UF baseball bounces back vs. Bethune-Cookman

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 10:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 10:12 p.m.

Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan spent most of Tuesday night searching for answers to solve his team’s sputtering run production.


Friday's game

Who: Arkansas at Florida
When: 7 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
Gainesville-area radio: WRUF

“I didn’t get any sleep,” O’Sullivan said.

O’Sullivan tinkered with the lineup and held an afternoon team meeting that focused on different ways to manufacture runs. It worked. Florida (32-10) scored at least a run in each of its last seven innings in a 10-1 win over Bethune-Cookman at McKethan Stadium.

The Gators stole five bases, consistently putting pressure on Bethune-Cookman’s defense.

“I just felt like lately we’ve been playing for the three-run home run,” O’Sullivan said. “We lead the nation with 54, but in kicking the numbers around I felt like we needed to find more ways to manufacture runs.”

Florida bounced back from a 5-3 loss to USF on Tuesday night to take some positive momentum into its weekend home SEC series with Arkansas. O’Sullivan moved senior outfielder Preston Tucker up to second in the order and he responded with his 11th home run of the season, a two-run shot that extended UF’s lead to 7-1 in the bottom of the sixth. Second baseman Casey Turgeon also had a big day for the Gators, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and three stolen bases.

“This was definitely important for us,” Tucker said. “Arkansas is a big series. Last year, we lost two of three to them on the road so obviously we’d like to get back at them.”

Bethune-Cookman (24-18) dropped its second game of the season to Florida. The Wildcats had nine hits, but were unable to cash in on chances to score, leaving seven runners on base.

Bethune-Cookman scored its lone run on an RBI single from shortstop Brashad Johnson, cutting Florida’s lead to 5-1 in the sixth. The Wildcats had a chance for more, but Florida center fielder Daniel Pigott saved two runs with a nice running catch of a Jordan Taylor drive to end the sixth inning.

“Florida played situational baseball extremely well,” Bethune-Cookman coach Jason Beverlin said. “They were able to move runners over and get runners in scoring position.”

It also helped that Florida got a strong game from sophomore righty Karsten Whitson (3-0), who threw four scoreless innings, allowing no runs on four hits with no walks and a strikeout. He threw 53 pitches, his longest outing since Feb. 17, with a fastball that consistently was in the low 90 mile per-hour range.

“I felt really good about his outing,” O’Sullivan said. “In retrospect we may have tried to rush him back a bit, but he’s such a talented kid. We’re going to need him.”

O’Sullivan said Whitson was on a pitch count.

“He did his deal,” O’Sullivan said. “We had him scheduled for 60 pitches and he threw 53. He did exactly what I hoped he would do.”

Florida gave Whitson plenty of support early. Austin Maddox put the Gators ahead 1-0 in the second inning with an RBI single. Turgeon scored later in the inning on a throwing error from Bethune-Cookman’s Montana Durapau to put UF ahead 2-0.

Turgeon added an RBI single in the third inning to extend UF’s lead to 3-0. In the fourth, shortstop Nolan Fontana put Florida ahead 4-0 with a sacrifice fly.

Brian Johnson scored on a wild pitch in the fifth to put Florida up 5-0. Tucker then followed with his two-run blast in the sixth, his second home run in his last three games.

“He’s not your prototypical No. 2 hitter, but we’ve struggled at that spot with some consistency,” O’Sullivan said. “If it can get him an extra at-bat or two during the course of a game, at this point, I think it’s worth it.”

Tucker finished 2-for-4 with a walk. Mike Zunino batted third behind Tucker, and Johnson hit cleanup.

“It felt a little different at the beginning of the game, getting up to bat that quickly,” Tucker said. “But once you get into the flow of the game, it’s not really that big of a deal.”

NOTES: Florida freshman Brandon Sedell hit his first career home run, a towering pinch-hit solo shot just inside the left-field foul pole that put Florida ahead 10-1 in the eighth inning. Teammates gave him the silent treatment in the dugout. “We had a little fun with him,” Tucker said. … Third baseman Josh Tobias (broken hand) made his first appearance in the field since the South Carolina series and made a nice play on a ground ball in the ninth inning. “He’s getting closer,” O’Sullivan said.

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