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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Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2010, the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From game-winning baskets to displays of pure emotion, Florida experienced some unique athletic moments in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 On the Field Moments of the Year.

OGGOA RELATED: Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

10 » FLORIDA WINS INAUGURAL LACROSSE GAME (2/20/10)
When Florida decided it wanted to start another women’s athletics program, the University Athletic Association did extensive research and found out that women’s lacrosse would be the perfect fit. In preparation for their first season, the Gators and head coach Amanda O’Leary secured the country’s No. 1 recruiting class (according to Inside Lacrosse Magazine). All the hard work and preparation to get the team ready paid off on Feb. 20 when lacrosse debuted in the brand new Donald R. Dizney Stadium to a boisterous crowd of 2,114 spectators. Florida defeated Jacksonville 16-6 behind four goals and four assists from freshman sensation Ashley Bruns. All-in-all the Gators faced 16 championship-caliber teams and played so well that they reached the 2010 ALC Tournament semifinals. In just their second year of existence, Florida women’s lacrosse is ranked as the No. 17 team in the country going into the 2011 season.

9 » NEAR VICTORIES/HEARTBREAKING LOSSES (5/25/10 * 3/18/10 * 10/9/10)

It is rare for teams to go undefeated and even less likely that an entire athletic program can go through a season without its share of close losses and nail biting finishes. Such was the case for the Gators in 2010. On May 25, No. 3 women’s tennis was barely defeated by the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal for the 2010 NCAA National Championship. Stanford won 4-3 after Florida rallied when they were just two individual games away from being defeated. The Gators forced third sets in two singles matches; sophomore Joanna Mather took down her opponent but senior No. 65 Marrit Boonstra was not as lucky. Losing her first set 6-4, Boonstra fought back to even her match with No. 33 Mallory Burdette by taking the second set 6-7 (4). Down 2-0 in the third, she pushed ahead with a valiant effort to take a 5-4 lead but ended up losing her final three games, the match itself and the championship.

Returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons, No. 10-seed Florida got in a bit easier than some might have expected. Matched up against the No. 7-seed Brigham Young Cougars in the event’s opening game, the Gators fought hard but could not stop Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette. Allowing BYU to jump ahead 59-46 in the second half, UF came back behind freshman G Kenny Boynton and junior forward Chandler Parsons. Florida missed potential game-winners during regulation (Parsons) and the first overtime (Boynton) and eventually fell to Brigham Young 99-92 in a double-overtime heartbreaker with Fredette adding to his game-high 37 points.

Though losing a national championship and NCAA Tournament game are both difficult, Gators fans will probably look back on No. 12/14 Florida’s shocking loss to the No. 9/12 LSU Tigers on Oct. 10 as the worst near-victory of the season. Wearing orange jerseys for the first time since 1989, the Gators came back from a 12-point deficit when freshman wide receiver Andre Debose returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, sophomore running back Mike Gillislee rumbled in for a touchdown and redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley completed a two-point conversion to sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive. All Florida wanted when its defense came out was a stop, but LSU put together a 62-yard game-winning drive that included numerous third down conversions and a converted fake field goal attempt on fourth down from UF’s 36-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. Back-to-back passes to WR Terrence Toliver (of 28 and 3 yards, respectively) and the Tigers left The Swamp with a 33-29 victory. Players have noted that the loss was a negative turning point in the season, one that may or may not have led to the team dropping their third-straight game one week later at home to Mississippi State.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

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Seminoles chop Gators 8-5 in elimination game

Faced with elimination from the 2010 NCAA College World Series and the end of a stellar season, No. 3 Florida Gators baseball (47-17) lost their second-straight game for only the third time all year, falling 8-5 to the unranked Florida State Seminoles (48-19) on Monday evening at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, NE.

The Gators entered the series hoping to earn their 48th win of the season – one which would tie the program high (2005) – but could not come away with a victory after first falling to UCLA 11-3 on Saturday.

