Gators Win SEC Tournament

HOOVER, Ala.- With a worn out pitching staff, head coach Kevin O'Sullivan knew it he needed a good outing from starting pitcher Alex Panteliodis. The junior delivered, tossing 5.1 scoreless innings, helping the Gators to a 5-0 win over Vanderbilt, clinching Florida's first SEC Tournament Championship since 1991.

"He gave us a great start," O'Sullivan said, donning his SEC Tournament Championship t-shirt and hat. "We knew going into this one that we'd have to pitch well. If we had to go to the bullpen early in this game, we were probably going to find ourselves in some trouble. AP just did an outstanding job."

After winning 11 games during his sophomore season, Panteliodis came into Sunday's championship game with a 4-2 record and 4.65 ERA in only eight starts this season. The Gators played 18 innings against Georgia on Saturday to secure their spot in the championship game, but that took a lot out of the bullpen.

Florida needed the 2010 version of Panteliodis, and that's exactly what they got. He gave up five hits and one walk on 81 pitches, 52 for strikes.

"I felt really good today," the left-hander said. "It has always been there, but I just haven't really found it. I just threw strikes and let the defense do the work. It was just me locating and hitting spots."

The fastball command for Panteliodis hasn't been the same this season as it was in 2010. He came inside on hitters with his fastball to lock them up and got multiple strike threes called on it.

"We've always had that approach," Panteliodis said. "You've got to be able to throw inside every once in a while to catch them off guard. It worked today a lot."

Greg Larson, Nick Maronde and Austin Maddox combined to throw 3.2 shutout innings out of the bullpen, allowing just four base runners.

It was the 11th shutout by the Florida pitching staff this season, breaking the school record. It was also the second time a shutout has been thrown in the SEC Tournament Championship Game, with the first time coming in 1980 when Vanderbilt beat Auburn 13-0.

The Florida offense took advantage of some Vanderbilt miscues to get an early lead. After Vickash Ramjit walked with one out in the second inning, Daniel Pigott tapped a ground ball to shortstop, where Anthony Gomez threw it away, allowing Ramjit to end up at third. Cody Dent drug a squeeze bunt up the first base line, and Nolan Fontana followed with an RBI ground out to give the Gators a 2-0 lead.

Pigott was named the SEC Tournament MVP, going 7-for-12 at the plate, scoring six runs and going 6-for-6 in stolen bases.

"I just tried to take a good approach at the plate," the left fielder said. "I went the other way and was trying to hit it where it was pitched."

Pigott wasn't in the lineup during the first game of the tournament, as Tyler Thompson got the start in left field to get him some at-bats. After that, Pigott caught fire.

"Daniel has had a great year," O'Sullivan said. "I don't know if it's one thing or another. He's hit over .300 all year long, and he had a really good tournament."

A sacrifice fly by Preston Tucker scored Cody Dent in the seventh inning, and the Gators put the game out of reach in the ninth when a pitch hit Pigott with the bases loaded, and Dent walked with the bases loaded.

The Gators got a boost in the dugout when Brian Johnson rejoined the team. He was at the team hotel Saturday night with the team, something that O'Sullivan said "relieved a lot of tension." His status is still unknown, but the Florida staff is optimistic.

"Hopefully we'll get him back next weekend, but that's up to the doctors.," O'Sullivan said.

Besides Pigott, the Gators also placed shortstop Nolan Fontana, outfielder Bryson Smith and right-hander Hudson Randall on the All-Tournament Team.

The NCAA announced on Sunday that Florida will host a Regional next weekend. The entire field will be announced on Monday at 12:30 p.m.

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