Florida Hitters Rock Tide Again

No. 3 Florida used a pair of five-run innings to post a series-clinching 14-8 win over Alabama on Saturday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Florida (33-11, 17-6 SEC) scored five runs in the third inning, then blew the game open with five more runs in the fifth inning to extend its winning streak to a season-high seven games.



Alabama (28-19, 9-14 SEC) lost its first SEC home series to an Eastern Division team since 2004, snapping a streak of 14 straight series wins. Florida was the last SEC Eastern Division team to win a series at "The Joe" in 2004.

The Gators scored in the first inning for the second straight day to take a 1-0 lead and then added five runs in the third inning, capped by freshman Brian Johnson's second grand slam of the season, to build a 6-0 lead.

"It was very similar to last night in that they got off to a quick start," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "Give a lot of credit to Florida, they not only build a lead but they continue to extend it and continue to get great at bats. They get two quality starts out of their starting pitching, really the first two days it's been a bit much for us.

"They've got a great approach and right now they're in a great rhythm," Gaspard said. "We've really thrown everything at them - fastballs, sliders, changeups and out (pitches). It's not like they're hitting all the pitches but they're extending their at bats. It's exhausting for the pitcher, it's exhausting for the guys playing defense when guys can compete like that and get really good at bats."

Florida busted the game open with five more runs in the fifth inning off three different Alabama pitchers to take an 11-1 lead. Preston Tucker led off the inning with a solo home run to right field to give the Gators a 7-1 lead and chase UA starter Jimmy Nelson.

Nelson (5-2) allowed seven runs and seven hits in four-plus innings en route to his first loss since April 10 at Kentucky. He struck out three, walked two and allowed two home runs.

Senior left-hander David Head relieved Nelson and walked two batters before Tyler Thompson stroked an RBI single to right field to put the Gators in front 8-1. Florida catcher Mike Zunino, who has five hits and six RBI in the series, greeted junior right-hander Brett Whitaker with a three-run home run to give Florida a 10-run lead.

Senior first baseman Clay Jones hit his team-leading 14th home run in the third inning and senior catcher Cody Trotter added his second home run of the season in the sixth for the Tide's only scoring in the first six innings.

Florida starter Alex Panteliodis allowed the two solo home runs in the first six innings before running into trouble in the seventh, when UA scored two runs.

Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas and junior shortstop Josh Rutledge stroked back-to-back singles while Jones walked to load the bases with no outs. Right-hander Matt Campbell replaced Panteliodis and yielded a sacrifice fly to senior third baseman Jake Smith and a run-scoring single to freshman right-fielder Andrew Miller as the Tide closed the gap to 11-4.

Panteliodis (8-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in six-plus innings for the win. He added five strikeouts and four walks.

Florida extended its lead to 14-4 in the eighth inning on a throwing error by UA catcher Brock Bennett, a sacrifice fly by Daniel Pigott and a run-scoring double by Josh Adams for its second 10-run lead of the game.

Alabama answered with four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to close the gap to 14-8. Freshman left fielder Brett Booth led off the inning with a double and moved to third on junior catcher Brock Bennett's single to right. Dugas followed with a sacrifice fly to score Booth and cut the lead to 14-5.

Rutledge followed with single to right to chase Bennett to second base while both runners moved up one base on Jones deep fly out to center field. Smith greeted UF reliever Jeff Barfield with a three-run home run that made the final scored 14-8.

"We were able to generate some offense late in the game for the second day in a row and that shows that we are competing at the plate," Gaspard added.

Matt den Dekker and Tucker led the Gators with three hits apiece. Den Dekker also scored his 200th career run in the first inning.

Dugas, Rutledge, Booth and Bennett all had two hits apiece for Alabama, who finished the game with 13 hits.

Alabama and Florida will wrap up this three-game series on Sunday, May 8, at 2:06 p.m. (CDT). Alabama will send junior right-hander Nathan Kilcrease (26 G, 3-2, 1.75 ERA) for his first start of the season, while Florida will counter with freshman lefty Brian Johnson (9 GS, 4-2, 2.90 ERA).

GAME NOTES:

*Senior first baseman Clay Jones was 1-for-2 with his team-leading 14th home run and three walks, hitting in three-hole for the first time this season. He has reached base eight times in 10 plate appearances in the series.

*Senior third baseman Jake Smith hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. He is also riding a 14-game SEC hitting streak.

*Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge was 2-for-5 with two runs scored against Florida as he recorded his 75th career multi-hit games. Rutledge leads the Crimson Tide with 26 multi-hit games in 2010. Rutledge has hit safely in 22 of 23 SEC games this season, including a 14-game SEC hitting streak.

*Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas had two hits and one RBI on Saturday for his 25 multi-hit game of the 2010 season. He has reached base safely in 46 of the Tide's 47 games this season, including 36 in a row, dating back to March 13. Dugas (25) and Rutledge (26) have combined for 51 multi-hit games this season. Dugas has a 12-game SEC hitting streak.

*Junior catcher Brock Bennett went 2-for-4 with one run scored on Saturday and is 6-for-8 this season in the Tide's two games played on FS South/SportSouth.

*Freshman left fielder Brett Booth had two hits on Saturday for his first career multi-hit game in SEC play. It was his second multi-hit game of the season as he also had two hits on the 2010 season opener against South Alabama.

*Alabama played the game without starting second baseman Ross Wilson, who missed his fourth straight game with a hairline fracture in his left hand.

*The Crimson Tide offense has generated 26 runs and 42 hits in its last three games.

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