Freshman starter Hudson Randall (8-4) was blasted by the Seminoles for four earned runs in 2.2 innings including a solo shot by outfielder Tyler Holt (3-4, two RBI, three runs) to lead-off the first inning and a three-run homer by outfielder/pitcher Mike McGee (2-4, four RBI, two runs) in the bottom of the third. Freshman Brian Johnson, in relief, fared a little better but still allowed two earned runs in 3.1 innings. Sophomore Anthony DeSclafani and junior Kevin Chapman each gave up an earned run of their own before senior Greg Larson threw the final out.

For the Seminoles, Brian Busch (6-2) only allowed two earned runs in 5.1 innings. Geoff Parker tossed 2.1 innings of shutout relief before Daniel Bennett entered for an attempt to close out the game. However, Bennett would give up a three-RBI double to sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (1-5) in the top of the ninth before being pulled for McGee (S13) who forced freshman catcher Mike Zunino to line into an infield double play to end the game.

Freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-4, two runs), freshman designated hitter Austin Maddox (2-5, RBI) and senior outfielder Jonathan Pigott (2-4, RBI, run) led the way for Florida offensively, but the team was unable to put a rally together until it was too late.

FSU defeated UF for the fourth time in five meetings this season; the Seminoles are also responsible for ending the Gators’ season twice in the past three years after knocking the 2008 team out of the NCAA Tournament in the Tallahassee Regional.

Photo Credit: Daniel J. Muprhy/ Omaha World-Herald

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Errors doom Miami as Florida advances to 2010 NCAA College World Series with 4-3 win Saturday

Advancing to the 2010 NCAA College World Series for the first time since 2005, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (47-15) defeated the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes (43-20) 4-3 in extra innings Saturday after Miami tied a postseason school record with seven errors including three in the final two innings.

As the away team at McKethan Stadium in the second game of the 2010 Gainesville Super Regional, Florida was down 3-2 with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning. Hurricanes shortstop Stephen Perez was charged with a throwing error on a routine ground out hit by Gators freshman catcher Mike Zunino (0-3), which advanced all runners and scored the tying run.

Florida would blank Miami in the bottom frame and move on to extra innings where Gators freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-5) led-off by reaching base on a misjudged fly ball by Canes right fielder Chris Pelaez. Fontana advanced to second and later to third on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore RF Daniel Pigott before being driven home by a RBI-double down the right field line by freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (1-5) two batters later with two outs.

UF went up 4-3 and held on to the lead as sophomore reliever Greg Larson earned his third save of the season with a strikeout in 0.2 innings. Freshman pitcher Steven Rodriguez (2-0) earned the win in relief after cleaning up the bottom of the ninth inning and earning an out in the tenth.

Both starting pitchers produced fantastic outings as Gators freshman Hudson Randall posted five strikeouts and only allowed two earned runs on three hits in 6.2 innings, and the Hurricanes’ Chris Hernandez allowed one earned run while striking out four and letting up both three hits and three walks in 8.1 innings.

Florida led 2-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring the first run in the fifth after two errors helped senior outfielder Matt den Dekker (1-2, three walks) cross home plate; den Dekker scored again in the seventh when freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (1-3, two RBI) hit an RBI-single to right center field with two outs.

Men were on first and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when head coach Kevin O’Sullivan removed Randall for closer Kevin Chapman, who immediately gave up a three-run shot to Miami OF Nathan Melendres (1-3, three RBI) to give the Hurricanes their first and only lead of the game.

Florida’s hopes of ending the best-of-three series early looked to be doomed until a string of errors erased UM’s one-run lead.

The Gators continued a 15-game home winning streak and are now 30-9 all-time at home during NCAA play with the victory Saturday. Miami still leads the all-time series 124-99-1, but Florida has mounted a 62-45-1 record in Gainesville and defeated their in-state rivals four times in five games (7-1, 6-9, 4-2, 7-2, 4-3) this season. O’Sullivan is 4-0 against the Canes all-time in NCAA action.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

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One down, one to go: Florida trips up Miami 7-2

A dominating performance from sophomore starting pitcher Alex Panteliodis coupled with an onslaught of runs in the third and fourth innings propelled No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (46-15) to a 7-2 victory over the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes (43-19) in the opening game of the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Super Regional on Friday night at McKethan Stadium.

