Florida sophomore catcher Mike Zunino scored two runs and knocked in two as the Gators (7-0) finished the series sweep against Boston College (2-4), winning 7-2 on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium.
Zunino doubled off the left-center field wall in the second inning and later scored. He singled to left in the sixth inning, and finished the day offensively with a two-run shot into the bleachers in left-center in the eighth.
“I just tried to put a good swing on the ball,” Zunino said. “I haven’t been swinging as well as I wanted to so I’m just trying to cut it down some and put a good swing on it. I was trying to throw my hands at it more and swing less with my body and more with my hands. I was able to connect with a couple balls today and hit them well.”
Zunino’s three-hit game ties a career best, the other three-hit outing coming last season against Charleston Southern.
“(Lack of production at the beginning of the season) was frustrating, but you try not to worry about it too much, you try to keep working out of it,” Zunino said. “It’s early and we’re seeing new arms, and you’ve just got to keep battling every at-bat.”
Zunino also threw out the only base runner to attempt a steal against him this season.
“There’s so much on his plate,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He’s calling games and handling the pitching staff, so anything he gives you offensively is obviously a plus, but we’ve got him hitting there in the middle of the order for a reason. The last month of last year he hit the ball as hard as anybody we’ve got on our team and today was a really good day for him.”
UF shortstop Nolan Fontana delivered offensively with a two-run triple down the right field line in the second inning. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by second baseman Josh Adams.
“I saw the ball well that at-bat,” Fontana said. “I had a couple runners in scoring position and I put a good swing on it. Out of the box, I was like, ‘Wow, is that me driving in runs?’ I’m usually the guy scoring them for the guys right behind me, but it was a good swing, I got a good pitch to hit and I did something with it.”
Florida freshman pitcher Karsten Whitson (2-0, 0.87 ERA) went five and one-third innings to get the win, striking out five and walking one. He gave up five hits and his first run of the season, which was earned.
“I felt really good out there,” Whitson said. “I was a lot more comfortable today. I just have to go out there and throw strikes. If I can keep doing that I’ll be all right. It’s not about the strikeouts. I’ve got to go out there and keep the ball low in the zone and let my defense play behind me. I wasn’t even worried about (strikeouts), I was worried about pitching to contact. Today I definitely threw my changeup a lot more. Last Sunday I probably threw it three or four times, today I threw it seven or eight. It’s definitely going to help me down the road.”
Florida’s coaches planned for Whitson to throw his off-speed pitches prior to the game.
“I thought he threw the ball good,” O’Sullivan said. “We called a bunch of changeups today to force him to throw that third pitch (in his arsenal). I didn’t want to make it too difficult for him in his first start (last week), but he’s going to need that changeup as he goes along. I was personally pleased with his outing. I was really pleased because once he has that third pitch it’s going to make him more of a complete pitcher. He was quicker to the plate with runners on base, so there were a couple things today that are definitely going to help him as we go along.”
Florida steamrolled BC starter John Leonard (1-1, 3.75 ERA), who picked up the loss. Leonard gave up seven hits and five runs (all earned) in six innings. He walked two batters and struck out only one.
UF outscored Boston College 20-5 in the series sweep. 4,213 fans attended the series finale at McKethan Stadium, with 10,988 total showing up for the Boston College series.
The Gators’ next game will be on Tuesday, March 1 when they will take on bitter rival Florida State at the Florida Four in Tampa. The game will be played at George Steinbrenner Field at 7 p.m. Florida will be out for vengeance, as the Seminoles took four of five games last season, including a College World Series game that knocked the Gators out of the postseason.
“It’s a great week for Gator baseball,” O’Sullivan said. “We get a chance to play Florida State down in Tampa, and then we’ve got the Hurricanes at home here (next weekend). Both programs are storied programs, great programs, but (FSU) got the best of us last year. Our players know that and certainly it gives these guys motivation. We’re going to be ready to play and hopefully we can give them a better game than last year. I am (fired up). This is what this profession’s all about. If you can’t get excited for Florida-Florida State you’re probably in the wrong program.”