No. 1 Florida edges No. 19 Fullerton
Maddox helps Gators clinch series victory against Titans
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 1 Florida (2-0) used a four-run fourth inning and solid relief pitching by junior Austin Maddox to secure its weekend series with a 5-2 victory against No. 19 Cal State Fullerton (0-2) on Saturday afternoon in front of 4,951 fans at McKethan Stadium.
After sophomore starter Karsten Whitson (1-0) yielded two runs over five innings to the Titans, Maddox fired four scoreless innings, retired the first 10 Titans he faced and surrendered just one hit with three strikeouts to earn the save. Freshman Taylor Gushue (1-for-3) put the Gators ahead with a two-run triple in the fourth, freshman Justin Shafer had a sacrifice fly in his collegiate debut and senior Preston Tucker (2-for-4) added an insurance RBI single in the eighth inning as Florida defeated CSF for the second consecutive day.
“It’s early in the season and everyone is obviously not in midseason form yet,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “But, I thought Karsten (Whitson) battled. I thought he threw some really quality pitches when he needed to, and he’s always been able to do that. It was good to get him out there through five full innings. Overall, it’s something good to start with and I’m pleased with how we threw.”
“I didn’t have my best stuff, but I was just trying to get back in there every batter, trying to get first-pitch strikes,” Whitson said. “I knew that we were going to score runs, it was just a matter of when, so I was trying to put a zero on the board and tried to keep the damage down to a minimum. My game plan coming in was to try and jump in there and go right after their hitters. Early, I wasn’t really doing that well but I kind of picked it up there in the third and fourth. I was able to get some good ground balls for double plays, so that kind of helped me out. “
“I felt like I had everything working today,” Maddox said. “My (off-speed) was working well and it just felt good all around. I’ve been working on my off-speed pitching between last year and this year and it’s paid off. I went from a two-seam grip to a four-seam grip and I feel that I can locate it better and throw harder.”
Cal State Fullerton jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI double by redshirt junior Carlos Lopez. Whitson opened the game with a strikeout of junior Richy Pedroza and freshman Derek Legg followed with a single through the left side of the infield. Lopez doubled to left center to bring in Legg and Whitson stranded the runner in scoring position by having sophomore Michael Lorenzen fly out and junior Anthony Hutting ground out.
The Titans threatened again in the second, as sophomore Chad Wallach drew a one-out walk, redshirt junior Austin Kingsolver (2-for-3) doubled down the left-field line and senior Anthony Trajano was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Whitson worked out of the jam by having Pedroza hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Hutting increased Fullerton’s lead to 2-0 in the third inning with an RBI grounder to second base that brought in Lopez, who had drawn a one-out walk and taken third on a double by Lorenzen just inside of the chalk line in right field.
Freshman Casey Turgeon collected the Gators’ initial hit off redshirt freshman Grahamm Wiest (0-1) with a two-out single in the home part of the frame. However, Turgeon was caught stealing by Wallach to end the inning.
Florida erupted for four runs on four hits in the fourth inning to seize a 4-2 advantage, highlighted by a two-run triple by Gushue. Seniors Daniel Pigott and Tucker had consecutive one-out singles and junior Mike Zunino (2-for-3) put the Gators on the board with a base-hit into right center field that scored Pigott. Gushue rifled a triple into the right-field corner to clear the bases and move the hosts in front and Shafer followed with a sacrifice fly into left field to bring home Gushue for a two-run lead.
Maddox took over for Whitson (5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 K, 2 BB) prior to the sixth and retired the Titans in order with a couple of strikeouts. Redshirt junior Dimitri DeLaFuente replaced Wiest (5.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 6 K) in the bottom of the sixth and notched the first two outs before Zunino picked up his second hit of the contest with a single into left field. Zunino moved into scoring position with his first stolen base of the year and Gushue drew a free pass for two runners aboard. Sophomore Christian Coronado was summoned from the bullpen for DeLaFuente (0.2 IP) and kept the Titans down by a pair of runs by having Shafer fly out to right field.
Maddox set down the side 1-2-3 in both the seventh and eighth innings, bringing the Gators’ run to 13-consecutive Titans retired dating back to the fourth inning. Junior Nolan Fontana started UF’s eighth with a single into right field and was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Pigott. Tucker came through with a base-knock up the middle that plated Fontana for a 5-2 lead. Tucker’s third RBI of the season leaves him three shy of matching Brad Wilkerson’s school-record total of 214.
Maddox had registered 10 consecutive outs before Hutting doubled to right center with one down in the ninth inning. The right-hander had freshman J.D. Davis fly out to left field and then fanned freshman pinch hitter Matt Chapman to close the game. Florida had an 8-6 advantage in hits and neither club committed any errors.
Junior left-hander Brian Johnson will draw the start tomorrow against a Cal State Fullerton pitcher to be announced.