Zunino's Walk-Off Double Secures Win

Mike Zunino's talent is known throughout the country. The Florida catcher has been one of the most feared hitters in college baseball over the past two seasons, but the junior has been in a recent slump. Coming off a 1-11 weekend at the plate against Kentucky, Zunino posted a 3-5 night, including a walk-off double in the 11th inning to secure a 4-3 win over North Florida.

"He's a very mature player," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said about Mike Zunino. "He doesn't get too down on himself or too up. Anytime you get a walk-off hit, whether you're going good or bad, it feels really good because they don't come around that often. For him, he's probably feeling pretty good about him tonight."

Preston Tucker's spot was due up to start the 11th inning, but Tucker was removed in the seventh inning after a slide into second base on a double to left field. Tucker came up lame and was noticeably limping before being removed from the game. O'Sullivan said after that it was precautionary.

In Tucker's spot was redshirt freshman outfielder Connor Mitchell, who came into the night with just five at-bats and one hit on the season.

Mitchell worked the count full to open the 11th inning before lining a single into right field.

"Except for the circumstances… it was nice to get in and get some at-bats because I haven't had much," Mitchell said.

Zunino was called on to square around and sacrifice bunt with a 1-1 count. He pulled the bat back and took a pitch low to make it a 2-1 count. After fouling a pitch off, Zunino lined a ball down the left field line. North Florida left fielder Drew Weeks didn't play the ball well and Mitchell scored from first to win the game.

"Anytime this time of year that you get a win, you're not going to pick it apart," O'Sullivan said. "The bottom line is we got the win. It's a win we probably needed."

It didn't come without some more offensive frustration for No. 5 Florida. The Gators left 15 runners on base, including six of them in two at-bats by third baseman Jeff Moyer in the late innings.

The recent offensive slump has come in driving runners in. Florida is still getting runners on base, as was the case again on Tuesday with 14 hits and seven walks, but can't drive them in.

"We were too passive with some fastballs early in counts," Zunino said. "We took some really good hitters' pitches early in the count middle or middle in. We need to become more aggressive."

Nolan Fontana started the game with a double and moved to third on a fly out by Josh Tobias. Tucker and Zunino both failed to bring him in.

In the seventh inning, Tobias singled but was picked off just before Tucker's double.

"We're making mistakes," O'Sullivan said." With these bats, every mistake you make offensively gets magnified."

Despite those mistakes still happening 49 games into the season, O'Sullivan doesn't think it's something only his team is dealing with.

"Everybody is making mistakes like this," he said. "The bottom line is that no one plays perfect baseball. You just want your guys to learn from their mistakes so that hopefully these types of things don't happen at the end of the year that may cost you your season."

Keenan Kish threw four scoreless innings of relief to lower his ERA to 1.06 in 17 innings this season. Steven Rodriguez threw 2.2 no-hit innings later in the game and struck out four hitters. Ryan Harris (2-0) threw a scoreless eleventh inning to pick up the win.

The Gators return to action this weekend when they host Mississippi State in a rematch of last year's Super Regional. First pitch on Friday is set for 7 p.m.

INJURY REPORT: O'Sullivan was optimistic about Tucker. After Tucker slid into second base and injured his foot, the senior outfielder jogged lightly before coming off the field. O'Sullivan said it was precautionary and that he could've stayed in if the situation called for it.

"I think he's fine," O'Sullivan said. "He did a little jog out there. He turned it a little bit. I think he's fine. I haven't talked to him, but I would assume with the way that he walked off the field that he would be fine. It was precautionary. If we had to keep him in there, we probably could have."

Florida closer Austin Maddox didn't pitch over the weekend at Kentucky or on Tuesday, but O'Sullivan expects to have him back this weekend.

"He's going to be good," O'Sullivan said. "He threw a pen today and felt really good. He'll be ready to go this weekend."

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