Tucker Helps Gators Sweep the Canes

When the No. 1 Gators went to warm up on Sunday morning, head coach Kevin O'Sullivan wanted to make sure his team was focused. With two wins and a series victory already secured, his team couldn't become complacent if it wanted to reach the long-term goals. The loss Tuesday to Florida State made it imperative that the Gators (10-1) pull out a win on Sunday.

The Florida offense didn't come around until the sixth inning, but it was enough to pull out a 5-3 win over Miami to complete the series sweep. It was the first time the Gators have ever swept the Hurricanes in Gainesville. Florida has now won nine of the last 10 games against Miami, including six in a row.

"Today was one of those where if we lose, it's a 2-2 week," O'Sullivan said. "If we win, it's a 3-1 week. Today was one of those games that if you want to be one of those top eight seeds at the end of the year, this is one that you have to get."

The Gators took an early 2-0 lead in the second inning when Zack Powers hit a two-out double to right field. Josh Adams hit the next pitch into left field for a single, and a fielding error by Miami left fielder Zeke DeVoss allowed Powers to score.

A two-run lead would have been plenty for freshman Karsten Whitson in the last two starts, but he didn't have his command on Sunday. Whitson had only given up six hits in 10.1 innings this season, and he gave up seven in five innings of work on Sunday. He also allowed two runs and recorded four strikeouts.

The difference in Whitson was noticeable from the early innings, but he was able to fight through it and give his team a chance to win. The head coach was happy with how Whitson was able to stay composed.

Miami's game plan was to swing early in the count at Whitson's fastball, and six of their seven hits off him came on fastballs.

"With all freshmen, every time they go to the mound, there is something new to learn," O'Sullivan said. "He had to battle and pitch in the (stretch) more today than he probably did during his senior year. You've got to remember that these guys in high school don't get tested very much. Each time he gets out there and gets tested, it'll only make him better in the long run."

Tommy Toledo (1-1) relieved Whitson and threw 2.2 innings without allowing a base runner and recording two strikeouts.

"He was outstanding," O'Sullivan said. "He settled things down for us. He has been throwing the ball really well, but that's what your upper classmen do. They come in and slow things down a little bit."

While Toledo was in a groove on the mound, it allowed the offense to settle in and regain the lead. Preston Tucker started the scoring off by hitting the first pitch of the sixth inning to the opposite field and over the left field bleachers.

Tucker went 3-for-4 at the plate, and the one time he was retired came on a line out to first base. There's no doubt the biggest impact came on the home run.

"I kind of had an idea of what he was going to throw me, and I put a good swing on it," Tucker said. "He threw me two fastballs in the first two at bats, so I figured he wouldn't throw me another one. He also started off at-bats to our other lefties before me with off-speed, so I sat on an off-speed pitch away and got what I was looking for."

Daniel Pigott added to the lead later in the inning with a two-out double to right-center field. Miami brought in right-handed side-armer Adam Sargent to make it difficult on Pigott, but he stayed with his approach of hitting the ball to the opposite field.

"I knew it was a big situation, and with a right-handed side-armer, I knew the ball was going to come in on me," Pigott said. "The coaches tell us to get on top of the plate because it shrinks the inside part of the plate and the ball is tailing in on you. I just looked for a ball out over the plate."

Paco Rodriguez walked the first two hitters of the ninth inning, causing O'Sullivan to bring in Anthony DeSclafani, who picked up the win in relief on Saturday. The right-hander this time allowed one hit off the glove of shortstop Nolan Fontana, but he secured the 5-3 win and earned his first career save.

The Gators will get Monday off before a busy midweek. Georgia Southern comes to town on Tuesday night, and Florida travels to Tampa for a matchup with USF on Wednesday. O'Sullivan isn't sure of the pitching matchups, but he knows that junior left-hander Alex Panteliodis will get the ball for one of the two games.

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