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Monday March 6, 2006Aoyama Gakuin Tops Baseball In Exhibition, 6-3

Gainesville, FL

The Gator baseball team fell to Aoyama Gakuin University, 6-3, an exhibition game on Monday night at McKethan Stadium. Takaichi Shun limited Florida to four hits and one run over six innings to earn the victory, while senior Nate Helms (Winter Haven, Fla.) suffered the loss after allowing a pair of runs during a two-inning relief stint. Junior David Cash (Odessa, Fla.) was 2-for-3 with two stolen bases, two walks and a run, sophomore Matt Gaski (Greensboro, N.C.) was 2-for-3 with an RBI double and redshirt freshman Brett Bentley (Tampa, Fla.) belted a pinch-hit solo homer in the ninth for the Orange and Blue.


“This was a great experience for our players to have a taste of international competition,” said head coach Pat McMahon. “I was really impressed with Aoyama Gakuin’s pitching pattern and their discipline at the plate, they have a very good club. This game provided a valuable learning experience for our younger guys.”


The Gators seized a 1-0 lead on a two-out double in the first by sophomore Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.). Freshman Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) led off with an infield hit and was sacrificed to second by senior Stephen Barton (Miami, Fla.). Barber roped a 1-1 pitch from Shun to the wall in right to open the scoring.


Aoyama Gakuin evened the score in the third on a sacrifice fly by Osaki Yutaro. Yoshida Yuichiro led off with a single to left off sophomore Andy Gale (Durham, N.H.) and moved to second on a bunt by Maruki Masei. Following a wild pitch that enabled the runner to take third, Yutaro’s sac fly to the warning track in left tied the game at a run apiece. Making his first appearance in a Gator uniform, Gale worked three innings in which he gave up two hits and a run with two strikeouts and a couple of walks.


Cash poked a leadoff base-hit in the bottom of the fourth and stole second base. After junior Chris Petrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) walked, senior Greg Quatrino’s (Tampa, Fla.) sacrifice attempt forced Cash at third and Gaski popped up to short. Senior Chris Woods (Gainesville, Fla.) earned a free pass to load the bases and Shun responded with a strikeout of Barnes to keep the game deadlocked.


The visitors moved in front on an RBI grounder in the sixth by Kusuki Yusuke. Helms took over for junior Patrick Thompson (Gainesville, Fla.) (2.0 IP, 1 H) at the start of the inning and yielded a one-out triple down the right-field line to Yokogawa Fuminori. Yusuke’s grounder to second plated his teammate with the second run. 


UF’s bid to tie the game in bottom of the frame was denied when Cash was gunned down at the plate trying to score on Gaski’s single up the middle. Cash had opened the frame with a walk and Shun retired Petrie (flyout) and Quatrino (strikeout). Cash stole second and raced around third on Gaski’s hit, only to have Yutaro fire a perfect strike to catcher Tanaka Shoji for the last out of the inning.


The Japanese squad increased its lead to 3-1 in the seventh. Yuichiro singled through the right side with one down and Masaei followed with a walk. Yuichiro advanced to third on the play when the relay throw from the catcher sailed into the outfield. Soon after, Yutaro’s foul ball to left allowed Yuichiro to come across for a two-run advantage.    


Woods walked to begin the home part of the seventh and redshirt freshman Bo Smith (Gainesville, Fla.) sliced a single into shallow left with one down. Junior pinch hitter Seth Steinhauer (Stuart, Fla.) forced Smith at second with a grounder, pushing Woods to third, and reliever Kobayashi Kenji struck out Barber to preserve the 3-1 count.


Aoyama Gakuin added some insurance in the eighth with three hits and three runs to build a 6-1 cushion. Tsuburaya Hidetoshi and Fuminori stroked back-to-back singles off sophomore Michael Branham (Tampa, Fla.) and Yusuke beat out a bunt to load the bases. Branham plunked Yamakawa Kodai to bring across a run and a passed ball on Shoji’s strikeout made the score 5-1 when Fuminori came home. Branham fanned Yuichiro for the second out and walked Takashima Tsuyoshi to re-load the bases. A wild pitch brought in the sixth run before the right-hander whiffed Yutaro to close the frame.


Cash and Petrie delivered consecutive singles to start the Gators’ turn in the eighth and Gaski’s one-out double narrowed the gap to 6-2. With runners perched on second and third, Woods drew a base on balls to fill the sacks. However, Barnes and Smith were each caught looking on strikes to bring UF’s total to 12 runners left on base.


Making his first plate appearance on the collegiate level, Bentley cranked a homer with one down in the ninth and no one aboard into the left-field bleachers to finalize the margin at 6-3. The teams finished with nine hits apiece, with Fuminori finishing 3-for-5 with two runs for the victors. The Gators begin a two-game series with UNC Greensboro (3-8) tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at McKethan Stadium. The Spartans are coached by Mike Gaski, the father of UF sophomore infielder Matt Gaski.






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