Gators sweep Hurricanes

Nolan Fontana and Florida improve to 10-1 on the season.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 5:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 5:07 p.m.

CORAL GABLES — Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan, a veteran of postgame chats with the media, searched for answers.

His top-ranked Gators had just defeated No. 8 Miami, 8-5, Sunday afternoon for Florida’s 11th straight win in the series.

“I can’t explain it,” O’Sullivan said after sweeping the Hurricanes (8-3) in three games. “Miami’s a great team with great tradition. We just played really well this weekend.”

The Gators (10-1) benefited from a wild ninth inning — literally. Canes closer E.J. Encinosa, trying to protect a 5-3 lead, faced six batters in the inning and got just one of them out. He hit two batters, threw two wild pitches and walked two.

Encinosa also gave up a two-run bloop double to center field by Mike Zunino, which tied the score, 5-5.

“The wind may have helped me out on that one,” said Zunino, who extended his hit streak to 14 games on the play. “I was just trying to put a good swing on it.”

After Zunino’s double, Encinosa threw a wild pitch, hit Taylor Gushue with a pitch and then let loose another wild pitch to make it 6-5.

That was it for Encinosa, but the Gators weren’t done. Freshman Chris Diaz came in and walked both batters he faced, including a base-on-balls to Cody Dent that forced in a run.

Adam Sargent, the third Canes pitcher of the inning, allowed a run-scoring single to Tyler Thompson to cap the Gators’ scoring.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Canes brought the tying run to the plate, but reliever Johnny Magliozzi got Esteban Tresgallo to fly to left field for the second out. Daniel Gibson pitched to one batter and got his first save, striking out Chantz Mack.

In all, the Gators used six pitchers, including sophomore Jonathon Crawford, who made his second career start. Crawford, filling in for the injured Karsten Whitson, allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings and struck out a career-high eight batters.

“I tried to get them to hit the ball to left field,” Crawford said of the wind, which was blowing out to right.

The six Gators pitchers combined to strike out 14 Canes batters, including every hitter in the Miami lineup at least once.

Florida’s attack was led by shortstop Nolan Fontana, who went 2-for-5 with a solo home run and a walk to start the winning rally in the ninth. Right fielder Preston Tucker, who entered the game in the midst of an 0-for-10 slump, also went 2 for 5.

For the series, the Gators scored 28 runs on 42 hits. Just as impressive was the Florida bullpen, which allowed just one earned run in 13 2/3 innings this weekend.

O’Sullivan said Bobby Poyner, who faced three batters Sunday, will start the Gators’ next game, Tuesday against visiting Florida Atlantic.

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