Tucker Becomes Career RBI Leader in UF Win

Preston Tucker wanted to do it right. The senior has been known as a power hitter since he showed up in Gainesville, so it was only fitting that the 45th home run of his college career was the one that gave him sole possession of the school career RBI record. His 215th career RBI also gave the Gators an early lead that they would stretch into a 5-1 win over William and Mary.

"His swing has been getting a little bit since Wednesday night," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan joked about the way Tucker wanted to break it.. "In his mind, I think he wanted to do it with a home run. I didn't think the sac fly was going to be good enough to break it. It's a very fitting ending to the way he broke it."

Tucker started to become more aggressive in recent games as he knew the record was close. He expanded his strike zone in midweek wins over Bethune-Cookman and UCF. It wasn't intentional, but with the record so close, Tucker just wanted to get it out of the way.

"I didn't really think it was pressing (on me), but I wasn't performing the way I knew I could with runners in scoring position," Preston Tucker said. "Maybe in the back of my mind I was pressing a little bit."

One pitch after Daniel Pigott used a sacrifice fly to score Tyler Thompson and tie the game, Tucker lined a hanging off-speed pitch just inside the right field foul pole to secure it. There wasn't much doubt in his mind or anyone else in McKethan Stadium that it was gone after it left the bat.

A monster freshman and junior season led Tucker to this milestone. He set the school record for RBIs in a season for a freshman when he drove in 85 runs in his first year. After driving in 49 as a sophomore, Tucker bounced back to record 74 RBIs as a junior. Despite four home runs in the first seven games this season, Tucker has just seven RBIs because all of the home runs have been without anyone on base.

He was undrafted out of high school, but the success in a Florida uniform didn't surprise O'Sullivan.

"I didn't predict this, but I knew he was going to be a very good hitter," he said.

Once Tucker got back to the dugout, there was a mob waiting for him. There were hugs from players, coaches, trainers and what looked like everyone else remaining in the dugout. The accomplishment was announced over the loud speaker, and Tucker stepped to the top step of the dugout to acknowledge the standing ovation from the fans at McKethan Stadium.

Freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon recorded an accomplishment of his own with the first home run of his career in the sixth inning on a towering shot to right field that scored Taylor Gushue. The home run was Florida's tenth of the season but first that wasn't a solo home run. The freshman now has a hit in six of the team's seven games this year.

Turgeon is only listed at 5-9, 165 pounds, but his power at the plate is surprising for opponents.

"He's a gamer," O'Sullivan said. "He's got surprising power. He's a really good player, and I've said that since day one. What he's doing right now is not surprising."

The power supply from Tucker and Turgeon overshadowed a second strong outing from Brian Johnson (1-0). The junior left-hander went 6.1 innings, allowing five hits, one run and two walks while recording two strikeouts. The one run came on a solo home run by Tadd Bower in the seventh inning.

"I felt a lot better than last time," said Johnson, referring to his four shutout innings last Sunday against Cal State Fullerton. "I had control of my pitchers and was just trying to pitch to contact."

In 10.1 innings this season, Johnson has allowed seven hits and one run.

Florida will go for the series sweep on Sunday at 1 p.m. when it sends sophomore right-hander Karsten Whitson (1-0, 3.60 ERA) to the mound.


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