Gators Clinch Series Over Vanderbilt

The big inning has carried Florida during its current school record 16-game winning streak. It happened again on Saturday. The No. 1 Gators scored four runs in the fifth inning as it clinched the series with a 5-1 win over Vanderbilt. Preston Tucker and Daniel Pigott stayed hot to produce the big hits for Florida.

"We just have to sit there and battle at-bats, grind at-bats out," Florida catcher Mike Zunino said. "When we get some base runners, that's when we try to get something going. We try to piece together some hits, walks or whatever we can. We've been able to do that the past couple games."

Vanderbilt (7-12/0-2 SEC) hurt itself during the big inning, as shortstop Anthony Gomez made a fielding error to allow Casey Turgeon to reach. After Josh Tobias walked, Nolan Fontana bunted the two runners up.

The Commodores pulled starting pitcher Drew VerHagen and brought in left-hander Sam Selman. Daniel Pigott greeted him with a two-run single to left field. Preston Tucker delivered the knockout blow by hitting a home run to right field.

The ball Tucker hit was low and out of the strike zone while almost going in the right-handed batters box. The senior still managed to pull the ball over the fence.

"The pitch wasn't a great pitch, but I didn't want to strike out again," Tucker said after striking out in his previous at-bat. "I knew it was really low. It started out in the zone, so I just decided to swing at it. I barreled it up and that's all that really mattered.

"These lefties have some pretty good breaking balls."

That was it for the Florida offense. The Gators (18-1/2-0 SEC) scored their first run in the fourth inning as Zunino scored on a wild pitch where VerHagen threw a breaking ball over Justin Shafer's head.

The offense didn't need much with Brian Johnson (3-0) on the mound. The junior tossed six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out nine Commodores.

He didn't allow a base runner until there were two outs in the fourth inning, when Mike Yastrzemski singled to left field. Johnson didn't allow a runner to reach second base in his six innings of work.

"That was the best he has pitched in an awfully long time," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He threw all of his pitches for strikes. He moved the ball back and forth. He didn't miss very many spots, if any today. He was outstanding."

Johnson sat 88-90 mph with his fastball but it also reached as high as 93 mph on the scoreboard in the early innings.

"He came out on top of his game today and was throwing everything for strikes," Zunino said. "He was able to move the fastball in and out and throwing the off-speed for strikes. That was definitely his best start."

Daniel Gibson allowed one run in his 2.1 innings of work. It was the first run he allowed in 11 innings this season and broke the bullpen's streak of 31.2 consecutive scoreless innings.

Florida will go for the series sweep over Vanderbilt on Sunday at 1 p.m. The game will feature a matchup of pitchers making their first career SEC start. The Gators will send sophomore Jonathon Crawford (1-1, 5.71) to the mound against Vanderbilt freshman right-hander Tyler Beede (0-2, 7.24). The game will also be televised on Sun Sports.

Fightin Gators Top Stories