2011 SEC Baseball Tournament
Game 2 -- #3 Florida 7, #6 Mississippi State 5
Mississippi State Quotes
Johnson’s Grand Slam Fuels Florida’s SEC Tournament Win Over Mississippi State, 7-5
HOOVER, Ala. – Sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) belted a grand slam in the seventh inning to turn a 5-2 deficit into an eventual 7-5 victory for third-seeded Florida (42-15) over sixth-seeded Mississippi State (34-22) on the opening day of the 2011 SEC Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at Regions Park.
With their first win in the initial round of the event since 2005, the Gators will now meet seventh-seeded Alabama (33-24) at 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday in a winner’s bracket game. The contest will be carried on Sun Sports, Channels 48/748 on the Cox Communications’ Cable System in Gainesville and Ocala and on WRUF SportsRadio 850. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs will meet second-seeded Arkansas (36-19) at 10:30 a.m. ET in the first elimination game of the five-day tournament.
With the Gators trailing by a 5-2 score entering the bottom of the seventh, senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) was hit by a pitch and junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-4, two RBI) drew a walk from freshman Taylor Stark to cause a pitching change. Sophomore Luis Pollorena (6-5) came in for Stark (1.0 IP, 2 BB) and surrendered a single into center field to sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (2-for-5) that loaded the bases with none out. Johnson sent a fly ball into right field that appeared to be headed foul but instead cleared the right-field wall in fair territory to empty the bases and give Florida 6-5 lead. It was Johnson’s fifth homer of the campaign, his third career grand slam and the sixth grand slam for the Orange and Blue this season.
Florida tacked on an insurance run in the eighth on a two-out RBI single by Tucker. Sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) (1-for-2, two walks) had drawn a leadoff walk, was sacrificed to second by sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) and went to third on a fly-out by Smith. Tucker delivered a base-knock into left field to bring home Dent and put the Gators ahead by two runs but was later thrown out at the plate attempting to score on a single into left field by Zunino.
After sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) (3-1) pitched 1.2 scoreless and hitless innings, sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) took the mound in the ninth and set down the first two Bulldogs on fly balls. Senior Cody Freeman kept the game alive with a single into right center and Maddox responded by catching redshirt senior Jarrod Parks looking on strikes to close the contest and register his team-leading fourth save.
Back in the first inning, junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) walked freshman C.T. Bradford (2-for-4, two runs) to start the game and then struck out Freeman as Bradford stole second base. After issuing a walk to Parks, Toledo fanned both senior Jaron Shepherd and senior Nick Vickerson to escape the jam.
The Gators seized a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the stanza on an RBI double by Tucker. Fontana opened with a free pass from freshman Evan Mitchell and came all the way around to score on Tucker’s 17th two-bagger into center field. Although Zunino reached on a fielding error by Mitchell for runners on the corners, Johnson grounded into an inning-ending 6-3 double play.
Vickerson (2-for-4, three RBI) delivered a two-out, two-run triple in the third to move the Bulldogs in front, 2-1. Bradford began the inning with MSU’s first hit, a single through the left side of the infield, and was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Freeman. Toledo plunked Parks for a pair of runners aboard and struck out Shepherd for the second time for two down. Vickerson sent a fly ball to straightaway center field that resulted in both runners coming across to give MSU the lead and prompt a pitching change. Junior Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) relieved Toledo (2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, season-high 6 K, 2 BB) and had senior Ryan Collins fly out.
Fontana drew a bases-loaded walk, his third free pass of the game, with two down in the fourth to knot the game at 2-2. Senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-4) had a one-out single and moved into scoring position on a grounder by Maddox. After junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) walked, Dent sliced a base-hit into left field that loaded the bases. Mitchell walked Fontana, bringing across Adams, and had a fielder’s choice by Smith force Fontana at second to end the inning and strand the runners.
Vickerson led off the sixth with his seventh homer of the campaign, a shot to left field that gave Mississippi State a 3-2 advantage. Maronde retired the next two batters before junior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) took over on the mound. Over three innings, Maronde gave up two hits and a run and totaled three strikeouts. Larson caught senior Jonathan Ogden looking on strikes to close the frame.
Adams collected his second hit of the contest with a single into right field to begin the home part of the sixth. Stark was summoned from the bullpen to replace Mitchell (5.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 5 K) and had a grounder by Maddox erase Adams at second base. A grounder by Thompson advanced Maddox to second and Dent walked for a couple of Gators aboard with two down. However, Stark had Fontana ground out to keep MSU ahead by a run.
Senior Wes Thigpen and Bradford had consecutive singles to start the seventh and Larson had Freeman pop up a bunt for the first out. After hitting Park to load the bags, Larson (0.2 IP, 2 H) was replaced by Rodriguez, who induced a ground ball from Shepherd that brought across Thigpen for a 4-2 lead. With runners on the corners and two down, Rodriguez uncorked a wild pitch that scored Parks and left Shepherd on third base. The lefty struck out Vickerson to set the stage for Johnson’s heroics in the bottom of the frame.
The Gators held a 9-7 advantage in hits and did not commit any errors in the game. UF has now taken three of the four encounters with Mississippi State this year.
• This was the 13th time Florida and Mississippi State have met in the SEC Tournament.
• With the win Florida moves to 42-15 overall and Mississippi State falls to 34-22 on the season.
• In the SEC Tournament, Florida is now 50-52 and Mississippi State is 52-43.
Mississippi State -
• The Bulldogs make their 27th appearance in the SEC Tournament this year.
• Mississippi State only committed one error in the game. MSU has committed less than two errors in now 41 games this season.
• The run given up by MSU starter Evan Mitchell in the first inning was his first earned run given up in his last nine innings pitched.
• With his single in the third inning, C.T. Bradford extended his hitting streak to seven games.
• After giving up the first run of the game, the Bulldogs answered back in the top of the third inning, including a two-run triple by Nick Vickerson. Vickerson now has 26 RBI on the year and three triples.
• Vickerson again played hero in the sixth inning when he hit his seventh home run of the season over the left field wall. The solo shot put the Bulldogs up 3-2 in the top of the sixth inning. This makes Vickerson's 15th multi-hit game of the season and 7th multi-RBI game.
• In the game, Vickerson was responsible for three of MSU's five runs.
• The Mississippi State pitching staff gave up seven walks in the game. It's the most given up by the
Bulldogs since the first game of their series with LSU on May 19, when they had eight walks.
• The Gators make their 31st appearance in the SEC Tournament this year.
• Josh Adams made his 237th career start today, which is tops in Florida history.
• Starting pitcher Tommy Toledo struck out the side in the first inning, even after allowing two runners to reach base on walks.
• Nolan Fontana scored the game's first run after Preston Tucker laced a double into the right-center field gap. That is Tucker's 51st RBI, good for second on the team.
• The Gators are now 32-6 when scoring first.
• Florida starter Tommy Toledo was chased in the top of the third inning and replaced by Nick Maronde. Toledo tallied 2.2 IP, giving up two hits, two runs, but chalking up six strikeouts.
• The performance by Toledo was a season-high in strikeouts (6) and tied for his season-high in innings pitched (2.2).
• This was Maronde's team high 28th appearance of the season.
• Josh Adams' two hits puts him now tied with David Eckstein (276) for second in hits all-time in Florida history.
• Brian Johnson's grand slam in the seventh inning was his fifth home run of the year and third grand slam of his career. It was also the sixth Gator grand slam of the year. Preston Tucker hit the last grand slam for the Gators on April 21, 2011 against UCF.
• Nolan Fontana had three walks in the game, a season high. It ups his total to 43 this season, which leads the team.