Zunino powers Gators to ninth straight win over Miami

Published: Friday, March 2, 2012 at 11:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 12:33 a.m.

CORAL GABLES — Florida did a lot of little things that added up to something big Friday night.

The Gators executed a pair of double steals — including one that took home plate — tossed in a few bloop and bunt hits and scored on three sacrifice flies.

The result was a 7-5 win for top-ranked Florida (8-1) over No. 12 Miami, the Gators' ninth straight victory in the rivalry. Miami lost its first game of the season and is now 8-1.

The Gators' biggest heroes were catcher Mike Zunino, who went 4 for 5 with a homer, two doubles and two RBIs, and closer Austin Maddox, who earned his third save by tossing 3 1/3 innings of shutout ball and striking out a career-high seven.

“He's been doing that all year,” said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan, who added that Maddox could pitch again on Sunday. “We trust him.”

Maddox was also a standout at the plate, going 3 for 3. Right fielder Tyler Thompson also added three hits.

The Gators, playing their first road game of the series, were impressive in defeating sixth-year senior Eric Erickson, who entered with a 2-0 record and a 0.00 ERA in 13 innings.

But other than Zunino, the rest of the Gators played small ball in collecting a season-high 15 hits. In fact, it was former Gator Tyler Palmer who made the biggest splash early in the game. Palmer smoked a line-drive, two-run homer to left to tie the score, 2-2, in the third inning.

Zunino, though, answered in the Gators' next at-bat, leading off the fourth inning with a homer to center to give Florida a 3-2 lead it never relinquished.

The victory went to Hudson Randall (2-0), who left with one out and two runners on in the sixth inning. Randall threw 69 pitches and allowed seven hits and four runs, all earned.

O'Sullivan said Randall was sick and almost didn't make the start.

“We went back and forth on it,” he said. “He wasn't at his best healthwise, but he battled.”

Steven Rodriguez, who is from Miami's Gulliver Prep, replaced Randall and allowed both of his inherited runners to score. He pitched one-third of an inning and allowed two hits and one run.

O'Sullivan replaced Rodriguez with Maddox with two out in the sixth, and he struck out Palmer looking at a 1-2 high fastball.

Maddox also ended his performance with a strikeout, getting Miami's star catcher Peter O'Brien on an 83 mph changeup.

O'Brien, who came in hitting .500, went 0 for 5 and lost his individual battle of two of college baseball's best catchers. His counterpart, Zunino, extended his hitting streak to 12 games in addition to nearly hitting for the cycle.

Left-hander Brian Johnson will start tonight at 7 in the second game of the weekend series. Miami will send righty Eric Whaley to the mound.

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