Gators Tame Wildcats in NCAA Opener

The Gator baseball team grabbed an early lead and rode the strong pitching of freshman Hudson Randall to a 7-3 victory over Bethune Cookman in their first game of the NCAA Regional at McKethan Stadium. Florida (43-15) will play Oregon State Saturday night.

The Beavers topped FAU 6-4 in the early game, which was delayed more than three hours due to rain and lightning.

The game with BCC was a lot less stressful than last year's Regional game when Bethune took a 7-5 lead into the ninth inning. Florida never trailed in this one, and the Wildcats never got closer than three runs after the second inning.

The Gators got on the board in the second inning thanks in large part to their fabulous freshmen. Austin Maddox singled to lead off the inning. Three batters later the bases were loaded with one out for Mike Zunino who ripped an RBI single scoring Maddox. A wild pitch made it 2-0 and shortstop Nolan Fontana singled home two more runs to put the Gators up four.

That lead lasted till the fifth inning when D.J. Leonard doubled over the head of Gator centerfielder Matt den Dekker for the first hit for BCC. With two outs Alejandro Sanchez' sinking line drive eluded Gator leftfielder Daniel Pigott and Bethune-Cookman was on the board. Randall escaped further damage by striking out Matt Wright for his seventh strikeout of the game.

Florida had chances to make Randall's life a lot easier in the middle innings but failed to take advantage of them. The Gators received four consecutive walks and stole three bases in the fourth inning yet somehow managed not to score. Then in the fifth Maddox and den Dekker opened the frame with consecutive singles but Florida failed to move them along. Through five innings the Gators had eight hits, received five walks and a hit batter but had just four runs to show for it.

The failure to get a clutch hit almost happened again in the bottom of the sixth inning when the Gators got two out singles from Bryson Smith and Preston Tucker. Austin Maddox hit a weak grounder to the right side but got a break when BCC reliever Joey Munoz missed the flip from his first baseman allowing Smith to come around to score. Den Dekker followed with a two run triple to left centerfield and the Gators had a 7-1 lead.

BCC added a run in the seventh on an RBI single by Leonard to make it 7-2 and added another in the eighth when Brandon Turner doubles off Randall and Ryan Durrence added an RBI single off reliever Jeff Barfield.

Randall (8-3) got the win and set a personal high with ten strikeouts. He lasted 7.1 innings, allowing six hits and three earned runs.

Alex Panteliodis (9-2, 3.38) will get the ball for the Gators against Oregon State Saturday night. FAU and BCC will play an elimination game Saturday at 1:00.

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