Gator baseball dominates Seminoles for 14th straight win

Florida's Preston Tucker follows through as he watches the ball sail over the right-field wall for a three-run home run during a game against Florida State, at McKethan Stadium, in Gainesville, March 3, 2012. The Gators beat the Seminoles 9-2.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 10:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 10:03 p.m.

Senior Preston Tucker’s three-run home run in the bottom of the third inning erased an early 2-0 FSU lead and No. 1 Florida went on to post a 9-2 win over No. 6 Florida State before a record McKethan Stadium crowd of 6,005 Tuesday night.

The previous mark was 5,930, set last year against FSU.

Tucker lined a one-out, 2-2 pitch from FSU reliever Scott Sitz into the Seminole bullpen in right-center, and the Gators (16-1), who got their leadoff batter on base in all eight innings they batted, added single runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh before capping the night with three in the eighth to win their 14th game in a row.

The streak ties the all-time UF mark set in 2001 and first equaled in 2004.

“We were down two runs at the time, and we were just trying to at least get one across,” Tucker said. “He (Sitz) left the pitch up a little, and I just put a good swing on it.”

Gator relievers Greg Larson, Steven Rodriguez, Daniel Gibson and Austin Maddox combined to hold FSU scoreless over the final 6 1/3 innings on just two hits, with Larson (3-0) picking up the win and Maddox earning his team-high sixth save.

“The bullpen did great,” said Rodriguez, who tossed three innings of no-hit ball and retired all nine batters he faced.

“Everybody came out and threw strikes. We pounded the strike zone and we got outs.”

Sitz (1-1) took the loss for the Seminoles, who had a 10-game winning streak ended in dropping to 14-2.

“One of the strengths of our team is from top to bottom, one through nine, we’ve got a pretty deep lineup, and our bullpen is good,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We have multiple guys we can go to, to kind of settle things down and give our offense a chance to get back into it.”

Both teams went with freshman starters, but neither one made it to the third inning.

Freshman left-hander Bobby Poyner from Wellington made his second career start for the Gators and went 2 2/3 innings before giving way to Larson.

FSU countered with freshman right-hander Luke Weaver from DeLand, who was pulled in favor of Sitz after issuing back-to-back walks to UF’s Tyler Thompson and Nolan Fontana to start the bottom of the third inning after the Seminoles had just taken a 2-0 lead in the top of the inning.

Both came around to score one out later on Tucker’s homer, his sixth of the year and 47th of his career.

Catcher Stephen McGee led off the FSU third with a single and was sacrificed to second by No. 9 hitter Seth Miller. After Sherman Johnson reached on a base on balls, FSU’s Devon Travis placed a perfect bunt that was fielded by hard-charging freshman third baseman Josh Tobias, but his throw to first glanced off the back of Travis. The ball rolled into foul territory in right field, allowing both runners to score.

UF extended its lead to 4-2 in the fourth when the speedy Tobias lined a double down the left-field line, went to second on Thompson’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Fontana’s grounder to second.

Fontana’s two-out, solo homer to right in the sixth, his fourth of the year, made it 5-2, and Tucker’s leadoff triple in the seventh, followed by Mike Zunino’s sac fly to center, made it 6-2.

Senior Daniel Pigott’s one-out, bases-loaded single in the eighth knocked in two runs, and Zunino’s RBI single capped the Gator scoring.

While FSU had won 11 of the last 16 matchups since O’Sullivan took over for UF (2008), they fell to 0-5 against his Gators in Gainesville. The Seminoles last won at McKethan Stadium on Feb. 20, 2007.

“It’s a great feeling,” Rodriguez said. “It’s always good to beat FSU and beat our instate rivals because it’s us pretty much against them.

“We’re on the top right now, so we’ve got to basically go out there and show them we’re the best.”

Following tonight’s exhibition game at 7 that is free of charge, the Gators open SEC play by hosting Vanderbilt in a three-game series starting Friday.

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