HOOVER, Ala. – Third-seeded Florida (45-16) captured its first SEC Tournament Championship since 1991 with a 5-0 shutout of fourth-seeded Vanderbilt (47-10) on Sunday afternoon in front of 7,845 fans at Regions Park. It was the sixth SEC Tourney crown for the Gators, which previously brought home the hardware in 1981, 1982, 1984, 1988 and 1991.
Making his first start of the campaign against a league opponent, junior Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (5-2) scattered five hits and registered five strikeouts over 5.1 scoreless innings to earn the win. The left-hander was followed to the mound by junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (0.2 IP, 2 H), junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) (2.0 IP, 1 K) and sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 K) as Florida established a single-season school record with its 11th shutout. UF’s four victories at the event were its most since going 4-0 to win the 1991 SEC Tournament held in Baton Rouge, La.
Junior outfielder Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.), who went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored this afternoon, was chosen as the Most Valuable Player of the SEC Tourney after batting .583 (7-for-12) over the four games he played, with six runs and six stolen bases. He joined Gator winners Rich Bombard (Pitcher, 1982), Brian Reimsnyder (Outfielder, 1988), Herbert Perry (Designated Hitter, 1991) and Brian Purvis (Outfielder, 1991). Other members of the All-Tourney Team from the Orange and Blue included sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.), sophomore right-hander Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) and senior outfielder Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.).
“Alex (Panteliodis) gave us a great start,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We knew going into this one that we’d have to pitch well. If we had to go to the bullpen early in this game, we were probably going to find ourselves in some trouble. AP just did an outstanding job.”
“Daniel (Pigott) has had a great year,” O’Sullivan said. “I don’t know if it’s one thing or another. He’s hit over .300 all year long, and he had a really good tournament.”
Vanderbilt put its first two runners of the game aboard, as freshman Tony Kemp led off by being hit by a pitch from Panteliodis and sophomore Anthony Gomez (2-for-4) followed with a single into center field. The southpaw had junior Aaron Westlake fly out to left field and struck out senior Curt Casali, with the Commodores executing a double steal on the play for two runners in scoring position. Panteliodis fanned sophomore Mike Yastrzemski to end the frame.
Similar to the Commodores, Florida’s first two runners reached base and failed to score. Fontana had a leadoff infield single against senior Taylor Hill (4-1) and Smith (2-for-5) sliced a single through the left side of the infield. Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) moved his teammates over with a grounder to first and Hill responded by striking out sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) and having senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) fly out to straightaway center field.
The Gators broke the ice with a pair of unearned runs in the home part of the second to take a 2-0 lead. Redshirt sophomore Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) drew a one-out walk and Pigott legged out an infield single, with Ramjit able to take third on a throwing error by Gomez. With runners on the corners, sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) (1-for-2, two RBI) laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored Ramjit and a throwing error on the play by Westlake resulted in Pigott reaching third and Dent occupying second base. Fontana brought in Pigott with an RBI grounder and Hill worked out of further trouble by having Smith ground out to third base.
Vanderbilt threatened again in the fourth by having a pair of runners in scoring position. Freshman Conrad Gregor roped a one-out single into center field and Panteliodis countered with a strikeout of sophomore Conor Harrell. Junior Riley Reynolds (2-for-4) singled up the middle, advancing Harrell to second base, and a wild pitch enabled the runners to move up. Panteliodis came through with a crucial strikeout of Kemp, the SEC’s Freshman of the Year, to bring Vanderbilt’s total to seven runners left on base to that point.
In the bottom of the frame, Pigott collected his second hit of the afternoon with one down and swiped second for his team-leading 15th stolen base, sixth of the SEC Tournament. After Fontana drew a two-out walk, Hill caught Smith looking on strikes to complete the inning.
Panteliodis had Yastrzemski fly out to start the sixth and was replaced by Larson. Over 5.1 shutout innings, Panteliodis permitted five hits, with five strikeouts and one walk. Junior Jason Esposito (2-for-4) greeted Larson with a single off his leg but the righty answered by having Gregor ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Harrell began the seventh with a single into right field, bringing Maronde into the ballgame for Larson. Harrell moved into scoring position with a stolen base and went to third on a fly-out by Reynolds. Maronde caught Kemp looking on strikes for the second out and had Gomez ground out to leave the runner 90 feet away from home plate.
Florida increased its lead to 3-0 in the home part of the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Tucker. Dent started the inning with a base-hit into shallow center field but was erased when Fontana’s bunt was fielded cleanly by Casali and thrown down to second base. A single by Smith on a hit-and-run gave the Gators runners on the corners and a fly ball in foul territory by Tucker allowed Fontana to tag up from third base to provide the Gators with a three-run margin.
Maronde set down the Commodores on three-straight fly balls in the eighth and sophomore Will Clinard was tapped to replace Hill, who allowed seven hits, notched eight strikeouts and surrendered three runs over seven full innings. The Gators tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the stanza to finalize the scoring. Adams and Maddox had back-to-back singles and Ramjit’s sacrifice attempt instead turned into an infield single to load the bases with none out. Junior Jack Armstrong came in and plunked Pigott to bring Adams across with the fourth run and then issued a free pass to Dent with the bases full to score Maddox. Senior Mark Lamm took over on the mound and had a grounder by Fontana force Ramjit at home for the first out and then had Smith ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Maddox relieved Maronde at the outset of the ninth and Esposito led off with a double to left field. The righty had Gregor line out to Fontana and struck out Harrell before Reynolds had a two-out single to give the Commodores runners on the corners. Maddox had Kemp fly out to left field to complete the shutout. UF held a 10-9 advantage in hits and the teams stranded a combined 19 base-runners (10 for Vanderbilt, nine for Florida).
2011 SEC Baseball Tournament All-Tournament Team
P Hudson Randall, Florida;
P Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt
P Michael Roth, S. Carolina;
P Michael Palazzone, Georgia
DH Conrad Gregor, Vanderbilt
1B Aaron Westlake, Vanderbilt
SS Nolan Fontana, Florida
C James McCann, Arkansas
2B Riley Reynolds, Vanderbilt
3B Jason Esposito, Vanderbilt
OF Kyle Robinson, Arkansas
OF Daniel Pigott, Florida
Most Valuable Player
Daniel Pigott, Florida