Top-ranked UF loses center fielder

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida baseball team is now facing its first bit of adversity in an otherwise carefree season.

[+] EnlargeKevin O'Sullivan
AP Photo/Phil SandlinFlorida coach Kevin O'Sullivan, left, congratulates Tyler Thompson (18) after the Gators defeated Mississippi State to win the Gainesville Super Regional in June 2011.
Starting center fielder Tyler Thompson is out for the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee during last Friday's Southeastern Conference opener against Vanderbilt. The injury will require surgery and a school spokesman said the medical staff will make a decision on the date in in several weeks.

It's the second time the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Thompson has torn the ACL in that knee. It happened in high school, and Thompson had surgery during the fall of 1998 but was able to play in 44 games in the 2009 season.

"I feel terrible," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan told reporters after Friday's game. "He worked awfully hard to put himself in a great position."

Thompson had started 14 of UF's first 18 games in center field and was hitting .319 with two home runs and nine RBI. Senior left fielder Daniel Pigott takes over the job in center field. Freshman Justin Shafer, who had started seven games in left and right field before Thompson's injury, becomes the new left fielder.

Pigott (.288, 17 RBI) and Shafer (.286, 10 RBI) had some trouble in UF's 5-3 victory over Samford on Tuesday night, which was the Gators' 18th consecutive victory. Pigott appeared to misplay a line drive that ended up as a triple and Shafer dropped a fly ball for a two-base error.

Top-ranked Florida (20-1, 3-0 SEC) plays at No. 8 South Carolina (15-4, 0-3) this weekend with the series opening tonight on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Gamecocks were swept by No. 6 Kentucky (21-0, 3-0) last weekend.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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