Randall settles to lead top-ranked baseball to win


Florida starting pitcher Hudson Randall pitches during the first game of opening weekend against Cal State Fullerton at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville on Feb. 17.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, February 24, 2012 at 9:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 24, 2012 at 9:31 p.m.

Pitchers are always talking about finding The Zone, and staying in it.

Florida ace Hudson Randall opened Friday night's game against William & Mary in a zone. Only it was the wrong zone.

The Discomfort Zone.

But, after a shaky start where he gave up a home run and three doubles through three innings, the junior right-hander found the right zone and dominated for the next three-plus innings to lead the No. 1 Gators to a 4-1 victory over the Tribe before 3,139 at McKethan Stadium.




“I felt better as the game went along,” Randall (1-0) said. “I got a lot of easy outs later on in the game. I was kind of running through it, getting back to where I feel comfortable. I'm glad I got there.

“(When things aren't going well) you have to shake it off and do what you do best. You can't get out of your comfort zone. You have to keep attacking the way you know how to and hopefully it will turn around for you.”

It certainly did for Randall. After the third inning, he started getting the ball down in the strike zone (where he's the most effective) and retired 11 batters in a row and 12 of the last 13 he faced.

“I just wasn't locating down in the zone enough,” he said. “I was leaving the ball up and they were putting good swings on it and the wind was carrying. They used that to their advantage.

“I found my groove.”

The victory improves UF to 5-1, while William & Mary falls to 2-3.

Hudson gave up a double in the first, a double in the second, lead-off homer in the second (that tied the game 1-1) and another double later in the inning.

He took command from there.

“Hudson is not going to give up much,” UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “He might give up a hit or two in an inning. But we play great defense, he doesn't walk anybody and it's hard to get big innings off of him because of his ability to throw strikes and change speeds.

“He was better today than he was last week. I would expect him to be better next week than he was this week.”

As sharp as Hudson was through the middle innings, he was not the most dominant UF pitcher Friday night. That title goes to junior closer Austin Maddox, who secured the victory by giving up only one hit (a pop-fly double) and striking out four over the final 2.2 innings to earn his second save of the season.

“He's a special competitor,” O'Sullivan said of Maddox. “He threw 23 pitches, 18 for strikes. He's our emotional leader.

“I feel like whatever the outcome of the game . ... I know with him in the game it's going to be on the good guys' side for the most part. … you're going to get the best effort from him. He's a fierce competitor and has a great arm.”

Maddox's teammates call him Mud Dog.

“He's out there to get his,” said shortstop Nolan Fontana, who led a nine-hit UF attack with two doubles. “We know he's going to give his best every time. He's aggressive. We like playing defense behind him.”

The Gators did play some defense Friday night.

Two plays stuck out: Left-fielder Daniel Pigott reached over the fence to rob Tadd Bower of a home run in the sixth (with UF clinging to a 2-1 lead) and freshman third baseman Josh Tobias speared a sharp grounder down the line with a runner on third and made a perfect throw to first for crucial out on what could have been a game-tying (and game-changing) hit.

“I don't think that (Pigott) knew he caught that ball,” O'Sullivan said. “I think it surprised him (when he found it in his glove). There's not telling what would have happened if Tobias didn't make that play at third and the ball is bouncing around down there in the corner.

“We did a really nice job defensively again. We've had (two) errors in six games. As long as we're not beating ourselves, we have a chance.”

While the pitching and defense were strong for the Gators on Friday night, the hitting was not all that good. UF produced only two hits through the first four innings and did not take the lead (2-1) until Tyler Thompson led off the fifth with a home run to right.

The Gators iced the game with two runs in the eighth on only one hit.

“We've got a lot of work to do overall (offensively),” Fontana said. “Every day you can get better. Sometime we can do certain things well. We just have to piece it together in time, and we will.”

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