Gator vets lead comeback win


Florida's Preston Tucker hits a solo home run during the first game of opening weekend against Cal State Fullerton, at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Feb. 17. Tucker drove in the winning run against Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday.

(Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun)
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:09 p.m.

In these midweek games where anything can happen and things have a tendency to get out of whack at times, it's nice to have some reliability on your side.

In this case, the reliables were Mike Zunino, Preston Tucker and Austin Maddox — three of Florida's veteran, proven players.

Zunino hit two solo home runs, Preston Tucker drove in the winning run with a single in the eighth inning, and Maddox sealed a come-from-behind 8-6 Gator victory over Bethune-Cookman University by working out of a jam in the ninth inning Tuesday night.

“Tonight was one of those nights,” UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “I had a weird feeling about it. Every ball that was hit (by B-C), it kind of found a hole. Just one of those nights.

“The most important thing is we battled, and we got through it and we ended up winning and we ended up playing a lot of new faces.”

But it was the old faces that came through with the game on the line in the late innings.

Zunino led off the seventh inning with his second home run of the night to tie the game at 6-6.

The No. 1 Gators (3-1) then took the lead in the eighth with a bases-loaded single by Tucker, followed an out later by a sacrifice fly by Brian Johnson for an 8-6 lead.

“It's really good (to pull one out like this),” Zunino said. “We were able to pull together at the end and able to bounce back. It's a good feeling to be able to come back like that late in the game.”

In the decisive eighth, Cody Dent, who had a career-high three hits on the night, led off with a single and eventually came home on a bases-loaded single by Tucker, who came to the plate with an 0-for-4 night.

“You have to put bad at-bats behind you,” said the senior, who is now one RBI shy of tying the school career record of 214 held by Brad Wilkerson. “I had opportunities earlier in the game to drive in some and didn't do it. I just put the ball in play (on the game-winning hit).”

In the ninth, two Wildcats reached base on singles, but Maddox (1-0) shut down the uprising with a strikeout to end the game.

“I'm always comfortable with him,” O'Sullivan said of Maddox, his closer. “What you see is what you get. I don't think (those two singles) were hit very hard.”

One Gator that O'Sullivan doesn't have a read on yet is true freshman Johnny Magliozzi, who earned a no decision in his first Florida start. He lasted only 3.2 innings, giving up five hits, three runs, walking two and striking out three.

The Gators held a 4-3 lead when Magliozzi left the game, and UF added a run in the fourth to go up 5-3, but a shaky UF bullpen could not hold the lead. After Bethune-Cookman scored a run in the fifth, the Gators lost the lead in the seventh when the Wildcats scored two runs after there were none on with two outs. The runs came across on a double by Jordan Taylor that put Bethune-Cookman up 6-5.

The Wildcats had a chance to increase their lead, but UF reliever Greg Larson induced a groundout with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Zunino then led off the seventh to tie the game 6-6 and the Gators then won it with their two-run eighth.

It wasn't a pretty performance. But it was a win in one of those midweek games that looked like it might get away from the Gators.

“It's a learning experience,” O'Sullivan said. “Bethune-Cookman is a regional-type team. They're good. They're competitive. Same thing tomorrow night (against Central Florida).

“We still haven't clicked. We're still knocking some rust off so to speak. We're not quite sharp yet, but we'll get there.”

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