Preston Tucker hit a bases-loaded RBI single to snap a 6-6 tie in the eighth and Brian Johnson added a sacrifice fly later in the inning to lift #1-ranked Florida to an 8-6 win over Bethune-Cookman at McKethan Stadium Tuesday night.
Austin Maddox threw two scoreless innings to pick up the win Tuesday night. (Gator Bait photo by Steve Johnson)
With the win, the Gators improved to 3-1 this season. Florida plays host to 19th-ranked UCF at McKethan Stadium Wednesday night (7 p.m., Fox Sports Florida).
Florida trailed, 6-5, in the seventh when Mike Zunino hit his second home run of the game to even things up and set the stage for Tucker and Johnson to come through in the eighth. The Gators loaded the bases with two singles and a bunt and Tucker followed with a single to right to score Cody Dent with the go-ahead run. After a force out at the plate, Johnson drove in Daniel Pigott with a fly ball to left field.
That left the game in the hands of Austin Maddox, who gave up a couple of ninth inning singles before he ended the game on a strikeout. Maddox threw two scoreless innings to earn his first win of the season.
The Gators started freshman Johnny Magliozzi, who gave up a first inning run but pitched a scoreless second and third before running into trouble in the fourth when he gave up two, allowing Bethune-Cookman to cut Florida’s lead to 4-3. Freshmen Bobby Poyner and Justin Shafer got the Gators into the seventh but not without trouble. Poyner gave up a fourth inning run and Shafer gave up two in the top of the seventh before Greg Larson came to in to snuff out the rally.
Florida tied the game at 1-1 in the second inning on the first of Zunino’s two home runs to lead off the second. Zunino smacked the first pitch he saw into the left field bleachers for his first home run of the season.
Florida expanded the lead to 4-1 with three runs in the third. A double by Pigott scored the first run and after a ground out and a walk to Zunino, Johnson singled to right field to score Pigott. Freshman Taylor Gushue singled to score Zunino.
It was 4-3 in the Florida fourth when singles by Tyler Thompson and Dent, a sacrifice bunt by Nolan Fontana and a wild pitch increased the lead to 5-3.
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan was happy with the win over a tough Bethune-Cookman team, particularly since he got to use three freshman pitchers.
“They’re a [NCAA] regional-type club,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve seen enough to know over the years how tough it is to play Bethune, but once again we threw a lot of young pitchers tonight. It’s a good learning experience and we’ll learn from it and get better from it.”
The Gators plan to start sophomore righthander Jonathan Crawford Wednesday night against UCF.
GAME NOTES: Florida is 26-0 all-time against Bethune-Cookman including 25-0 in Gainesville ... Gushue got the start at catcher and went 2-5 at the plate with an RBI ... The RBI by Tucker moves him within one of Brad Wilkerson’s school record 214 for a career ... Dent went 3-3, the first three-hit game of his career ... Zunino has hit four home runs in the last two games against Bethune-Cookman ... Bethune-Cookman pitchers didn’t strike out a single Gator.