Gators Walk Past Dogs, Keep Share of SEC Lead

The Florida Gators used a seven run sixth inning, aided by a remarkable six consecutive walks to defeat the Georgia Bulldogs Sunday afternoon 9-3 and sweep the three game set. The win, combined with South Carolina's three game sweep of Arkansas, sets up an SEC Championship series this week. Florida remains tied with Gamecocks atop the SEC heading into the final three games of conference action.

The series with Georgia was supposed to be a lot easier than this. After all, the Bulldogs entered the weekend with a 3-19 record in SEC play with a 10-game conference losing streak. Still, Florida needed two runs in the ninth inning Friday night to escape with a 4-3 win and post another one-run win on Saturday again scoring in the ninth inning to put the Dawgs down.

Sunday it looked like more of the same for most of the day. The Gators kept leaving runners on base and kept the Bulldogs in the game until the Dawgs pitching staff imploded in the sixth.

Florida grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third inning on a sacrifice fly from Preston Tucker and RBI single by Daniel Pigott. Georgia answered with one in the fourth inning and got a leadoff double in the sixth off Florida freshman Brian Johnson. The runner advanced to third base when coach Kevin O'Sullivan called on Jeff Barfield to get the final out of the inning and leave the Gators up a run.

Then came the sixth inning. Bryson Smith singled with one out before being forced out at second on a failed bunt attempt. Ben McMahon, perhaps the only Gator to have a good weekend offensively, singled to put runners on the corers with two down. McMahon stole second and Josh Adams walked to load the bases. Five walked followed in succession and it was a 7-1 game before Smith capped the inning he started with a two run single.

Johnson got the win on the mound for the Gators, allowing just one earned run in five and two thirds innings. The Gator bullpen, which was strong all weekend, did not give up an earned run in three and a third innings of work. The Gators improve to 37-12, 20-7 in the SEC. They'll play UNF on Tuesday night before heading to Columbia for the SEC showdown series with the Gamecocks. The Florida/Carolina series will be Thursday and Friday nights (7:00) and Sunday afternoon (4:00). Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan talksed about the sweep and the SEC on his post-game radio show on Rock-104 and the IMG Gator Radio Network.

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On being happy with the win despite struggling at the plate:

"Absolutely. I think this is a time of the year when you have to be careful. I don't know if we were tired this weekend or what, but I don't want to make excuses, but I thought we were dragging just a hair. But a lot of that has to do with their pitcher. Once again I thought Georgia got a really good start today. He pitched very well."

On every game being tough, and every game being a win:

"I was really proud with the way we battled all weekend and the results. In a position where we were in, controlling our own destiny and that's what we wanted to (continue to) do and not look at the scoreboard.

On Georgia having more pitching talent than the stats would indicate:

"I really think facing the pitchers we faced this weekend can do nothing but help us as we head down the stretch. Those are three quality arms and our players were saying today and all weekend that's some of the best stuff they've seen all year. They commanded the ball."

On the Gator bullpen getting the job done lately:

"I thought (Anthony) DeSclafani was really sharp today. He gave up that one run, but it was unearned. I thought his stuff was really good and he was cutting the ball loose and (looked) really confident. We get him and (Greg) Larson and Barfield going and that's the thing. We've been really trying to get that pen going and they've been really good for the past week."

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The Gator bullpen pitched 10.2 innings without allowing an earned run during the Georgia series. Florida was led by Larson's four scoreless in a winning effort Friday night.

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If you want to see the Florida/South Carolina series live you might want to head to Columbia Thursday. The first two games of the series will be televised tape-delayed by Sun Sports before live coverage of Saturday's season finale at 4:00.

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The three game series broke the UF attendance record for a weekend with a total of 14,619 on hand for the games between the Gators and Bulldogs, Sunday's official attendance was 4,324. Fans at McKethan Stadium have certainly been rewarded this year. Florida is now 27-3 at home.


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