No. 4 Florida baseball heads to Tallahassee to wrap up series with No. 8 Florida State

No. 4 Florida (26-7/9-3 SEC) continues its eight-game road trip on Tuesday night with a visit to Tallahassee to face No. 8 Florida State (23-9/9-6 ACC) in the fourth and final meeting between the Sunshine State rivals during the regular season. The game will begin at 6 p.m. from Dick Howser Stadium.

Junior Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (2-0, 4.03) will be on the mound for Florida and will oppose Seminole junior right-hander Hunter Scantling (1-0, 1.33). Panteliodis is set for his fifth start of the season and will be making his eighth appearance of 2011. Over 22.1 innings this season, the left-hander has allowed 23 hits and 10 runs, with 17 strikeouts and three walks. Panteliodis has made a pair of appearances versus the Seminoles this season: (March 1, relief (ND), 2.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K; March 15, start (ND), 2.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K). He worked 4.1 innings against UCF on April 5, giving up three hits and two runs, but was not involved in the decision.

After dropping their opener at Mississippi State, 7-5, the Gators rebounded to take the next two games from the Bulldogs by scores of 18-0 and 3-1. The Seminoles defeated No. 7 North Carolina, 5-3, in game one before falling to the Tar Heels twice, 8-5 and 7-6.

In the teams’ last meeting, No. 7 Florida State broke a 2-2 tie by scoring the game-winning run on a misplayed infield fly in the sixth inning and added a two-run homer in the eighth by senior Stuart Tapley to upend No. 3 Florida, 5-2, in front of 10,078 fans at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville on March 29. The Seminoles plated five unanswered runs after falling behind, 2-0, and five relievers combined for six shutout innings of one-hit ball to secure the win. Sophomore Scott Sitz (3-1) notched his third career decision over the Gators, while senior Mike McGee collected his fourth save. 

Florida had opened the scoring with a two-out RBI double by sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) in the first inning that scored junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) all the way from first base. Scantling had retired the first two hitters of the game before Pigott singled into left field. Zunino then raised his hitting streak to 14 games with his fifth double of the year into the left-field corner. UF later used a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Zunino in the third to take a 2-0 lead. Sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) (1-1) was on the hook for the loss after giving up two hits and an unearned run with three strikeouts in 2.1 innings. Florida’s three hits matched a season low.

In the squads’ meeting in Gainesville, Pigott delivered a walk-off single in the 10th inning that scored sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) with the winning run as No. 1 Florida edged No. 4 Florida State, 5-4, on March 15 in front of a record crowd of 5,930 fans at McKethan Stadium. The Seminoles used a four-run third to grab the lead but were held scoreless for the final seven innings of the contest. 

After junior right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) retired the Seminoles in order to begin each club’s first extra-inning affair of the season, Fontana ripped a one-out triple into the right-field corner off McGee. Pigott (3-for-4) battled to a 3-2 count before slicing a single into center field that snapped a four-game slide for the Gators against their rivals. The game-winning hit represented Pigott’s career-best fourth RBI of the night and the junior also set a personal best with two walks.

On March 1, No. 5 Florida State used a five-run third inning to down No. 1 Florida, 5-3, in front of 7,869 fans at the Florida Four held at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. After Florida pulled to within 5-3 in the sixth, FSU’s relievers retired the final 10 Gator hitters to secure the victory. Sitz worked five innings for the win, while McGee struck out the side in the ninth to pick up his first save.

Junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) gave up two hits and three runs, with three walks and one strikeout over 2.1 innings and was followed to the mound by Panteliodis (2.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R). Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the third, while Pigott and sophomore Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) had back-to-back two-out singles in the sixth. UF’s pitchers yielded a season-high five walks and its defense committed a then-season-high two errors.

Last weekend, Florida captured its sixth-consecutive SEC road series over the weekend at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs captured the opener, 7-5, before the Gators responded with an 18-0 triumph on Saturday and a 3-1 win in Sunday’s rubber game. UF’s 9-3 start to SEC play equals the program’s best since 1996, when that squad finished 20-10 and tied for the league crown with Alabama and LSU.

The Gators batted .333 (39-for-117) over the three games in Starkville, led by Zunino (6-for-12, six runs, six RBI, two doubles, grand slam) and freshman Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) (4-for-8, two runs, two walks). Sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) went 5-for-14 (.357) and preserved the series triumph with his first career save after coming into Sunday’s game with one out and the bases loaded. UF’s pitching staff registered a 2.77 earned run average, with 23 strikeouts and five walks.

