No. 1 Gators Cruise Past No. 7 FSU

No. 1 Gators Cruise Past No. 7 FSU

Preston Tucker changed momentum early with one swing of the bat. After Florida State scored two runs in the top of the third inning on an error, Tucker launched a three-run homer in the bottom half of the inning to give the Gators the lead. They would continue to tack on runs from there. No. 1 Florida then cruised, scoring a total of nine unanswered runs, while recording a 9-2 win over No. 7 FSU.

"I definitely think so," Preston Tucker said about his home run changing the momentum of the game. "We did a great job of damage control by only giving up two (in the top of the third), and that's the only runs we gave up the whole game. When we scored, we didn't give up any rebound runs. We just kept tacking on one run at a time and eventually put the game almost out of reach."

The win was Florida's 14th straight, tying the school record. The third inning started with the Gators not having to show much effort to earn base runners. Florida State walked the first two hitters of the inning, and the Seminoles' pitchers totaled seven walks during the game.

"We fall behind 2-0 and then answer back," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "To change the momentum of the game, that was huge."

Florida's pitchers combined to allow two walks and none after the third inning.

After the Tyler Thompson and Nolan Fontana walked to start the inning, Daniel Pigott struck out while trying to bunt them over. That's when Tucker unloaded. He lined a ball over the fence and under the right field scoreboard, as it left McKethan Stadium in no time.

While the Florida offense continued to tack on, the bullpen was dominant. Greg Larson, Steven Rodriguez, Daniel Gibson and Austin Maddox combined to throw 6.1 shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out four hitters.

Gibson gave up both of the hits in the eighth inning, ending a streak of 12 straight hitters retired by the bullpen.

"I think our bullpen is deep," O'Sullivan said. "We all knew what we were going to get from Maddox, (Rodriguez) and Larson. With Gibson coming in and being able to throw the way he has been throwing and extending Maddox like we have, plus Crawford throwing the ball on the weekends and Poyner getting the start in this environment—we've got a host of other guys that are starting to step up."

Rodriguez was dominant in his three-inning outing. He didn't allow a base runner and struck out two batters. He was able to extend himself and eat up some valuable innings for the Gators.

"My cutter was really good," Rodriguez said. "I was just making sure I was pounding the zone. It's always good to beat FSU, our instate rivals. We're on the top right now, so it's basically that we've got to go out there and show them we're the best."

With the bullpen throwing zero after zero up on the scoreboard, the offense continued to grow the lead. Florida scored in five of its last six innings at the plate. The only two innings that Florida was held scoreless were the first, second and fifth.

Fontana had an RBI ground out in the fourth before launching a home run over the palm trees behind right field in the sixth inning to give Florida a 5-2 lead.

Tucker started the seventh inning with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly from Mike Zunino. Pigott drove in two runs with a single in the eighth inning before Zunino followed by driving in a run of his own with a single, pushing Florida's lead to 9-2.

"It's timely hitting and getting the job done with what we need to do," Fontana said about the UF offense. "It's definitely helping us out right now."

The 6,005 people in attendance at McKethan Stadium on Tuesday set a new record, breaking the 5,930 that saw the Gators and Seminoles play in Gainesville in 2011.

"The fans were outstanding tonight," O'Sullivan said. "Early in the morning, I got word that it was going to be a sellout. There's a reason why he play so well at home. Obviously, comfort is one of it. The other part is our fan support. They were outstanding tonight."

Florida will play an exhibition game on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against the Ontario Blue Jays. The Gators then open SEC play against Vanderbilt on Friday at 7 p.m.

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