Gators Advance in SEC Tourney

HOOVER, Ala.- Hudson Randall got just what he needed on Thursday. The right-hander wasn't sharp in his previous three starts before the SEC Tournament, but his eight shutout innings outings against Alabama gave him a boost of confidence heading into next weekend's NCAA Regional. The offense got an early lead, and with Randall on the mound, the Gators (43-15) cruised to a 6-0 win at Regions Park.

"I upped my workout program in between starts," said Randall, who hasn't given up a run against Alabama in 21.1 career innings. "I felt like I was getting tired towards the end of the season. All the pitches were working for me early, and when we jumped out to an early lead, I was just throwing strikes and letting my defense work for me."

Randall was expected to be on a pitch count in the game, but the sophomore lasted eight innings, giving up just four hits and one walk. He only recorded two strikeouts, and they came against the last two hitters he faced. Randall threw 57 of his 89 pitches for strikes.

The biggest threat Alabama could muster against Randall came in the sixth inning after Josh Sanders and Taylor Dugas started the inning with back-to-back singles. Brock Bennett hit a ground ball to shortstop, but the Gators couldn't turn the double play, only getting the out at second. Randall got Jared Reaves to ground a ball to third base where Cody Dent stated the double play to end the inning.

Randall has made a habit of keeping his pitch count down and throwing deep into games, shown by a 74-pitch complete game against Tennessee earlier in the year. He does it by creating contact from the hitter early in the at-bat. Only seven of the 27 batters Randall faced worked the at-bat past four pitches.

"If you look back at his career, when he has a bad start, he has almost always come back and had a quality start," said Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan after his team tied the school record with ten shutouts. "He had some sink on the ball and he threw some changeups in there. He got ahead in the count and we played really good defense behind him, too. He doesn't walk many, so it's really had to mount rallies against him."

Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspart compared Randall to former Atlanta Braves ace Greg Maddux. It's the twice time that has happened this season after South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner did the same when Randall threw a complete game against the Gamecocks in Gainesville earlier this season.

"He was my idol when I was growing up," said Randall, who grew up just outside of Atlanta in Dunwoody. "I was always watching him on TV when we couldn't make it out to the park. I like to pitch to contact. I'm not a strikeout pitcher, and that's when he did during his career. I model myself after him."

The Florida offense gave Randall a lead to work with before he even stepped on the mound in the first inning.

Bryson Smith hit the first pitch of the game into the right-center field gap for a double, and Alabama pitcher Adam Morgan followed by misplaying a Nolan Fontana bunt. Mike Zunino walked to load the bases and the Gators got their first two runs on a Preston Tucker RBI ground out and a Josh Adams sacrifice fly.

The Gators tacked on two more runs in the next inning, started with back-to-back singles from Austin Maddox and Daniel Pigott. Bryson Smith scored one with a single and Nolan Fontana's sacrifice fly gave the Gators a 4-0 lead in the second inning.

Smith went 4-for-5 in the game, driving in three runs and scoring one after getting only five hits in his previous 44 at-bats.

"I talked to him today before the game just to help him relax because he was pressing a little bit," O'Sullivan said. "I told him he would stay at the top of the order, and I didn't want him to press. It worked out today, and hopefully he's getting confidence back."

Daniel Pigott ended the day 4-for-4, missing the cycle by a home run. Since his hot start, Pigott was slumping and Friday's game could give him confidence down the stretch.

After winning their first two games, the Gators earn an off day from action on Friday. Florida returns to play Saturday, with first pitch set for 30 minutes after the finale of the 10:30 a.m. EST game. Florida's opponent is yet to be determined, but they will have to beat the Gators twice Saturday to prevent Florida from playing in the tournament championship game Sunday at 1 p.m.

Fightin Gators Top Stories