Gators Sweep Again

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan knew Sunday wouldn't be an easy one. Rhode Island proved to be a scrappy team all weekend, and that didn't change in the series finale. Whenever the Gators scored, the Rams answered back quickly. No. 1 Florida was able to hold them off in the final innings, registering an 8-6 win to sweep the series.

"They're tough outs," O'Sullivan said. "If you ask any of our starters, they'd all tell you the same thing. I knew Rhode Island would be ready to go. They wouldn't lie down."

The win moved Florida to 14-2 on the season, which tied the school record for the best start to a season. The last time it was done came in 1992.

The Gators put eight runs on the board, but it could have been more. They tied a season high by leaving 12 runners on base, including the bases loaded in the second and third innings. Through three innings, they had left eight runners on, but still carried a 2-1 lead.

"It's a frustrating thing," O'Sullivan said. "If you (leave 12 stranded), you probably lose nine times out of ten. We've got to do a better job of bearing down and having more quality at-bats with runners in scoring position. Good teams hit with runners in scoring position."

Rams shortstop Mike LeBel had an RBI groundout in the sixth inning that cut the Florida lead to 4-3. In the Gators' half of the sixth inning, it looked like more of the same. They loaded the bases with one out, but Ben McMahan hit a ground ball to first base and the Rams got the out at home to keep the run from scoring.

Josh Adams came to the plate with two outs, and the senior pulled through. He drove a double over the Rhode Island center fielder's head to clear the bases and push Florida to a comfortable 7-3 advantage.

"It was big," Adams said. "Momentum swung out way. It got the team going and gave everybody that comfort feeling towards the end. We played a little looser after that and started swinging the bats better."

Florida freshman Karsten Whitson (3-0, 2.21) made his fourth start of the season and was noticeably better than last Sunday against Miami, even if the stats suggested otherwise. He had more velocity to his fastball and the movement on his off-speed pitches was better.

The right-hander went five innings, allowing four hits, two runs, two walks and four strikeouts. Forty-nine of his 81 pitches went for strikes.

"Every time out is a new learning experience for him," O'Sullivan said. "His delivery was better, and he had better angle to his stuff. I think overall it was a good outing for him."

He wasn't as efficient with strikes as usual. Whitson only threw first-pitch strikes to ten of the 21 hitters he faced, which has to improve as the Gators head into conference play next weekend.

"He's going to need to do a better job of jumping ahead," O'Sullivan said. "He's going to have to pitch ahead a little bit more."

Whitson threw "five or six" changeups during the game, and it's a pitch that he is starting to gain confidence in.

The Gators immediately turn their focus to No. 5 Florida State, who visits Gainesville on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium. Florida State is starting junior right-hander Gary Merians (3-0, 1.20), while Florida will counter with junior left-hander Alex Panteliodis (1-0, 4.66)

First pitch is set for 7 p.m.

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