Whitson Pitches Gators to Sweep of Alabama

Florida junior Nick Maronde induced a game-ending 4-6-3 double play from Alabama senior pinch hitter Brett Whitaker with a pair of runners aboard to preserve a 2-1 victory for the No. 5 Gators (31-10/14-4 SEC) and secure a sweep of the Crimson Tide (25-18/8-10 SEC) on Easter Sunday at McKethan Stadium.

Freshman Karsten Whitson (5-0) registered seven strikeouts and permitted three hits over a career-high 6.2 innings to pick up his second win in league play and sophomore Nolan Fontana was 3-for-4 and drove in both of UF's runs as the hosts remained in first place in the overall and Eastern Division standings pending the results of today's action. Entering the day, the Gators were deadlocked with No. 2 South Carolina (30-8/13-4 SEC) and No. 3 Vanderbilt (34-5/13-4 SEC).

With the Tide down to its final three outs, junior Anthony DeSclafani had junior Jared Reaves ground out before yielding consecutive singles to freshman Austen Smith (2-for-4) and sophomore Brandt Hendricks. Maronde was summoned from the bullpen and had Whitaker tap into a game-ending double play to record his second save.

"Overall, it was a great weekend and I think for Karsten (Whitson) it's the best he's thrown all year," head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He was on-line, downhill and he didn't have any walks. Our guys played great defense behind him and it was a great weekend. Most teams will be satisfied with two wins and then cash it in, I am really proud with the way they played today. They kept their focus and completed the job."

"It felt good to win," Maronde said. "It was a big win we needed and we were tied for first place with South Carolina and Vanderbilt going into today so it helped a lot. Every win helps in the SEC. Karsten threw a heck of a game. I just wanted to go in there and throw strikes and I was fortunate to get that double play."

The Gators broke the ice in the third inning on an RBI double by Fontana but the Tide turned a key inning-ending double play to limit UF to one run. Junior Daniel Pigott led off with a single up the middle and was sacrificed to second by junior Tyler Thompson. Senior Bryson Smith was hit by a pitch from senior Jonathan Smart (2-1) and Fontana rifled a double to the base of the wall in right field to score Pigott with the initial run. With a couple of runners in scoring position, sophomore Mike Zunino popped up in foul territory. Austen Smith recorded the putout just beyond first base and then gunned down Bryson Smith at the plate to end the inning.

Whitson held the Crimson Tide without a hit until senior David Kindred roped a one-out double into right field in the fifth. A grounder by sophomore Brett Booth advanced Kindred to third and Whitson answered with his fifth strikeout of the afternoon with a punch-out of sophomore Andrew Miller.

UF increased its lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Fontana. Thompson doubled with one down to right field and Smith followed with a walk before Fontana sliced a base-hit through the right side that brought in Thompson. A fly out by Zunino (2-for-4) advanced Smith to third and Smart worked out of further trouble by having a grounder from junior Preston Tucker force Fontana at second base to close the frame.

Senior Josh Adams raised his hitting streak to seven games with a one-out single in the sixth, matching his season high, and Smart responded by having sophomore Brian Johnson line into an inning-ending double play.

Alabama narrowed the gap to 2-1 in the seventh on a bloop single by Booth. Reaves was hit by a pitch to start the stanza and Smith followed with a single into left field for runners on the corners. Whitson struck out both Hendricks and Kindred and Booth came through with a base-knock into right field to cut the deficit to a run. With two runners on base, sophomore Steven Rodriguez replaced Whitson and struck out redshirt freshman pinch hitter Allen Dye.

"Karsten threw a couple quality change-ups, but his slider to lefties was outstanding today," O'Sullivan said. "He really located his fastball a lot better today than he had in a couple of outings before. He's been getting better and better each time out. I think today by far was his best outing and I'm glad that he came out and threw the ball well today."

"It felt good to see the seventh inning," Whitson said. "I was just keeping them all low today, getting early first pitch outs. My teammates make good plays behind me so I now know what it is to get out there and try to keep on doing it. Paco (Steven Rodriguez) came in and threw really well, just like he's been doing for us which is really good and Disco (Anthony DeSclafani) came in and did his job and (Nick) Maronde got the big double play for us."

Senior Josh Sanders bunted for a single to begin the eighth and was picked off by Rodriguez. The lefty had Junior Taylor Dugas fly out to left field and DeSclafani came in for Rodriguez (1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 K) and had senior Brock Bennett ground out.

The Gators loaded the bases with none out in the home part of the inning and could not add to their lead. Fontana and Zunino had back-to-back singles before Tucker legged out a bunt to fill the bags and force a pitching change. Junior Josh Rosecrans replaced Smart (7.0 IP, 10 H, 2 R) and had Maddox hit into a 4-2-3 double play and Adams ground out to keep the Tide down by a run entering the last inning.

Florida resumes action next Friday night with the opener of a three-game series against Ole Miss (24-17/9-9 SEC) at McKethan Stadium.

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