Tied with six left, Florida baseball hopes to rise up

The weekend served as a primer for No. 4/6 Florida Gators baseball (33-11, 17-6 SEC), which had hoped to take control of the Southeastern Conference with a sweep of the Alabama Crimson Tide (28-19, 9-14 SEC). Instead, Florida only took two of three games, leaving themselves tied with South Carolina atop the SEC standings.

After earning a 9-3 win Friday, the Gators clinched their sixth-straight series with a 14-8 victory in the second game of the three-game weekend at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL. It was Florida’s season-high seventh-straight win and the first time any SEC Eastern Division opponent had defeated Alabama at home since 2004 (just the second time since 1995).

Freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-3) scored two runs while jacking a grand slam; freshman catcher Mike Zunino (2-4) nailed a three-run homer, and sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (3-5) added a solo shot with two RBI. Sophomore starter Alex Panteliodis (8-2) tossed six innings for the win.

The Gators were unable to put away the Crimson Tide on Saturday, allowing Alabama junior shortstop Josh Rutledge (3-5) to power his team with a career-high six RBI for their only victory of the series. Sophomore reliever Anthony DeSclafani (2-3) picked up the loss for Florida, but Johnson’s start and subsequent six runs allowed in 3.1 innings of work was the main reason for the loss.

UF and USC (36-11, 17-7 SEC) will now duel it out over their last six conference games (two series) to determine who will take home the regular season crown. And considering the two teams will face-off in the final three games of the season in Columbia, SC, there is a possibility that the championship may be played for in the season finale on May 22.

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TWO BITS: Baseball takes Bama, Wright inspired

1 » No. 4/6 Florida Gators baseball (32-11, 16-6 SEC) handled the Alabama Crimson Tide (28-18, 9-13 SEC) on Friday on the road at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, coming away with a 9-3 victory on the heels of freshman starter Hudson Randall’s seven shutout innings. Randall (6-3), cleared way for the Gators’ bats to get to work, and the lineup responded with every single player getting a hit. Freshman catcher Mike Zunino (2-4) led the way with three RBI; freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (2-5) attempted to match him with two RBI and two runs of his own. Florida faces Alabama the next two days before returning to Gainesville, FL, for a five-game home stand.

2 » A day before Mother’s Day, it is good to hear a nice mother-son story prominently featuring a former Florida football player. For new Chicago Bears safety Major Wright, his mother Andrea Eluett has stood as a major part of his life, which is the reason why he gave her his 2009 BCS National Championship ring last year as a present. “She’s been a big inspiration in my life,” Wright said. “Growing up, we didn’t have it all. Everything wasn’t going right for us. But she’d always be there for us no matter what it took. Her [returning to school for a pharmacy degree] showed our family that we could go to college and be productive and get great jobs. It let us know that we could do all things and not to let anything hold us back.” Read the rest: ChicagoBears.com

UPDATE » Four former Gators started competing in The PLAYERS Championship on Thursday, but only one remains after two rounds of action. Camilo Villegas (143), Brian Gay (144) and Mark Calcavecchia (147) all missed the cut while Chris Couch will continue competing with a two-day 142 (-3).

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