Gators maul Bulldogs

Florida's Bryson Smith swings at a pitch during against Georgia on Sunday.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 11:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 11:57 p.m.

As a pitcher, Brian Johnson holds a tiny bit of compassion for opposing pitchers when their command goes haywire.

But in a game like this and with so much riding on a Florida win, he tossed his sensitivity. Johnson had no problem smiling as Georgia pitchers walked six consecutive batters in a seven-run bottom of the sixth during No. 4 Florida's 9-3 win in front of a crowd of 4,324 at McKethan Stadium. It was the Gators' fourth home series sweep of the season.

“We needed this game,” said Johnson, who improved to 5-2 on the season. “This is huge so it felt good seeing those runs come in.”

What kept Georgia so close to upsetting Florida (37-12, 20-7 SEC) both Friday and Saturday, ruined the Bulldogs (14-36, 3-22 SEC) in the finale.

After starter Michael Palazzone pitched five solid innings, striking out five and allowing two runs and six hits, Georgia's bullpen crumbled trailing 2-1 in the sixth. Left-hander Chase Hawkins replaced Palazzone and retired two of his first three batters. Saturday's walk-off hero Ben McMahan then singled to right, advancing Daniel Pigott to third. Georgia then brought in righty Malcolm Clapsaddle.

McMahan stole second and Clapsaddle walked Josh Adams and Nolan Fontana, who brought in Pigott. Clapsaddle was relived by Blake Dieterich, who fared even worse. Dieterich threw eight pitches, all balls, to bring in two more. As Dieterich left the field, he drew a standing ovation from Gators fans while Cecil Tanner relieved him.

The right-hander promptly walked Austin Maddox to bring in Fontana, making it 6-1. He did, however, draw loud cheers from fans when he threw the first strike in three at-bats. Tanner responded by skipping a pitch past catcher Carson Schilling to score Matt den Dekker from third. Tanner, who received another ovation, was replaced by Cooper Moseley after walking Daniel Pigott with two outs still on the board.

Bryson Smith (2-for-3), who had two hits in the inning, then drove in two more with a single to give Florida a 9-1 lead. Florida's seven runs were the most in an inning this season. Palazzone (4-6, 8.32 ERA) earned the loss.

“They just didn't have command and we were patient at the plate and made things happen,” said Fontana, who was 2 of 4 with two runs on the day.

“You're thinking, ‘Hit, hit, hit,' before the pitch and they were scattering balls everywhere and we were being patient and it helped out.”

Both teams were held scoreless until Florida broke it open in the bottom of the third when sophomore Preston Tucker's sacrifice fly with the bases loaded scored Adams from third. The Gators went up 2-0 two batters later when Daniel Pigott's single to left scored Fontana.

Florida pounded out 10 hits Sunday after recording 10 through the first two games.

Johnson (3.53 ERA) did his job by allowing just one run and six hits through 5 2/3.

Sunday's win — and sweep — was especially important to Smith, who is a native of Watkinsville, Ga. He said it felt “great to do something like that against a hometown team.”

“I was a fan (of Georgia) up until last year when I committed (to Florida),” he said.

Florida shares the SEC lead with South Carolina, but will turn its attention to North Florida Tuesday. Now that the road to No. 1 is clear, O'Sullivan said improvement is needed for Florida's goal of winning the league to be attained.

“I don't want to take anything away from Georgia's team or their pitching staff or their starters, but I thought we looked a little bit sluggish this weekend,” he said.

“I don't want to make excuses and obviously their pitchers had a lot to do with that. I just want to be careful and make sure we have our legs underneath us going into Columbia.”

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