Tucker (.338, 25 RBI) delivered a two-out, two-run single to snap a 1-1 tie in the seventh to lift UF to a 3-1 victory in the decisive game three. The Bulldogs loaded the bases with one down in the ninth but Maddox took over on the mound and retired the final two batters to collect his first career save. Senior Wes Thigpen greeted Maddox with a liner into right field and Washington made a tremendous sprawling catch for the out and managed to hold the runners. Facing freshman C.T. Bradford, Maddox was ahead in the count 0-2 and induced a pop-up in foul territory that third baseman Powers snagged up against the netting to complete the game.

Zunino (.363, 27 RBI, 37 R, 6 HR) belted a grand slam during an eight-run second inning and drove in five runs as the Gators evened the series with an 18-0 shutout on Saturday afternoon. 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, 2.54) 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. 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. Fontana (.322, 25 RBI) was 2-for-4 with two RBI and a pair of runs, senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (.375, 25 RBI) went 2-for-5 with a couple of RBI singles, Maddox was 2-for-5 and scored twice and Pigott (2-for-6, two runs) tallied three RBI.

Mississippi State rode a four-run first inning and a pair of homers by senior Jonathan Ogden to a 7-5 series-opening victory. The Gators pulled within two runs in the sixth but were held scoreless for the final three innings by the duo of freshman Taylor Stark (2-0) and junior Caleb Reed, who registered four strikeouts over the last two frames to pick up his fifth save. MSU handed sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (5-1, 1.56) his first defeat by totaling nine hits and six runs over the first 2.1 innings. Randall entered the game having allowed six runs (three earned) in 49.2 innings. Tucker was 3-for-5, while the trio of Adams, Johnson and Zunino chipped in with two hits apiece.

Gator Bytes

*Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is 5-10 (.333) against Florida State, 4-0 (1.000) in Gainesville, 1-3 (.250) in Tallahassee and 0-7 (.000) at neutral sites. 

*The Seminoles have taken seven of the last 10 encounters, including five of the past six.

*The Gators will be seeking their first win at Dick Howser Stadium since a 10-2 victory on April 14, 2009.

*Senior Josh Adams and sophomore Austin Maddox each enters the week on a seven-game hitting streak. In that stretch, Adams is 13-for-27 (.481) with four RBI and four runs and Maddox is 11-for-28 (.393) with eight RBI and five runs.

*The Gators are 7-3 (.700) away from Gainesville this season and are 6-1 (.857) on an opponent’s home field.

*As of the report released on Monday, the Gators’ average attendance of 4,000 ranks 10th in the country this week, while their total of 92,011 spectators also ranked 10th. The top four schools by average hail from the SEC (LSU, 10,829; Ole Miss, 8,098; Arkansas, 7,661 and South Carolina, 7,248).

*Maddox’s first career save on Sunday marked the first time a Gator reliever had collected a save since March 19 at LSU.

*UF is 17-for-48 (.354) pinch-hitting, led by sophomore Kamm Washington (4-for-8, .500), junior Jeff Moyer (5-for-14, .357), and freshman Tyler Palmer (2-for-2, 1.000).

*The Gators hold a 216-94 scoring advantage, led by a 37-7 disparity in the seventh inning. UF has the edge in every inning except the ninth, when it has been out-scored, 10-7.

*Florida is 20-4 (.833) when scoring first and 21-1 (.955) when out-hitting its foe.

*UF has 22 homers this season and boasts a 16-0 record when going yard.

*In its 26 wins, the Orange and Blue has a .337 average and score 7.6 runs per game. In its seven losses, the squad is batting .217 with 2.6 runs a game.

*The Gators have played error-free baseball in 12 games (11-1) and their fielding percentage of .974 ranks fourth in the SEC.

*According to the league’s statistics in overall games, UF holds the second spot in batting average (.313) and is second in lowest ERA (2.37). In the SEC-only stats, the Gators are second in lowest ERA (2.10) and second in batting average (.309).

*Florida has totaled 87 two-out RBI, including 17 by junior Daniel Pigott, 12 by sophomore Nolan Fontana, 11 by Zunino and 10 by Adams. The Gators have a .298 (110-for-369) clip with two down.

*Leadoff batters are 4-for-22 (.182) against junior Anthony DeSclafani, who has held opponents to a .188 average. The righty’s four wins have surpassed his season total of two from 2010 and he boasts a strikeout to walk ratio of 22:2.

*Junior Nick Maronde has made a team-high 16 appearances and is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 20.0 innings. The lefty has 32 strikeouts and five walks. Five of the 16 hits he has permitted have been for extra bases (three doubles, two homers).

*UF’s seven saves have come from five different relievers: DeSclafani (3), Maddox (1), 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 28-for-42 (.667) on the basepaths, as 12 different players have at least one stolen base. Opponents are 16-for-24 (.667) against UF. The Gators were 2-for-3 (.667) last weekend against Mississippi State.