June 6, 2010

Behind a three-homer, six-RBI performance from sophomore Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) and seven scoreless innings by freshman left-hander Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.), top-seeded Florida (45-15) blanked Florida Atlantic (37-24), 15-0, to capture the NCAA Gainesville Regional on Sunday night at McKethan Stadium. The Gators unleashed a 19-hit barrage that featured a school postseason record six home runs and the duo of redshirt sophomore Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) and junior Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) each worked an inning without yielding a run to complete the shutout.

In becoming the first Florida player to belt three homers in a postseason game, Thompson (4-for-5) enjoyed a career night, matching his career high of four hits and setting personal bests in runs (four) and RBI (six). Johnson (6-4) was named the Regional's Most Outstanding Player after hitting .625 (5-for-8) at the plate this weekend and the southpaw scattered six hits over seven innings and was 3-for-5 with a solo shot in tonight's Regional title game.

With the victory, the Gators advance to next weekend's Super Regional for the second-straight year and the fourth time in the past seven years. UF will host the winner of the Coral Gables Regional, which will be determined on Monday night when Miami (Fla.) (42-18) faces Texas A&M (43-20-1) at 7 p.m. Start times and dates for next weekend's eight best-of-three series around the country will be announced by the NCAA late Monday night.

"It was a great team effort tonight," head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We had a chance to get everyone in the ballgame, first and foremost. We swung the bats really well, got off to an early lead and had production all the way down the lineup. We had great pitching from (Brian) Johnson as the starter and got the chance to get (Tommy) Toledo and (Kevin) Chapman back out there. I'm awfully proud of them. We have our sights set on playing well into the summer. I feel really good about this team at this point, I think we're clicking. We have a lot of work ahead of us this week, but we're looking forward to the challenge next weekend."

Florida broke the ice with three runs on four hits and a bases-loaded walk against junior Taylor Everist (2-8) in the second inning. Freshman Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) and junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (1-for-4, two runs) began the frame with consecutive singles for runners on first and third and Thompson opened the scoring with an RBI double that brought home Zunino. Junior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) earned a free pass to load the bases with none out and Everist had freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) pop out in foul territory. Senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2-for-5, two runs) walked to bring in Adams for a 2-0 count and sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (4-for-6, four RBI) followed with an RBI single to score Thompson with the third run. den Dekker was called out trying to dive back to second base for the second out and freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville , Fla.) flew out to right field to end the inning.

UF belted a season-high three homers in the third inning, highlighted by back-to-back round-trippers from Johnson and Zunino, to build a 6-0 lead. Johnson connected on his fourth round-tripper down the right-field line and Zunino followed with his ninth dinger to straightaway center field. It was the first time since April 21 at USF that the Gators hit consecutive homers. After Adams flew out, Thompson launched his third big fly deep to right field for a six-run margin that ended the night for Everist (2.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R).

Thompson went deep again with one down in the fifth to increase the Gators' margin to 7-0. It was the first multiple-homer game of his career and he tagged freshman Kevin Alexander's first pitch of the at bat over the wall in left center.

Three-run homers by Tucker and Thompson expanded Florida's lead to 13-0 in the eighth. Fontana opened the stanza with his 14th double and den Dekker singled to left field before Tucker deposited his 11th homer over the right-field wall and onto Stadium Road. After sophomore Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) delivered a two-out pinch-hit single and Adams walked, freshman Jason Boyer replaced Alexander (5.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R). Thompson greeted the reliever with his third homer of the game to right center.

The Gators tacked on two more runs in the ninth on what would have been a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by senior Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla.) that instead was a run-scoring play when the ball was dropped in left field, scoring Fontana, as well as a sacrifice fly by McMahan that brought home den Dekker.

Led by four-hit outbursts by Thompson and Tucker, Florida held a 19-9 advantage in hits. Junior Eddie Cassidy was 2-for-3 to pace the Owls after blasting three homers in the elimination-game victory earlier today over Oregon State.