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Florida Baseball Demolishes Manhattan, Faces Miami

The Gators (46-16)  scored early and often to dismantle the Manhattan Jaspers (34-18), 17-3. Florida belted a school-NCAA tournament record 23 hits and were up 16-0 in the third inning. At one point in the third inning, head coach Kevin O'Sullivan told runners only to advance one base on any hits for a good show of sportsmanship. On this note, I think there should be a "mercy rule" for college baseball. But that's for another column. The person I feel most sorry for is Jaspers ace John Soldinger (10-3). Check out his stat line: 2.0 IP, 16 H, 16 R, 15 ER. He came into Gainesville as the MAAC Pitcher of the Year with 10-2 record and a 2.24 ERA. Because of the nature of regional play, he was left out on the mound to have 16 runs charged to his season total and his ERA ballooned up to 3.57. With the game so out of reach so early, to preserve Florida freshman pitcher Karsten Whitson (8-0), O'Sullivan took him out of the game after just 3 1/3 innings pitched. He had only given up two hits, struck out three, and retired the final nine batters before Keenan Kish took over.

On the the highlights and soundbites...

The onslaught began in the first inning when Florida sent all nine hitters to the dish. The slumping Preston Tucker, who had a pretty darn good day (3-for-6, 2 HR, 5 RBI) (but who didn't for the Gators!), started the scoring with a no out RBI single that plated Nolan Fontana. SEC Player of the Year, Mike Zunino, hit an RBI single to give the Gators a 2-0 lead. Tyler Thompson (4-for-4) hit a two out infield single that scored Tucker and Zunino (on a throwing error). Daniel Pigott (4-for-5, 3 RBI) pushed the Gators lead to 5-0 with an RBI single, which would conclude the scoring in the first inning.

It continued in the second inning when Tucker and Zunino hit back-to-back home runs. Pigott also added an RBI single to expand Florida's lead to 9-0.

The third inning proved to be Florida's most potent offensively. The Gators scored seven runs on six hits. It all started when Tucker came through with his second two-run homer on the day. Vickash Ramjit singled to shallow center to score Zunino to push the lead to 12-0. After a bases loaded walk to Thompson, Pigott hit his third RBI single of the day. An RBI grounder by Fontana and a bases-clearing double by Bryson Smith finished the onslaught and put Florida up 16-0.

Manhattan finally got onto the scoreboard in the fifth when they scored three unearned runs. Kyle Murphy hit a sacrifice fly, Yoandry Galan had an RBI double, and RBI single by Nick Camastro gave the Jaspers a 13 run lead to overcome. But the Gators bullpen would shut them down the rest of the game.

Cody Dent also added an RBI for good measure to give us the final score of 17-3.

The only downside for Florida was first baseman/closer Austin Maddox sprained his foot while chasing a foul ball and left the game. O'Sullivan said that he doesn't know the status of Maddox yet; the concussed Brian Johnson is still day-to-day.

In the earlier game in the Gainesville regional, Miami (37-21) took care of Jacksonville (36-23), 7-2. Miami and Florida both advance to the winners bracket, while Jacksonville and Manhattan play at noon today in the elimination game.

Florida will send ace Hudson Randall (9-3, 2.25 ERA) to the bump against Miami's Eric Whaley (7-5, 2.55 ERA). The clash of the rival 'Canes and Gators will start at 4 p.m.

Both games can be seen on ESPNU.