No. 4 Florida (24-5/7-2 SEC) welcomes UCF (19-9/2-4 C-USA) on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. for the front end of a home-and-home series that will be completed on April 20 in Orlando. Over the weekend, the Gators swept Tennessee at home by scores of 3-0, 11-2 and 9-1, while the Knights dropped all three games at home to No. 20 Southern Miss (6-5, 13-2, 5-2).
Junior left-hander Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (2-0, 4.00) is set for his fourth start of the season and will oppose UCF senior right-hander Chase Bradford (2-1, 4.40). In six appearances covering 18 innings, Panteliodis has registered 14 strikeouts and issued three walks. The southpaw threw six scoreless innings in his last outing against Winthrop on March 23, permitting three hits in UF’s 10-0 shutout of the Eagles.
The matchup with the Gators will be UCF’s eighth-straight outing against a ranked foe. The Knights captured two of their three meetings at No. 23 Rice over the weekend of March 25-27 (7-2, 2-6, 5-4) and then downed No. 20 Stetson last Tuesday, 8-2, before falling to USM.
Tuesday night’s tilt will be the Gators’ final game at McKethan Stadium until April 22 against Western Division leader Alabama. UF begins a season-high eight-game road trip on Friday night at Mississippi State and will also face Florida State in Tallahassee on April 12, Georgia in Athens from April 15-17 and then UCF in Orlando on April 20. Florida is 5-2 (.714) away from Gainesville this spring, including 4-0 on an opponents’ home field.
In the teams’ lone encounter last season, Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) threw five scoreless innings in his first collegiate start as Florida registered a 7-6 victory over UCF on Feb. 24 at McKethan Stadium. The righty threw first-pitch strikes to 12 of the 18 batters he faced and 53 of his 71 pitchers were strikes. Kevin Chapman kept the Knights off the board for 1.2 innings to earn his first career save in a game that was delayed for 26 minutes at the outset due to steady rain in the area.
The Orange and Blue built a 7-0 lead with a pair of three-run outbursts in the second and sixth innings before UCF countered with three runs in both the seventh and eighth frames to edge closer. The quartet of Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.), Matt den Dekker, Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) and Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) chipped in with two hits apiece.
Over the weekend, Florida took all three games from Eastern Division rival Tennessee. UF’s 7-2 beginning to league play matches the 2008 club for the best start in head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s four-year tenure. Florida allowed just three runs in the series and limited the Vols to a .160 (15-for-94) batting average, while hitting .361 (35-for-97) and totaling 23 runs. The Gators have now taken eight of the last nine meetings, including consecutive sweeps in Gainesville. Zunino went 3-for-10 (.300) with a team-high five runs against Tennessee and extended his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games. Sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (.337, 23 RBI, 23 walks) went 6-for-11 (.545) in the series, with a team-high eight RBI, including six on Saturday, while Adams (.372, 23 RBI, 17 runs) was 6-for-9 (.667) and sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (.282, 14 RBI) was 5-for-10 (.500) with four RBI and three runs.
In Sunday’s finale, the Gators broke open a 1-0 game with three runs in the sixth and five in the seventh to post a 9-1 victory. Freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (4-0, 2.06) picked up his first SEC win with five scoreless innings in which he permitted five hits, registered six strikeouts and issued three walks. Junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) (2-2, 2.65) came in with runners on second and third and none out with UF clinging to a 1-0 lead in the sixth and kept Tennessee off the scoreboard. UF reached double-digits in hits for the third-straight contest, using a 12-hit attack to subdue the Vols. Maddox was 3-for-3 and delivered a bases-loaded two-run single in the seventh, Fontana went 2-for-4 and drove in a pair of runs out of the leadoff spot and junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (.342, 22 RBI) went 2-for-4 and scored twice.
Fontana went 3-for-4 and matched his career high by driving in six runs as Florida the series with an 11-2 win on Saturday afternoon. Fontana opened the scoring in the fourth with an RBI single, snapped a 2-2 tie with a two-run single in the sixth and had a bases-clearing triple to highlight a seven-run seventh for the Gators, who took the series from the Vols for the third-straight year. Junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) (4-0, 1.66) retired all seven batters he faced over 2.2 innings after taking over for sophomore starter Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (4-1, 2.92) with two runners on base and a 2-2 score in the sixth. DeSclafani induced an inning-ending double play and then set down the Vols in order in both the seventh and eighth innings before freshman Keenan Kish (Worcester, Pa.) (0-0, 0.00) closed the game with a perfect ninth. After totaling 10 hits in Friday’s opener, the Orange and Blue had 13 more hits and limited Tennessee to its season-low total of four hits for the second day in a row. Randall threw a four-hit shutout on 74 pitches as UF defeated Tennessee, 3-0, in the series opener. In improving his season ledger to 5-0, the righty gave up four singles and had four strikeouts while lowering his SEC-leading earned run average to 0.54. Randall was supported by a Gator offense that tallied 10 hits, highlighted by a two-run homer by Maddox in the second inning and a 3-for-4 outing by Adams.
Randall was chosen as the SEC Pitcher of the Week for the second time in three weeks on Monday after tossing a four-hit shutout on 74 pitches in the series opener against Tennessee last Friday night. He shared the league’s weekly honor with Georgia junior reliever Tyler Maloof and was the first hurler from UF to earn the accolade twice in a season since Johnny Wiggs was recognized three times in 1988 (March 22, April 25, May 9).
Randall’s sterling effort marked the first time that Florida had held UT scoreless since March 21, 1987. The righty allowed four singles, with four strikeouts and zero walks. More impressively, of his 74 pitches, 59 were strikes and Randall did not go to a three-ball count on any of the 30 batters he faced. He also threw first-pitch strikes to 25 hitters in the contest.
