Gators too much for Manhattan
GAINESVILLE, FLA. - The Gators offense was too much for the Manhattan baseball team as the Jaspers dropped their NCAA Tournament opening round contest 17-3 to Gainesville Regional host Florida (46-16) on Friday at McKethan Stadium. Gators' junior right fielder Preston Tucker belted two home runs and was responsible for five RBI as Manhattan (34-18) had its seven game win streak snapped by the tournament's #2 national seed. The Jaspers fall into the loser's bracket of the double-elimination regional and will face Jacksonville (36-23) on Saturday at 12 p.m. in an ESPNU and ESPN3.com broadcast.
Jaspers' red-shirt sophomore catcher Ramon Ortega led Manhattan going a perfect 3-for-3 from the plate with one run scored. Sophomores Nick Camastro and Kyle Murphy , along with freshman Yoandry Galan each knocked in a run for Manhattan in the setback.
The Gators jumped on 2011 MAAC Pitcher of the Year John Soldinger by scoring five runs on five hits in the first inning. Florida opened up the game in the second inning with back-to-back home runs coming from Tucker and Second Team All-America catcher Mike Zunino. The Gators went ahead 9-0 in the frame after junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott dropped a RBI single into right field.
Tucker launched his second two-run homer to open a seven run third inning. The offensive surge forced Manhattan to turn to its bullpen as the Jaspers called on junior reliever Taylor Sewitt who answered with his top performance of the season. The junior right-hander worked through the next five innings, struck out three Gators and yielded only one run to the powerful Florida offense.
Manhattan scored all three of its runs in the fifth inning, one inning after Florida starter Karsten Whitson exited the contest. Jaspers' senior first baseman Austin Sheffield lead off the inning by reaching base on a fielding error. It allowed Ortega and Galan to produce the Jaspers first two runs with RBI doubles, before Camastro added an RBI single to center field. Camastro finished 2-for-4 at the plate, including the Jaspers first hit against Whitson in the first inning.
Whitson, a SEC All-Freshman Team honoree, improved to 8-0 on the season allowing only two hits over 3 1/3 innings of work. The right-hander struck out three Jaspers in the contest.
Jaspers' senior reliever Rob Ardino finished the game as he was hitless in the final frame retiring three of four Gators he faced.
The Gators 23 hits set the program's NCAA Tournament record. Florida left fielder Tyler Thompson was 4-for-4 from the plate and scored three runs. Pigott also had four hits and three RBI, while Zunino and Tucker added three hits apiece and combined for seven RBI.
Top-seeded Florida advances to the winner's bracket and faces the Gainesville Regional #2 seed Miami on Saturday. Manhattan's contest with #3 Jacksonville will mark the inaugural meeting between the programs.