Gators manhandle Owls, 16-1

Florida catcher Mike Zunino runs to home plate after hitting his second home run oft the game against Florida Atlantic on Tuesday.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 11:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 12:30 a.m.

Top-ranked Florida jumped on visiting Florida Atlantic for nine runs in the first two innings, highlighted by a pair of Mike Zunino home runs, and never looked back en route to a 16-1 win Tuesday night before a McKethan Stadium crowd of 2,803.


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Who: Florida A&M at Florida
When: Today at 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: SUN/AM-850

The victory was the ninth in a row for the Gators, who set a season-high for runs scored and matched their season-high for hits (16) in improving to 11-1, their best start since 2003.

The Gators, who were coming off just their second three-game series sweep of rival Miami in Coral Gables over the weekend, were locked in from the start.

“To be honest with you, we spoke about that before the game,” UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “Historically this week, we have not played our best baseball after the Miami series. Basically it was a great weekend down in Miami, but the reality is it's over. We need to move on and we needed to focus on FAU tonight and show the maturity that I hoped this team would.

“We've got to be able to handle success as well as failure.”

Zunino, UF's junior All-America catcher and cleanup batter, got things cranking early, blasting a no-doubter on the first pitch he saw from FAU starter Jake Meiers to cap a three-run first. He followed with another no-doubter to left in his next at-bat, this one a three-run shot to finish off a season-high six-run second inning for the Gators.

Senior Tyler Thompson's two-run third-inning homer over the scoreboard in right extended the lead to 10 runs, and the Gators basically put the game on ice in the fourth when they tacked on three more to go up 14-1.

They would add single runs in the sixth and seventh, with every Gator starter collecting at least one hit. Zunino led the way, going 3-for-3 with five RBIs before being given the rest of the night off after UF batted in the fourth.

Freshman Casey Turgeon and seniors Preston Tucker and Tyler Thompson each had two hits, with Thompson also knocking in five runs, just one short of his career high.

Freshman left-hander Bobby Poyner (1-0) got the call on the mound for UF and, in his first career start, responded with a solid effort. Poyner, who is coming off labrum surgery last year, allowed just three hits and an unearned run in four innings of work and struck out three hitters with no walks to earn his first collegiate victory.

“It's huge for your confidence,” Poyner said. “Going from not being able to throw and every throw hurting to feeling good again is huge.”

“He was set back in the fall because of the labrum surgery, and when he came back from Christmas break, his arm looked like he was ready to go,” O'Sullivan said. “He earned his start tonight and he threw the ball really good.”

Sophomore Keenan Kish and freshmen Ryan Harris and Corey Stump combined to hold FAU scoreless over the final five frames.

FAU's Corey Keller, Kyle Newton and Ricky Santiago each had two hits to pace the Owls, while Meiers (1-2), who lasted just two innings, was saddled with the loss.

“Tuesdays have been kind of rough for us the last couple of years,” said Zunino, whose two homers tied him with Tucker for the team lead with five and who earlier in the day was named the National Player of the Week.

“We just tried to come out focused and put together some good at-bats, and we got a good start from Bobby and just built on that.”

Tuesday's game was the first of a season-long 10-game homestand for the Gators, who return to Perry Field to take on Florida A&M tonight at 7.

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