Much To Like About Baseball Team

This past week got off to a horrible start for the Gator baseball team, giving up seven first inning runs in a Tuesday night game against Florida State. However everything that happened from that point forward gives reason to expect big things out of Kevin O'Sullivan's third Gator squad.

Instead of giving up after the early deficit Florida rallied to score four ninth inning runs against the ‘Noles and brought the tying run to the on deck circle before the game ended.

But that was just some nice effort. This weekend in Coral Gables I saw a young Florida squad stare down perennial power Miami and win a three game series that should provide plenty of momentum with SEC play getting underway March 19.

It's All About The Pitching

Friday night in Miami Alex Panteliodis (3-0, 1.93) and Nick Maronde combined on a two-hitter with 15 strikeouts. Then on Sunday Tommy Toledo (2-0, 1.98) continued his recovery from shoulder surgery with five strong innings, allowing just one earned run.

But perhaps the most notable outing of the weekend came from junior Kevin Chapman who had the best outing of his Gator career. The fourth-year junior displayed a blazing fastball that had Hurricanes hitters late on every swing. Chapman allowed just one hit and retired the last six Miami hitters in a row. In five outings Chapman has pitched seven and two-thirds innings of four hit ball with out allowing a run. He has two saves.

Well, Maybe Not ALL About Pitching

Another incredibly important development of the weekend was the emergence of Florida third baseman Bryson Smith, or should I say his bat. The junior college transfer (Young Harris College, Georgia) hit 21 HR last year but had not gone deep in his first six Florida games. That changed with a pair of three run shots in the wins over Miami. If Smith can keep this up he just might force teams to pitch to Preston Tucker.

Speaking of Tucker he looked much better at the plate and may be ready to break out. Last year's slugging sensation had two doubles in the Saturday game and two singles on Sunday. He was 5-for-10 for the series with three walks and a hit by pitch. That's a .643 on base percentage and a .700 slugging percentage for an OPS of 1.343.

The Gators play Tuesday and Wednesday against Illinois State before facing Charleston Southern in a weekend set. All five games are in Gainesville.

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Gator shortstop Nolan Fontana was chosen the SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday. Fontana went 8-for-14 and played errorless defense over four games last week against Top-10 rivals Florida State and Miami.

The Gator rookie was sensational during the Miami series weekend trip to Coral Gables. Fontana was a blistering 7-for-11 (.636) with four runs and two stolen bases. He went 3-for-4, scored twice and had the first two stolen bases of his career in Sunday's 4-2 victory in the rubber game of the series.

After nine games Fontana is second on the team with a .400 batting average, is tied for the team lead with nine runs scored and has not committed an error in 43 chances.


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