UF baseball beats Vandy to capture first SEC series

Brian Johnson pitches during the second inning of the Gators' game against Vanderbilt in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Mar. 17, 2012. The Gators won 5-1.

Jacob Romoser/Correspondent
Published: Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 4:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 17, 2012 at 8:48 p.m.

Florida's 5-1 win Saturday over Vanderbilt followed the similar pattern of the previous 15 victories during this school-record winning streak.


Sunday's game

Who: Vanderbilt (7-12, 0-2 SEC) vs. No. 1 Florida (18-1, 2-0 )
When: 1 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
Gainesville-area radio: 103.7 FM
TV: Fox Sports Florida
Pitching matchup: UF sophomore Jonathon Crawford (1-1, 5.71) against VU freshman righty Tyler Beede (0-2, 7.24)

Strong pitching, backed by solid fielding and supported by timely hitting again proved to be the difference for the top-ranked college baseball team in the land.

“We have all-stars on the mound,” Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “If we pitch and play defense, we've got a chance. When our starting pitching hasn't been great, our bullpen has stepped up.

“When we've been a little light in the bullpen because we've used a guy or two the day before, our starters have picked us up. So, it's a full team effort and it's a full staff effort.”

In the series-clinching win over the Commodores (7-12, 0-2), Daniel Pigott hit a two-run single and Preston Tucker a two-run home run to support the nine-strikeout outing by junior left-hander Brian Johnson before 4,364 at McKethan Stadium.

Johnson (3-0) went six innings, walked just one and allowed only two hits in 88 pitches. He struck out four straight batters early.

Reliever Daniel Gibson gave up one run, the bullpen's first score allowed in 32.2 innings, over the next 2.1 innings and Greg Larson closed it.

“Honestly, I thought it was the best Brian has pitched in a long time,” O'Sullivan said. “He threw all four of his pitches for strikes and he moved the ball back and forth. He didn't miss very many spots, if any today.

“I thought that Brian was outstanding today and he needed to be because their guy was really good for the first part of the ballgame.”

Johnson said he had his pitches working in matching his career high for strikeouts.

“I was working my fastball in and out, and the key thing is throwing your off-speed pitches for strikes,” Johnson said. “My change-up was fading away, my fastball was there and locating was all I had to do. That's what I needed to do. My arm felt fresh throughout the game, so I'm really happy to see that.”

Florida (18-1, 2-0 SEC) goes for the series sweep over Vanderbilt at 1 p.m. today.

After holding UF in check through three innings, Vanderbilt starter Drew VerHagen began to unravel in the fourth. VerHagen's wild pitch allowed Mike Zunino to score from third after he hit the UF catcher with a pitch and moved him up a base by also hitting Johnson with a pitch. Taylor Gushue put the runners in scoring position with a groundout to first.

The Gators then sent VerHagen (2-2) packing in the fifth inning. Pigott greeted reliever Sam Selman with a two-run single, and Tucker's ensuing two-run home run gave UF a 5-0 advantage.

“Well, judging from my previous swings, I wasn't seeing the ball too well off of him (Selman),” Tucker admitted. “I just tried to grind out the at-bat. I knew that the pitch wasn't a great one, but I didn't want to strike out again. I just put the barrel on the ball and good things happen when you do that. I knew the ball was really low. It started out in the zone, so I just decided to swing at it.”

NOTES: The Gators have won six straight over the Commodores. … Tucker has 48 career home runs. … Larson's 96th career appearance ties him with Josh Edmondson for fifth on the school's career list.

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