TALLAHASSEE, FL- No. 4 Florida (26-7) rallied from a 3-0 deficit with six unanswered runs to defeat No. 1 Florida State (27-6) on Tuesday night, 6-3, to complete a three-game sweep of the regular-season series between the Sunshine State rivals at sold-out Dick Howser Stadium. It marked the 15th come-from-behind effort of the year for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club. The Gators had previously emerged victorious against the Seminoles in Gainesville on March 13 (9-2) and in Jacksonville on March 27 (4-1).
The Orange and Blue had not taken all of the regular-season meetings from the Seminoles since 1958 (a pair of wins in Gainesville on April 11-12 that season), notched its first victory over the nation’s top-ranked team since a 5-4 triumph over FSU on April 18, 2007, and picked up its first win in Tallahassee since April 14, 2009 (10-2). In addition, Florida swept both Florida State and Miami (Fla.) in the same season for the first time in school history. The crowd of 6,730 fans at Dick Howser Stadium was the fourth-largest in the facility’s history and the second-most for a UF-FSU game.
Freshman right-hander Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.) (1-0) retired all nine batters he faced over a career-high three innings to pick up his first collegiate win, freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (3-for-5) snapped a 3-3 tie with a bases-loaded single in the sixth and the Gator bullpen fired six shutout innings with seven strikeouts and one hit. Junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) set down all five Seminoles he faced and had two strikeouts over 1.2 innings to register his ninth save. Junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-5) belted a game-tying homer in the fifth, while juniors Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-3, three runs) and Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-for-5) slugged solo shots as part of a 12-hit offensive attack.
Junior Devon Travis (3-for-4) gave the Seminoles a quick lead in the first inning with a one-out solo shot off Johnson to straightaway center field. It was his third big fly of the year. Senior James Ramsey (2-for-4) followed with an infield single and junior Jayce Boyd singled up the middle before a fly ball to center field by redshirt sophomore Stephen McGee left runners on the corners with two down. Johnson caught junior Justin Gonzalez looking on strikes to escape the jam.
The Gators had three hits in the second inning and loaded the bases against junior Scott Sitz but were unable to score. Senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) led off with a single into right field and Johnson had an infield hit to put the visitors in business. Tucker was thrown out at third base on a sacrifice attempt by freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) for the first out and Fontana laced a single into left field to load the bases. A fielder’s choice by junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) forced Johnson at home for the second out and junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) lined out to first base to end the inning.
Although Florida filled the bags with one down in the third inning, it was kept off the board. Senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-4) led off with an infield single and went to third on Zunino’s team-leading 13th double of the year to the left-field fence. The Seminoles elected to walk Tucker intentionally and the move paid off when Johnson’s comebacker to Sitz forced Pigott at home and Gushue popped up in foul territory.
The Seminoles increased their lead to 3-0 in the home part of the inning on two hits and an error. Travis and Ramsey had consecutive singles to begin the frame and Johnson fanned Boyd for the first out. The Seminoles then executed a double steal, with Travis taking third and Ramsey swiping second. An errant relay throw down to second base by Zunino allowed Travis to come across and Ramsey to occupy third. McGee lofted a sacrifice fly into left field to drive in Ramsey for a three-run margin.
UF got on the board on a two-out RBI single by Pigott in the fourth. Fontana had a 10-pitch at bat and drew a leadoff walk, Ramjit had an infield fly to the shortstop and Fontana moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Dent. Pigott delivered a base-hit into right field to bring home Fontana with the Gators’ first run.
Harris replaced Johnson (3.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER) prior to FSU’s fourth and worked a 1-2-3 inning with a trio of groundouts.
Zunino tied the game in the fifth with a towering two-run homer off the scoreboard overlooking left field. Turgeon started the inning with a single into center field and Zunino connected on his team-leading 10th dinger to even the score at 3-3. It was his first homer since March 24 at South Carolina.
The Gators seized a 4-3 advantage in the sixth on an RBI single by Turgeon but left the bases full. Freshman Kyle Bird (0-1) replaced Sitz (5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R) at the beginning of the stanza and issued a leadoff walk to Fontana. A fielding error by Boyd at first base enabled Ramjit to reach and Fontana to take second. Dent greeted senior reliever Brian Busch with a sacrifice bunt that moved both of his teammates into scoring position and FSU decided to walk Pigott intentionally to load the bases with one down. The move backfired when Turgeon lined a single into left field to score Fontana for a 4-3 lead for the visitors. Freshman Luke Weaver came in from the bullpen and struck out Zunino and had Tucker pop up to the shortstop to strand the runners.
Fontana provided Florida with a 5-3 lead by belting his seventh homer to right field with two down in the seventh. It marked his second-straight outing with a round-tripper after clubbing a three-run jack on Saturday against LSU.
After Harris threw a career-high three innings by setting down all nine hitters he faced, junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) notched three-straight strikeouts, freshman Giovanny Alfonzo looking, freshman Josh Delph swinging and Johnson looking, to preserve the Gators’ two-run lead.
UF’s pitching staff had retired 13 Seminoles in a row before Travis started the eighth with a double into right field. Rodriguez answered with a strikeout of Ramsey and Maddox was summoned from the bullpen. The righty retired Boyd on in infield fly and had McGee ground out.
Johnson finalized the scoring at 6-3 in the ninth with the first homer allowed by junior Robert Benincasa all season. The blast to right field was the third of the campaign for Johnson. Maddox closed out the Seminoles with a perfect ninth that featured a pair of punchouts. The Gators held a 12-7 advantage in hits, including four for extra bases.
This Florida-Florida State baseball game was part of the Fresh from Florida Sunshine Showdown Series. Presented by Fresh from Florida, its goal is to remind all fans of the importance of buying home grown and harvested products from Florida. It supports our state’s farmers and fishermen, and our local economies.
Florida resumes SEC action this weekend with a series at Eastern Division rival Tennessee (20-12/6-6 SEC). Game one from Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Friday will be at 6 p.m.