Florida sweeps William & Mary
Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 11:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 26, 2012 at 11:58 p.m.
Preston Tucker deciding to return for his senior season is turning out to be a really good thing for the top-ranked Florida Gators.
Tucker, UF's All-American slugger who became the program's all-time RBI leader in a 5-1 Gator win Saturday, slugged his fifth home run in eight games, a solo shot over the new scoreboard in right in the fifth inning, to cap Florida's scoring in a 5-3, rain-shortened win over William & Mary on Sunday that gave UF (7-1) its fifth straight win and first series sweep of the year.
The game, which started 30 minutes early because of impending bad weather, was called after a delay of almost an hour with UF ahead and two outs in the top of the sixth. By then, the vast majority of the 2,918 fans who braved chilly and rainy conditions had headed home.
“It feels good,” said Tucker, who came into the game hitting .393 with a team-leading .893 slugging percentage.
“Obviously there are still things to work on, both as an individual and as a team. I think we're playing well right now, and I'm just doing everything I can to contribute.”
Junior All-America shortstop Nolan Fontana also went yard, blasting his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to right center in the third inning to erase a 1-0 lead by the Tribe. His homer came on a 3-1 pitch from W&M freshman starter Jason Ingram (0-2), who went 3 1/3 innings and took the loss.
“I got into a plus count for a hitter and put a good swing on it,” Fontana said.
Freshman left fielder Justin Shafer, who went 2-for-2 with two RBI and led off the UF third with an infield hit before scoring on Fontana's homer, had what proved to be the game-winning hit with a one-out, two-run single to left in the fourth to put the Gators ahead for good, 4-2, and chase Ingram.
The Tribe (2-5) had tied things in the top of inning on a balk called on Rodriguez.
Shafer's big hit came after junior Austin Maddox (2-for-3), who had his first multi-hit game of the season, singled and freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon followed with a sharp double down the right field line.
“I finally felt comfortable at the plate,” Shafer said. “Being in this kind of atmosphere is a lot different from high school, so I think I did really well today.”
Rodriguez (2-0) got the win, allowing just one run on one hit with four strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings of relief before giving way to sophomore Jonathon Crawford, who allowed two hits over the last 1 2/3 innings including a leadoff homer in the sixth to Tribe first baseman Michael Katz that made it 5-3. But he recovered to strike out the next two batters before the rain picked up significantly and brought an end to the contest.
Katz (3-for-3) and leadoff man Kevin Nutter (2-for-3) combined for all five of William & Mary's hits.
UF sophomore All-America starter Karsten Whitson lasted just 2/3 of an inning, surrendering a run on two hits before being replaced by Rodriguez.
“He (Whitson) missed most of the fall pitching-wise because he had a groin issue,” UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “Once you get back for the spring, there's not a whole lot of time. I think it's just normal, early-season arm stuff. I don't see it being anything serious. When you have a special arm like that, you don't want to take any chances.”
Junior All-America catcher and NCAA Player of the Year candidate Mike Zunino (team-high .440 batting average) was held out of Sunday's game for the Gators, who don't play again until they open a three-game series with No. 12/14 Miami in Coral Gables Friday.
“I think not having any midweeks is great,” O'Sullivan said. “We've got quite a few guys with some hamstring issues, you know, little nagging stuff, so I think this is as good a time to not have any midweeks as we possibly could so we can get some guys back to one-hundred percent.”