June 2, 2012
Gainesville, Fla. – Mike Zunnino and Preston Tucker hit home runs, while Hudson Randall and Steve Rodriguez pitched top-ranked Florida past No. 24 Georgia Tech, 6-2, Saturday night in the winners’ bracket game in the NCAA Gainesville Regional at McKethan Stadium-Perry Field.
The Atlantic Coast Conference champion Yellow Jackets (37-25), the second seed in the regional, dropped into the loser’s bracket of the, facing a 12 noon date Sunday against the College of Charleston, a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN2. The loss ended a season-long six-game winning streak for the Jackets.
Charleston, whom Tech defeated 8-4 in the first round Friday, stayed alive Saturday with an 8-2 win over Bethune-Cookman. The top-ranked Gators (44-18) advanced to a possible championship game at 6 p.m. Sunday night against the winner of the noon game. The noon loser will be eliminated.
Randall, a junior from Dunwoody, Ga., and Rodriguez gave up 12 hits between them, but managed to limit a Tech offense that had averaged 8.6 runs in the previous five games to just two Saturday night. Tech put multiple runners on in six of the nine innings, but stranded 10 overall.
The Gators’ starter (8-2) gave up a run in the second inning on three hits, but got out of further damage by getting a double play ground ball. Randall scattered eight hits all-told over 5 2/3 innings, stranding six more Tech runners in the third, fourth and fifth innings with key strikeouts.
Rodriguez came in to get the last out of the sixth and gave up one run on six hits over the final 3 1/3 innings for his fourth save of the season.
“Florida pitched it very well,” said Tech assistant coach Tom Kinkelaar, who spoke to the media post-game after head coach Danny Hall was ejected from the game in the fifth inning. “We knew that coming in; they have a lot of good arms, and we had our work cut out for us.”
Buck Farmer (8-5) went seven innings for Tech, but gave up four runs and seven hits in a losing effort. He struck out five and walked three. Daniel Palka had three of the Yellow Jackets’ 12 hits, scoring both runs.
“I thought Buck was outstanding as well, but give Florida’s hitters credit,” said Kinkelaar. “They hit some good pitches that Buck threw. We got some tough luck with some of the flares they hit out to the outfield in no-man’s land, and that set up some innings for them. We were in it the whole game tonight, but ran into some good pitching.”
Tech scored first, bunching three one-out singles in the second inning from Palka, Zane Evans and Mott Hyde for a run, but the Gators avoided further trouble when Randall induced a 4-6-3 double play. Florida got the run right back in the third when Vickash Ramjit doubled, moved to second on a bunt and scored on Nolan Fontana’s sacrifice fly.
The Gators took control of the game in the fourth inning with three runs. Mike Zunnino led off with his 17th homer of the season to give Florida a 2-1 lead. After Farmer hit Daniel Pigott with a pitch, Casey Turgeon and Justin Shafer delivered consecutive doubles to plate one run, and Ramjit lifted a sacrifice fly to left to score the third run and give the Gators a 4-1 lead.
Farmer held Florida scoreless for three innings after that, giving way to Jarrett Didrick after throwing 117 pitches.
Tech threatened twice after that, but was able to scratch for just one run in the eighth inning on Evan Martin’s two-out RBI single. Palka singled to center to start the inning and scored the run, the only time all night the Jackets put their leadoff runner aboard.
“Our hitters have been very aggressive and have put ourselves into good situations,” said Kinkelaar. “We got those situations tonight, but we just couldn’t come up with that big hit. To [Randall’s] credit, he’s a four-pitch guy, and he doesn’t want to give into the hitter. He kept throwing his breaking ball in tough situations, and tonight it caught up to us.”
Tucker put the game away in the ninth with a two-run homer, his school-record 10th round-tripper in an NCAA Tournament game.