The right-hander became the first Gator with a solo shutout since Tommy Boss on June 6, 2004, versus UCLA in the NCAA Oklahoma City Regional and was the first UF pitcher since Boss in 2005 to register back-to-back complete games after going the distance on March 26 in a 2-1 triumph over defending national champion South Carolina.
He has not surrendered an earned run in 30.1 innings dating back to the second inning against Rhode Island on March 12 and has totaled 16.2 scoreless innings since yielding an unearned run to USC. Randall has not allowed any earned runs in three SEC starts against No. 5 LSU, No. 4 South Carolina and Tennessee spanning 24.2 innings and has captured all three decisions. He leads the SEC with a 0.54 ERA in his seven starts and is a perfect 5-0 with 29 strikeouts and one walk in 49.2 innings, while limiting opponents to a .189 batting average.
Zunino enters the week on a career best 17-game hitting streak, a stretch in which UF is 14-3 (.824). He is 26-for-61 (.426) with 19 runs, 16 RBI, six walks, four stolen bases, four doubles and three homers in that span. Zunino’s 30 runs and eight multiple-RBI games lead UF and he is third on the squad with a .357 clip. The catcher is second for the squad in SEC action with a .412 (14-for-34) batting average, just behind Adams (.414). The school-record hitting streak of 29 games is held by Tim Olson from March 5-April 22, 2000.
*Kevin O’Sullivan is 3-0 all-time against UCF, 2-0 in Gainesville and 1-0 in Orlando.
*Florida is 19-3 (.864) at McKethan Stadium this season and is 3-3 on Tuesday nights this spring.
*After a four-game stretch in which it scored nine runs and had 23 hits and went 1-3, the Gator offense erupted for 35 hits and 23 runs in taking all three contests from Tennessee.
*Senior Josh Adams is hitting .500 (16-for-32) over the last 10 games, with 10 RBI, six runs and a pair of homers. He paces Florida through nine SEC games with a .414 (12-for-29) average.
*Sophomore Mike Zunino’s team-high 30 runs are one shy of his total of 31 from last season. His six doubles are also one short of his 2010 total in 55 games.
*As of the report released on Monday, the Gators’ average attendance of 4,043 ranks 10th in the country this week, while their total of 88,962 spectators ranked seventh. The top four schools by average hail from the SEC (LSU, 10,829; Ole Miss, 8,004; South Carolina, 7,297 and Arkansas, 7,253).
*Florida’s starting pitchers are 17-2 with a 2.05 ERA this year with 123 strikeouts and 28 walks in 153.1 innings. The Gators’ relievers are 7-3 with six saves and a 2.59 ERA in 107.2 innings, with 104 K and 223walks.
*UF is 15-for-45 (.333) pinch-hitting, led by sophomore Kamm Washington (4-for-7, .571), junior Jeff Moyer (4-for-13, .308), and freshman Tyler Palmer (2-for-2, 1.000).
*The Gators hold a 187-82 scoring advantage, led by a 29-7 disparity in the second inning. UF has the edge in every inning except the ninth, when it has been out-scored, 8-7.
*Florida is 19-2 (.905) when scoring first and 19-1 (.950) when out-hitting its foe.
*UF has 21 homers this season and boasts a 15-0 record when going yard.
*The Gators have played error-free baseball in 11 games (11-0) and their fielding percentage of .974 ranks fourth in the SEC. Strangely enough, UF’s mistake-free effort on Sunday ended a stretch of nine games in which it had committed at least one error.
*According to the league’s statistics in overall games, UF’s holds the top spot in batting average (.314) and lowest ERA (2.28). In the SEC-only stats, the Gators are first in lowest ERA (1.89) and second in batting average (.299).
*Florida has totaled 65 two-out RBI, including 14 by junior Daniel Pigott, 11 by sophomore Nolan Fontana and eight by Adams. The Gators have a .285 (89-for-312) clip with two down.
*Sophomore Brian Johnson had a stretch of 20.2 scoreless innings to begin the season, putting him third on the Gators’ career list. The school record for consecutive scoreless innings of 30 is held by Kelly Prior (April 23-May 13, 1966) and a 21-inning stretch during the 1993 season by Marc Valdes rates second.
*Sophomore Hudson Randall has not allowed an earned run in 30.1 innings dating back to the second inning against Rhode Island on March 12. He is three-fourths to his rookie total of four SEC wins already. The righty hasn’t permitted a walk for a stretch of 27.2 IP since the fifth inning versus URI.
*Leadoff batters are 3-for-21 (.143) against junior Anthony DeSclafani, who has held opponents to a .158 average. The righty’s four wins have surpassed his season total of two from 2010 and he boasts a strikeout to walk ratio of 19:2.
*Junior Nick Maronde has made a team-high 13 appearances and is 0-0 with a 2.20 ERA in 16.1 innings. The lefty has 25 strikeouts and three walks. Five of the 14 hits he has permitted have been for extra bases (three doubles, two homers).
*UF’s six saves have come from four different relievers: DeSclafani (3), Maronde (1), sophomore Steven Rodriguez (1) and junior Tommy Toledo (1). Kevin Chapman collected 11 of the club’s 18 saves last season.
*Florida is 26-for-39 (.667) on the basepaths, as 11 different players have at least one stolen base. Opponents are 15-for-22 (.682) against UF. The Gators were 3-for-5 (.600) last weekend against Tennessee.
*The Gator pitching staff has twirled six shutouts in 29 games, exceeding the three donuts in 64 games last year and is the most since a total of seven in 1993. The school record for shutouts in a season is 10 in 1970, when head coach Dave Fuller’s squad was 27-17. Entering this year, Florida had totaled six shutouts since Kevin O’Sullivan took over.