Whitson Solid Again as Gators Sweep BC

Sunday was about learning on the fly for freshman Karsten Whitson. After dominating during his first start against USF, head coach Kevin O'Sullivan wanted the right-hander to use more of his third pitch, a changeup that has developed since he got to campus. Whitson grew more accustomed to the pitch and helped the No. 1 Gators to a 7-2 win, sweeping the series from Boston College.

"We called a bunch of changeups today to force him to throw that third pitch," O'Sullivan said. "I didn't want to get too difficult with him (last week) in his first start, but he's going to need that changeup as he goes along. I was really pleased with his outing because once he adds that third pitch, it's going to help him become a more complete pitcher."

Whitson (2-0, 0.87) went 5.1 innings, allowing five hits, one run and a walk. He struck out five hitters after striking out nine in five innings of work last weekend.

The freshman attributed the added hits to working on his changeup more later in the game. He didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning when he allowed two singles. With runners on first and second with one out, Whitson got a ground ball to second base. Josh Adams flipped it to shortstop Nolan Fontana, but he was forced to hold onto the ball because Whitson forgot to cover first base.

O'Sullivan then used his first trip to the mound to calm down his freshman and remind him to move on from the mistake.

"That's obviously a no-no, so I wanted to go out there and settle him down to make sure he put it behind him. I didn't want that to spiral out of control and have him focus in on that."

Whitson needed just four pitches to strike out the next hitter on a slider in the dirt.

"It was important because things like covering first are things that we work on," Whitson said about forgetting to cover first. "I should be able to get over, and I was a little pissed about that. I just calmed down and made sure I was going to get that next hitter no matter what. I was definitely pumped up."

After throwing three changeups in his start last Sunday, Whitson estimated throwing "seven or eight" against Boston College. They were thrown mostly late in his start after he got comfortable and contributed to three hits allowed with one out in the sixth inning.

The pitch is still a work in progress, but the potential of Whitson's mid-90s fastball combining with two off-speed pitches is too tempting to pass up.

"I threw it a lot in the fifth and sixth inning," Whitson said. "Those hits were getting through the infield on my changeup. I'll just keep throwing it for strikes, and it'll help me down the road."

After Whitson allowed base runners to reach first and third in the sixth inning, left-hander Nick Maronde got back-to-back strikeouts to limit the damage. Greg Larson followed with two scoreless innings of relief before Austin Maddox closed the game out in the ninth.

The Florida offense scored four runs in the second inning, and that was all it needed to do. Kamm Washington started it with an RBI single, and Nolan Fontana followed with a two-run triple. Josh Adams hit a sacrifice fly to center field, giving the Gators a comfortable four-run lead after two innings.

Fontana's swing gave him a chance to drive in his second and third runs of the game. His role isn't to drive runs in, it's to score them. The sophomore has scored 12 runs through seven games, doubling Brian Johnson's second place total of six runs scored.

"That was a little different," Fontana said. "Out of the box, I was like, "Wow, is that me driving in runs?" because I'm usually the guy scoring them for the guys behind me."

Daniel Pigott's two-out single to score Brian Johnson, who tripled two batters before, stretched the lead to 5-0 after three innings.

After the Eagles cut it to 5-1, Mike Zunino delivered the knockout blow in the eighth inning. He deposited a towering fly ball into the left field bleachers for a two-run home run and pushing the Florida (7-0) lead to 7-1.

"I haven't been swinging as well as I'd like to, so I just had to cut it down and put a good swing on it," Zunino said.

The catcher started the year slow after focusing on the Florida pitching staff, but his bat came around over the weekend. Zunino went 3-for-4 at the plate Sunday to move his average from .211 to .304 (7-for-23).

The focus for Florida now turns to Tuesday's matchup with Florida State. The two will face off in the Florida Four at Steinbrenner Field, the spring training home of the New York Yankees. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.

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