DeSclafani struck out two in the top of the ninth to end the game. The 1-0 series-clinching win marked UF’s first shutout of UM since 2004.

Sunday: Tied 2-2 heading into the sixth, the Gators rallied for three runs and eventually prevailed 5-3 over the Hurricanes. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson took the hill for Florida but gave up seven hits and two earned runs while striking out four in five innings of work. Junior RHP Tommy Toledo (2-0) bridged the gap with two strikeouts in 2.2 shutout innings before DeSclafani (S1) eventually came on for the save opportunity in the ninth. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (3-4, RBI, R) hit a solo shot to start off the sixth inning rally, and junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-4, 2 RBI) completed it with a two-run double. Florida also saw sterling offensive efforts from freshman 3B Zack Powers (2-4, RBI, R) and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (0-2, 2 BB, 2 R).

UF, which has won 24-straight games at McKethan Stadium, looks to continue their winning ways next week with a pair of contests against Georgia Southern and USF as well as a three-game weekend series vs. Rhode Island.

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TWO BITS: baseball and softball complete sweeps

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

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

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

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, lax win Thursday

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (5-0) kept their hot streak going Thursday with a solid 4-0 victory over the Boston College Eagles (2-2) in the first of a three-game series taking place at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (2-0, 0.00 ERA) shined, retiring the first 17 hitters he faced in a bid for a perfect game; unfortunately he ended up giving up a hit in the sixth and combined with sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez (S1) to toss a two-hit shutout. Johnson’s streak of retiring 27-consecutive batters through two games also set a school record. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) led the way at the plate, with sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox (1-4), Johnson (1-3, R) and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) also registering a RBI each. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0, 1.50 ERA) takes the mound for game two of the series, Friday at 5 p.m.

2 » Thursday wasn’t all about basketball and baseball as No. 4/5 Florida softball trashed the Indiana Hoosiers (5-6) 7-0 in their first game of the day at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, FL. Freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers tossed a complete game shutout for the win, only giving up two hits and three walks while striking out seven. The Gators scored two in the third, four (with two outs) in the sixth and one more in the seventh to put away the Hoosiers. Junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-3) led Florida offensively by driving in a pair of runs. Freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle, sophomore designated hitter Samantha Holle and freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan each walked twice and were rewarded by their teammates for their efforts, crossing the plate a combined four times.

3 » The early win was nice, but UF softball (11-0) faced a tougher opponent in the evening. Down 4-3 to the No. 11/12 Texas Longhorns (10-2) late Thursday night, the Gators rallied to tie the game first in the seventh and again in the eighth before pulling out a 6-5 victory in nine innings. Senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (0.36 ERA), the team’s ace, got the start and played nearly the entire game, striking out seven while allowing two earned runs, seven hits and four walks in 8.1 innings. She was replaced in the ninth by Rogers (5-0, 0.49 ERA), who struck out both batters she faced to preserve a 5-5 tie into the bottom of the inning.

Tied at three runs apiece in the top of the seventh after the Longhorns scored an unearned run, RF Taylor Hoagland homered to center to give Texas a one-run advantage. Now down 4-3, Florida’s Moultrie (2-3, 2 RBI, R) tripled to center field to score junior Ellie Langley from third base (she replaced sophomore Kelsey Horton, who hit a pinch-hit leadoff single). Trailing 5-4 in the eighth, a single by senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (1-4, 2 RBI, R) scored senior second baseman Aja Paculba (2-3, R) from second. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Moultrie hit a walk-off single to score sophomore Ensley Gammel from second and give the Gators the victory.

4 » While baseball and softball had the fun at night, No. 17 Florida lacrosse (3-1) got the day started off right for the Gators with a 16-6 trouncing of the UMBC Retrievers (1-1) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Seven different players scored for Florida with sophomores midfielder Kitty Cullen (five goals) and attacker Ashley Bruns (four goals) once again leading the way.

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Gators sweep Bulls; Fontana and Whitson shine

Topping the South Florida Bulls 7-2 in their season opener on Friday, No. 1 Florida Gators baseball put together back-to-back wins on Saturday and Sunday to sweep the season opening series at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida (3-0) took down USF (0-3) 4-1 on Saturday and 5-0 Sunday, outscoring their opponent by a 16-3 margin over the three-game stretch.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0) took the mound for the Gators on Saturday, giving up only one run on seven hits in six innings. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (1-0), the No. 9 pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, provided the most impressive performance of the weekend Sunday, striking out nine batters while only allowing one hit and registering one walk in five scoreless innings.

