Gators Shutout Alabama in Series Opener

Hudson Randall walked two batters. Besides that, the rest of his outing didn't surprise any of the 4,206 people at McKethan Stadium Friday night. The right-hander tossed 6.1 scoreless innings, and with Preston Tucker and Josh Adams staying hot to provide the offense, the Gators (29-10/12-4 SEC) cruised to a 7-0 win over Alabama to take the first game of the series.

"I wasn't too enthused with that," Randall joked about the walks. "It feels good to come back home and have your own bed to sleep in. We have the same routine, and it's really just a good feeling to come out here.

When the most surprising part of an outing this dominant comes in the walk category, it shows how impressive Randall (7-1) has been all season.

The sophomore tossed 6.1 innings, allowing four hits and no runs while recording one strikeout. He threw 54 of his 80 pitches for strikes. As in most outings for Randall, he stayed ahead of Alabama hitters and forced them to hit his pitch. He threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of the 23 batters he faced.

"Honestly, he didn't have his best stuff tonight, but that's why we pitch him on Friday nights," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He puts seven zeroes on the board and doesn't have his best stuff, but he battles. That's what we're asking from him on Friday nights."

Randall wouldn't let himself get over the two walks. His total for the season is still at a miniscule four walks, and he wants to keep it there.

"I've set my goal at five or less, so I'm trying not to reach five now," Randall said. "I'm trying not to walk anybody else."

The shutout was Florida's eighth of the season, matching the program's most since 1991.

Randall gave up two singles and only recorded an out in the seventh inning when O'Sullivan went to his bullpen. He summoned left-hander Nick Maronde, who got a ground ball and a strikeout to avoid any damage on the scoreboard.

"It was good to see Nick come into a tough situation and make some good pitches," O'Sullivan said. "He used his slider and located his fastball."

While the pitching put zeroes on the scoreboard, the Gators were busy posting crooked numbers.

Tucker continued his power surge for the Gators. After hitting grand slams in the last two games, he went 1-for-5, hitting a two-run home run and driving in the team's first three runs.

Alabama starting pitcher Nathan Kilcrease worked his fastball in on Tucker all night while occasionally bouncing a breaking ball on the plate in hopes the Florida first baseman would chase. Instead, after falling behind 2-0 to Tucker in his third at-bat on two fastballs inside, Kilcrease tried to surprise him with a breaking ball for a strike.

Tucker was waiting for it.

He launched the breaking ball over the right field scoreboard for a home run that everyone in the stadium knew had no chance of staying in the park once it left the bat.

"It wasn't a terrible pitch," Tucker said. "It was a curveball, but I saw quite a few curve balls in my first two at-bats, so I picked it up and put a good swing on it."

Josh Adams launched a no-doubt home run of his own in the seventh inning. After Mike Zunino walked and Brian Johnson singled with one out, Adams hit a towering home run into the parking lot behind left-center field to push the Florida advantage to 7-0.

"Guys struggled in the first half seeing the ball, but with us, hitting is contagious. Once we get going a little bit, guys put good swings on balls and everyone is feeling more comfortable in the box."

Florida also showed it didn't need the long ball to score. The Gators tacked on a run in the sixth inning on an RBI single from Nolan Fontana, driving in Austin Maddox, who singled to start the inning. Fontana checked his swing on the first pitch of the at-bat, but the bat was too far out in front of the plate to hold back. It connected with the high and away fastball to hit a soft line drive over the third baseman's head and score Maddox.

Florida goes for the series win on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Gators will throw sophomore left-hander Brian Johnson (5-1, 2.42) against Alabama junior left-hander Adam Morgan (4-3, 4.12).

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