The No. 3 Florida Gators baseball team (22-5) ,who had lost their last two games, opened a three game series Friday evening against SEC East rival Tennessee (19-7) . The last time Florida had lost three in a row was May 6-9 2009 when they hosted Florida Gulf Coast. They would not change the record books tonight as they defeated Tennesse 3-0.
Coming off a complete game against South Carolina on March 29, Hudson Randall (5-0) started on the mound for the Gators. The last Florida pitcher who had back-to-back complete games was Tommy Boss June 4, 2005 against North Carolina in the NCAA Regionals and June 10, 2005 against FSU in the Super Regionals. The last complete game shutout by a Gators picther was by Boss on June 6, 2005 against UCLA in the Super Regionals. Moving forward, Randall’s name will now replace Boss’ in both categories.
Randall was extraordinary against Tennessee in front of 4,222 in attendance at McKethan Stadium. In the nine innings he pitched, he threw 74 pitches – 59 of them strikes. He allowed four hits, walked no one, struck out four, and lowered his ERA from .66 to .54.
Tennesse head coach Todd Raleigh said after the game: ”It was a well pitched game, on our side too. (Hudson Randall) was obviously really good, and Rob (Catapano) just made one mistake. I thought he pitched outstanding and certainly gave us a chance to win. Every time we hit the ball hard it was just right at them. I thought the right plan against (Randall) was to swing early because he throws so many strikes. He did that tonight. We just couldn’t find a hole. You just have to tip your hat to him. He did an unbelievable job.”
Rob Catapano, the Volunteer’s southpaw, allowed two runs (both earned) on eight hits, walked one (Nolan Fontana, SS, in the bottom of the first), and struck out three over a career high 6.2 innings pitched.
The Florida Gators had a total of 10 hits, scoring their three runs in two innings.
Catcher Mike Zunino led off the bottom of the second with a fly out to center field, followed by Preston Tucker (RF) who had a base hit into center field on a ground ball. The next batter, Austin Maddox (1B), hit a two-run shot over the bleachers in left field, giving the Gators the early 2-0 lead. Brian Johnson (DH) singled into right center, and was out on his way to second after Josh Adams (2B) hit the ball to UT’s Josh Liles (1B) who tossed it to Catapano for the tag at first.
Zunino came into the contest with a career high 14 game hitting streak, but was hitless in his first three at-bats. He would get one more chance to extend his streak in the bottom of the eighth after Kamm Washington (CF) struck out swinging to lead off. Zunino singled up the middle for his 15th straight game with a hit. Tucker would follow with a base hit of his own into right field. With two men on, Raleigh pulled Hunter Daniel for Jerod Peper, the fourth of five pitchers for the Volunteers. Maddox flied out to center field, but Zunino was able to tag up and advance to third. Pinch hitting for Vickash Ramkjit, Jeff Moyer walked to load the bases, but not before Tucker was able to steal second. Raleigh made his final pitching change to Carter Watson who threw a wild pitch that scored Zunino for the final Florida run. Adams then flied out to center field to end the ball game, leaving two men on.
Game two of the series takes place Saturday at 1:00 PM ET with Brian Johnson (4-1, 2.86) starting for the Gators, while LHP Steven Gruver will get the ball for the Volunteers.