SATURDAY: Down one after the opening frame, Florida quickly evened things up in the bottom of the first when sophomore infielder Austin Maddox (2-4, RBI) scored sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-4, run) from third base on a fielder’s choice.

The Gators jumped ahead two innings later when junior left fielder Daniel Pigott (2-3, RBI, run), who ended up on third after hitting a lead-off double, scored on a double play ball to give UF a 2-1 lead. Held scoreless the next three innings, Florida added single runs in the seventh and eighth.

With junior designated hitter Ben McMahan (1-3, run) on second due to a passed ball in the seventh, Pigott singled past the shortstop to give his team a 3-1 advantage. In the eighth, senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-3, run) scored from third when sophomore first baseman Brian Johnson (RBI) reached base on a fielder’s choice.

Junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone came in to relieve Randall after the first six innings but was pulled for junior closer Tommy Toledo (S1), who tossed 2.1 scoreless innings to earn his first save of the season.

SUNDAY: Fontana (2-3, 2 runs), leading off with a hit for the second-straight game, was also the first run to cross the plate Sunday. After doubling down the left field line, he reached home when junior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3, RBI) singled up the middle. The Gators piled on more two runs in the fourth when sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4, HR) hit a lead-off homer to left and senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-4, run) scored on a single through the left side by Pigott (2-4, 2 RBI). Fontana scored again via a sacrifice fly by Maddox (RBI, BB) in the sixth, and McMahan (run, BB) crossed the plate in the eighth on another single by Pigott.

Completing Whitson’s stellar pitching performance was the trio of junior RHP Greg Larson, sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez and freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, who each gave up a hit but combined for four strikeouts.

Fontana posted a stunning .750 average (9-for-12) over the weekend, got on base at a .786 clip and scored five runs in three games.

Florida had 14,003 fans walk through the turnstiles over the weekend, the highest opening weekend and second-largest three-game series attendance in school history. UF’s three defeats of USF extended their winning streak to 11 against the in-state rival.

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Florida baseball tops USF 7-2 in season opener

There is plenty of pressure on No. 1 Florida Gators baseball this year, but the team looked at ease Friday night as they opened the 2011 season with a dominant 7-2 victory over the South Florida Bulls at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Fueled by six scoreless innings from sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson, Florida (1-0) shut out USF (0-1) for the first eight innings of the game. Johnson (1-0) only faced 18 batters, struck out and allowed two singles.

The Gators scored all of their runs in two innings, posting three in the third and four more in the fifth.

With the bases loaded on three consecutive singles in the third, junior right fielder Preston Tucker hit a fourth to left field, scoring freshman third baseman Zach Powers for Florida’s first run of the season. Sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox followed with a deep sacrifice fly to right field to score sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana, and Johnson’s RBI double to right center on the next at bat allowed senior second baseman Josh Adams to cross the plate for the inning’s final run.

Back up at bat in the fifth, UF used a a two-run homer by Tucker with Fontana on third to jump ahead 5-0. A few batters later, senior left fielder Bryson Smith stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and hit a two-RBI single to the third base side to score both sophomore catcher Mike Zunino and Johnson.

Relieved in the seventh, Johnson was supported by back-to-back shutout innings from junior right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani and freshman RHP Jonathon Crawford. The Gators’ 2010 ace, junior LHP Alex Panteliodis, came in to close out the game but ended up allowing three hits and two earned runs – including a solo shot to right by Bulls RF James Ramsay – before notching the final out.

Tucker finished the game 3-for-5 with three RBI and was a triple away from the cycle. Fontana (4-5) scored two runs while earning a career-high four hits.

With the victory, Florida won its 16th consecutive game at McKethan Stadium, and head coach Kevin Sullivan improved to 4-0 in season openers. The Gators are back on the field Saturday with sophomore RHP Hudson Randall (8-4, 3.24 ERA in 2010) on the mound for the second of the three-game series. The contest will begin at 4 p.m. and will be available live on GatorVision.tv.

Photo Credit: Brad McClenn/The Gainesville Sun

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