UF baseball clinches series with FGCU

Published: Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 7:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 12:13 a.m.

Top-ranked Florida took advantage of some early control issues from Florida Gulf Coast pitching to score four first-inning runs and went on to post a series-clinching 8-3 win Saturday before a McKethan Stadium crowd of 3,413.


Sunday's game

Who: Florida Gulf Coast at Florida
When: 1 p.m.
Gainesville-area TV: Sun Sports
Gainesville-area radio: AM-850

The win was the 12th in a row for the Gators (14-1), just two shy of the all-time mark set in 2001 and equaled in 2004, while the Eagles slipped to 6-7.

Junior Brian Johnson gave the Gators back-to-back solid starts on the heels of fellow junior Hudson Randall's season-high, 7 1/3-inning stint in Friday's series-opening win. The 6-foot-5 left-hander threw six complete innings to earn the victory and improve to 2-0 on the season.

Johnson cruised through the first 5 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits and one run before giving up a one-out single to FGCU's Ryan Gebhart and a two-run home run to Andrew Valencia, his second of the series, that pulled the Eagles within 6-3.

But after a visit from UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan, Johnson retired the next two hitters to finish with a season-high six strikeouts and no walks.

“I probably felt the best I've felt so far,” Johnson said. “I was throwing pitches for strikes, worked ahead in the count and just felt real confident out there today.”

“He (Johnson) got in a groove, and from there it gets pretty easy,” said UF catcher Mike Zunino. “He was executing his pitches. I was just throwing numbers down, and he was doing the rest of it.”

Senior Greg Larson took over in the seventh, and the Eagles greeted him by getting two of their first three hitters on base to bring the tying run to the plate in No. 9 hitter Dane Wisneski. But Larson was able to get him to hit into an inning-ending double play, ending the threat.

After Larson set down the Eagles in order in the eighth, UF's Nolan Fontana provided some insurance with a two-run homer to right in the bottom of the inning, his third of the season, and sophomore lefty Daniel Gibson pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to complete the victory.

“Obviously we got helped by some walks there in the first, but I did think we put some good swings on the ball,” O'Sullivan said. “We got out to a 5-0 lead after two, and Johnson settled in.

“I thought he was much more in control today. I thought it was probably his best start as far as his stuff is concerned. He pitched back and forth with his fastball, and he threw all of his pitches for strikes. He looked in control and looked comfortable.”

FGCU starter Brandon Bixler (2-2), who took the loss, walked Fontana on four pitches to open the UF first, then hit Daniel Pigott and walked Preston Tucker to load the bases with nobody out. That brought up Zunino, who homered twice and knocked in all four UF runs in the Gators' 4-2 win Friday night, and he responded with a first-pitch single to left, scoring two runs.

Freshman Taylor Gushue followed with an RBI single, and designated hitter Austin Maddox brought in the final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly.

UF again loaded the bases with no one out in the second, but had to settle for just one run on Tucker's sacrifice fly as Bixler worked his way out of further damage.

FGCU got on the board in the top of the fourth when Gebhart led off with a double and later scored on a fielder's choice, but the Gators got it right back in the bottom of the frame when freshman Josh Tobias, who was on third base with two outs, alertly stole home to make it 6-1 while Bixler and catcher Mike Reeves were talking on the mound.

The final game of the three-game series is set for 1 p.m. today.

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