Gators Finish off the Rebels

It's hard to draw up a better weekend for No. 4 Florida. The Gators dominated Ole Miss on the mound and at the plate, completing the sweep behind six shutout innings from freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson Sunday. The Gators (34-10/17-4) had three multiple-run innings and cruised to a 7-2 win over the Rebels (24-20/9-12) at McKethan Stadium.

"(Conference sweeps) are not easy to come by," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "They've got a lot of history and tradition, and they're always in the postseason. That's the thing I'm most proud of with our team is how they came out today and played. Most teams would be satisfied with two wins and winning a series, but the way we came out and swung the bats and got a great start from Karsten, I was proud."

Whitson (6-0) didn't allow multiple base runners in any of his six innings, and only one runner reached third base. He allowed only three hits and two walks during his six-shutout innings, while striking out four batters. Seven of his outs came through the air while five came on the ground.

Before last Sunday's seven-inning performance, Whitson's career high was 5.1 innings. He has topped that in his last two starts.

"I'm just trying to make pitches low in the zone and get easy outs to be efficient," Whitson said. "I'm starting to go deeper into games now, and that feels good. I'm just trying to give my team a chance to win."

It was a different look for the freshman, as Ole Miss started the game with six left-handers in the lineup.

"He hasn't had that look very often," O'Sullivan said. "In high school, you're never going to see a lineup with six left-handers in it. He used his secondary pitches and made some pitches when he had to."

Those left-handers went 1-for-13 against Whitson, with the only hit coming on a single from Tanner Mathis to start the game.

The freshman has allowed one run in his last 13 innings and lowered his ERA to 2.02 on Sunday. His recent success hasn't surprised the head coach. The time Whitson puts in during the week watching film and learning about pitching from the coaches has turned him into a frontrunner for SEC Freshman of the Year.

"He's doing a lot of work on his own on his delivery," O'Sullivan said. "He wants to make a career of this thing, and he works at it that way."

The Florida offense got on the board with two runs in the first on a sacrifice fly by Nolan Fontana, scoring Bryson Smith after his leadoff double, and an RBI single from Preston Tucker scored Mike Zunino, who doubled in the previous at-bat.

Zunino's next two at-bats were the ones that separated the game. He stroked a two-run double to left-center field in the third inning, and he hit another two-run double in the fifth inning. Tucker followed the second double with another RBI single, and the Gators took a 7-0 lead after five innings.

"We got guys on third base with less than two outs, and we got them in," Tucker said. "Even when guys didn't come through, the next guy came and picked them up. We didn't get leave a lot of guys on base and scored a ton of runs."

Zunino put up numbers this weekend that should challenge for SEC Player of the Week. He went 7-for-12 on the series with a home run, four doubles and eight RBI to go with a 1.167 slugging percentage.

"I saw the ball well this weekend," Zunino said. "I got a few balls up and put good swings on them. Hopefully it carries over."

The offense hit .368 for the weekend, while the pitching staff limited the Rebels to hitting .206. Of Florida's 39 hits on the weekend, 16 were for extra bases.

Vickash Ramjit added two hits and a run scored, producing a 6-for-9 weekend at the plate.

The Gators return to action on Tuesday night when they host Bethune-Cookman at McKethan Stadium at 7 p.m.

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