Gators Win Seventh Straight Game

One day after being named SEC Player of the Week, Mike Zunino didn't waste time building his résumé for next week's award. The Florida catcher went 3-for-4, belting two home runs and a career high seven RBIs while the Florida pitching staff recorded its ninth shutout of the season, allowing the No. 4 Gators to pound Bethune-Cookman 11-0 Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium.

"Mike is swinging it well," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He had another great night tonight. He's a baseball player. I'd like to say I'm surprised, but I'm not. He works hard, and he's probably a our most valuable up to this point."

Zunino struck out in the seventh inning of the game, and it marked the first time he was retired in his last eight at-bats. In that stretch, he had two home runs and three doubles.

The first home run got the game started for Florida (35-10/17-4 SEC). Bethune-Cookman (29-20) starting pitcher Rayan Gonzalez retired the first two batters with ease before walking Preston Tucker on a full count. Zunino followed by hitting the first pitch of the at-bat off the left field foul pole to give the Gators an early 2-0 lead.

"Mike's two run home run in the first got us on the board first, and we've always played well with an early lead," O'Sullivan said.

With Nolan Fontana on third base to start the fifth inning after a triple, Bryson Smith reached on a fielder's choice. Fontana scored on an RBI single from Tucker, and Bethune-Cookman head coach Mervyl Melendez went to his bullpen. He brought in Jordan Dailey, but he only made things worse.

Dailey hung a breaking ball that Zunino lined into the left field bleachers to serve as the knockout blow and give Florida a 7-0 lead. He added a two-run single in the eighth inning to record his career high seventh RBI of the game.

His ten home runs and 46 RBIs on the season already top his production last season. Zunino now has nine RBIs in the last two games, and 13 RBIs in the last four games.

"(The ball) is looking pretty big," Zunino said with a laugh. "I'm just seeing pitches I can hit. I'm just trying to see the ball up and square it up."

The Florida pitching staff didn't need many runs.

Starting pitcher Alex Panteliodis (3-1) tossed 4.1 shutout innings, allowing three hits and recording five strikeouts, which tied his season high from his start at Florida State on April 12.

"I felt really good tonight," Panteliodis said. "Everything was working, but mainly my slider. I was able to move the fastball inside and outside, and I kept them guessing and off guard."

Panteliodis came into the game with a 5.22 ERA and struggled in his recent appearances. After winning 11 games during his sophomore season, the left-hander came into Tuesday's start with a 5.22 ERA. It lowered to 4.29, but the inflated ERA is still a reminder of the early struggles Panteliodis has come out of recently.

"I've had a few rough outings, but I feel like tonight I did a really good job," the junior said. "The command is still there. I've had some bad nights, but it has always been there."

Panteliodis has maintained the midweek starter role throughout the season, still earning trust from the coaches. He rewarded them on Tuesday night.

"I don't think we're going to win a championship without him," O'Sullivan said. "He's not the forgotten guy. We're going to need him. This was a really important start for him."

Greg Larson, Anthony DeSclafani, Tommy Toledo, Nick Maronde and Austin Maddox combined to throw the final 4.2 innings, allowing two hits, no walks and recording five strikeouts. Only one Wildcats runner reached second base after the third inning, and that came because of a fielding error.

Vickash Ramjit added a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning, moving his hit streak to four games. He is now 7-for-10 in Florida's last four games.

The Gators will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Wednesday before taking on the Razorbacks in a conference series that starts on Thursday night at 7:30.

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