The top-ranked Gators (16-1) tied a school record for consecutive wins (matched in 2001 and 2004) as they beat in-state and bitter rival No. 6 Florida State Seminoles (14-2) 9-2. A McKethan Stadium record 6,005 fans came to the game, which was on a Tuesday nonetheless. Head coach Kevin O'Sullivan, who has struggled away from the Mac against FSU losing all 11 games, improved his home record to 5-0 against the Seminoles.
Florida's bullpen stringed together 6 1/3 scoreless innings to keep the 'Noles at two runs. Starter Bobby Poyner pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on three hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts. Greg Larson (3-0) picked up the win and pitched 1 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball. Stephen Rodriguez contributed with three perfect innings, and Mr. Reliable, Austin Maddox, pitched the final 1 1/3 innings to pick up his sixth save on the season. Florida State put five pitchers on the bump, none of which lasted longer than three innings. Scott Sitz (1-1) took the loss, giving up two runs on two hits.
Florida State struck first in the third with two runs. Stephen McGee singled to start the inning off and moved into scoring position by Seth Miller. Devon Travis bunted up the third base line for a single and McGee and Sherman Johnson both scored when Josh Tobias hit Travis on the throw to first and the ball went into right field. The infield single gave the Seminoles a 2-0 lead and their only runs of the game.
Florida responded in the home half of the third three runs, all off of a Preston Tucker three run bomb, which gave the Gators a 3-2 lead which they never looked back from. The homer plated Tyler Thompson and Nolan Fontana.
The Gators continued in the fourth when Fontana brought home Tobias on an RBI grounder to bring the lead to 4-2. Fontana continued to collect RBI in the sixth when he hit a solo shot to right, his fourth home run on the season, to give Florida a 5-2 lead.
UF continued its offensive onslaught in the seventh and the eighth scoring four more runs. In the seventh, Mike Zunino brought home Tucker on a sac fly. In the eighth, and final at-bat for Florida, the Gators put a three spot on the board. Daniel Pigott had two RBI on a bases loaded single and Zunino added an RBI single to put the score at 9-2.
Overall, Florida's pitching and offense were clicking in the game, against the number six team in the nation, and hated rival, nonetheless. The Gators cranked out ten hits and nine runs, while the pitching staff only allowed two runs while striking out eight. This game may have been a good barometer for the Gators, but I think the sweep of then eighth ranked Miami in Coral Gables was more impressive. I think the best barometer will be when Florida plays at fourth ranked South Carolina starting a week from Thursday, March 22. The Gators and Seminoles play two more games this, one in Jacksonville and one in Tallahassee.
Florida plays again tonight in an exhibition match against the Ontario Blue Jays. I'm not exactly sure if this is the Toronto Blue Jays spring training squad, since Toronto is in Ontario, but either way the Gators are playing them tonight at the Mac and admission is free. The game starts at 7 p.m. The Gators start their grueling, 30 game SEC schedule Friday in Gainesville as they take on the Vanderbilt Commodores (6-10).