A complete game effort from Panteliodis (11-2), including a career-high 12 strikeouts and a streak where he retired the final 14 batters he faced, allowed Florida’s bullpen to rest and remain available for game two of the best-of-three series on Saturday at 7 p.m.

In addition to forcing 12 batters to whiff, Panteliodis scattered three hits over nine innings and only allowed one walk during the affair.

Stepping up at the plate for the Gators were freshmen third baseman Austin Maddox (1-5, run) and catcher Mike Zunino (1-4), who tied for the team lead with two RBI apiece. Outfielders sophomore Tyler Thompson (1-3, solo home run) and senior Justin Pigott (2-4) each scored two runs, and sophomore Preston Tucker (0-2) walked thrice.

Miami committed two errors Friday night, both of which led to unearned runs not attributed to Hurricanes starter David Gutierrez (5-3), who was pulled from the game after allowing seven hits and one earned run in four innings. Catcher Yasmani Grandal scored the team’s only runs on a two-RBI homer in the fourth inning.

UF out-hit UM 9-3 and left more runners on base, too (9-1).

Game two of the Gainesville Super Regional will feature freshman Hudson Randall (8-3, 2.97 ERA) taking the mound for the Gators against junior Chris Hernandez (10-3, 2.77 ERA) for the Canes. If Florida wins, they will move on to the 2010 NCAA College World Series; should they lose, game three will be played Sunday at 7 p.m.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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Six home runs help Gators dominate Owls 15-0

In their most dominant performance of the season, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (45-15) throttled the Florida Atlantic Owls (37-24) 15-0 to win the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Regional on Sunday night at McKethan Stadium and advance to Super Regional competition.

Fueled by sophomore outfielder Tyler Thompson – who posted a three home run, six RBI performance in which he went 4-for-5 – the Gators smacked six homers over the outfield wall (a school postseason record) while simultaneously shutting out the Owls behind seven strong innings by freshman starter Brian Johnson (6-4).

Johnson also went 3-for-5 from the plate with a homer. Junior first baseman Preston Tucker (4-6, four RBI) and freshman catcher Mike Zunino (2-4) provided the other two dingers of the evening. In all, Florida tallied 19 hits and five walks, stranding 10 on base.

Relievers redshirt sophomore Tommy Toledo and junior Kevin Chapman tossed the final two innings of the contest to complete the shutout.

Johnson was honored with the Gainesville Regional’s Most Outstanding Player award after the game for his .625 (5-8) performance at the plate for the series and dominant outing from the mound on Sunday. UF as a whole placed seven players in eight spots on the All-Tournament Team, including Johnson, Thompson, Tucker, Zunino, senior outfielder Matt den Dekker and freshman pitcher Hudson Randall.

The win advances the Gators to Super Regional action for the second-straight year and fourth in the last seven. Gainesville, FL, will once again host the event, which will consist of a three-game series against the winner of the Coral Gables Regional (to be decided Monday night between Miami and Texas A&M).

Florida is 20-1 in night games at home this season and won its 13th consecutive game on Sunday. The Gators outscored their three opponents 32-5 over the weekend.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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Florida drops Bethune-Cookman 7-3 in regional

No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (43-15) looked like their normal selves Friday evening, taking down the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (35-21) 7-3 at McKethan Stadium in the 2010 NCAA Gainesville Regional. Freshman starter Hudson Randall (8-3) tossed a stellar 7.1 innings for the win, striking out a career-high 10 batters and not allowing a hit until the fifth inning. It marked his sixth-straight victory.

Florida’s offense provided Randall with plenty of support from the get-go, scoring four runs in the second inning and three more in the sixth. Senior outfielder Matt den Dekker and freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana each went 2-4 from the plate with two RBI and a walk apiece. Freshman catcher Mike Zunino (1-3) added the other RBI.

The Gators will continue Gainesville Regional action Saturday at 7 p.m. in a winner’s bracket game against Oregon State (32-22), which beat Florida Atlantic (35-23) 6-4 on Friday afternoon. The game will air live on Sun Sports and ESPN3.com.

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