No. 4 Florida baseball pounds Mississippi State 18-0 to even series

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) belted a grand slam during an eight-run second inning and drove in five runs as No. 4 Florida (25-7/8-3 SEC) evened its series at Mississippi State (21-10/5-6 SEC) with an 18-0 shutout on Saturday afternoon in front of 11,201 fans at Dudy Noble Field as part of the Super Bulldog Weekend festivities. All nine Gator starters had at least one hit in UF’s most lopsided triumph over the Bulldogs in school history.

Sophomore left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (5-1) tossed six scoreless innings to earn the win and was followed to the mound by freshman Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) (2.0 IP, 2 H) and senior Matt Campbell (Tampa, Fla.) (1.0 IP) in Florida’s seventh shutout of the season, matching the program’s most since 1993. The Gator offense recorded season-bests in SEC action for runs (18) and hits (18) and the 18 runs were the most scored by UF in conference play since a 24-2 win at Auburn on April 11, 2009. The teams will play the rubber game tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET, with freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (4-0, 2.06) facing MSU junior lefty Nick Routt (0-1, 2.61).

Florida exploded for a season-high eight runs in the second inning, highlighted by a grand slam by Zunino (3-for-4, career-high four runs), who had a pair of hits in the frame. Zunino opened the inning with an infield hit and sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-5, two runs) had a one-out single through the right side before junior Jeff Moyer (Winter Springs, Fla.) drew a four-pitch walk from sophomore Chris Stratton (4-3) to load the bases with one down. Junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-6, three RBI, two runs) opened the scoring with an RBI single into left center that scored Zunino, a walk to junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) brought across Maddox and sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-4, two RBI, two runs) was hit by a pitch to bring in Moyer with the third run. With two down and the bases full, junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) walked on four pitches to score Pigott and end the afternoon for Stratton (1.2 IP, 3 H, 7 R). Zunino launched sophomore Chad Girodo’s initial offering over the fence in left field for his second career grand slam and second of the season (Winthrop, March 22). The round-tripper was Zunino’s team-leading sixth of the campaign.

Fontana and Adams each delivered two-out RBI singles in the third to increase UF’s lead to 10-0. Thompson drew a two-out walk from freshman Evan Mitchell, moved into scoring position with his first stolen base of the season and came home on Fontana’s base-knock into left field. Adams then grooved a 2-2 pitch up the middle to plate Thompson.

The Bulldogs had a pair of runners in scoring position in the home part of the inning, as senior Cody Freeman (3-for-5) singled and redshirt senior Jarrod Parks followed with a double. Johnson answered with back-to-back strikeouts of freshman Daryl Norris and senior Jonathan Ogden.

Adams came through with another RBI single with two down in the fifth to give the Gators an 11-0 lead. Pigott reached on a one-out throwing error by Mitchell, moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on a base-hit into right center by Thompson. Although a fielder’s choice by Fontana erased Thompson at second base for out number two, Adams delivered his second single of the day to score Pigott.

Freshman Victor Diaz replaced Mitchell (3.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R) to start the sixth and issued a leadoff walk to Zunino. Johnson raked a double into the right-field corner that pushed Zunino to third and Maddox drove in his teammate with an RBI grounder.

The Gators tacked on six more runs in the seventh for an 18-0 margin. Fontana collected his second hit of the day and a one-out walk to Adams prompted another pitching change for the Bulldogs. Sophomore Andrew Busby came in for Diaz (1.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R) and had a fielder’s choice by Tucker erased Adams but advanced sophomore pinch runner Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) to third. Zunino raised his RBI total to five with a single through the left side to bring across Dent and redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) stroked a pinch-hit RBI single to score Tucker. An infield hit by Maddox loaded the bases and Moyer drove in two more runs with his second double of the season off the wall in right field. Pigott roped a two-run single into left field off sophomore reliever Kendall Graveman (2.1 IP, 4 H) to clear the bases and finalize the scoring.

The Gators out-hit the Bulldogs, 18-8, as 12 different players contributed to the offense.

Game Notes

· Florida has split its first two games of a series for the second time this season (South Carolina, March 25 & 26).

· Before today, the Gators’ biggest win over Mississippi State was 14-2 on March 8, 1997.

· Brian Johnson collected his first win since March 11 against Rhode Island (7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 5 K).

· The Gators now have three grand slams on the season, two by Mike Zunino (March 22, April 9) and one by Nolan Fontana (March 22).

· Florida’s previous high for runs in an inning was seven, done three times, most recently against Tennessee in the seventh inning on April 2.

· Zunino became the first UF player with two hits in an inning since Preston Tucker versus Winthrop in the sixth inning on March 23.