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Friday March 17, 2006No. 13 Baseball Rallies To Take SEC Opener, 6-3, Over No. 7 Arkansas

Gainesville, FL

After No. 7 Arkansas (16-2) snapped a 1-1 tie with two runs in the top of the seventh, No. 13 Florida (16-6) answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning on its way to a 6-3 victory in the teams’ Southeastern Conference opener at McKethan Stadium on Friday night. The contest was a pitcher’s duel, as senior Bryan Ball (Punta Gorda, Fla.) (4-2) matched his career high with seven strikeouts over seven innings to pick up the win, while UA sophomore Nick Schmidt (4-1) tied his career high with 11 K in 6.2 innings. The Gators extended their winning streak to seven games and handed the Hogs their first loss since Feb. 28, ending a stretch of seven-straight wins.


“Bryan (Ball) pitched his heart out for us,” said head coach Pat McMahon. “Arkansas is a well-prepared ballclub and is capable of clutch hits at almost any time. We have a lot of guys who believe in one another and they are working hard to get better. It was important for us to work pitch counts against (Nick) Schmidt, one of the top pitchers in country.”  


Making his return to the lineup after a 13-game absence, junior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) drew a one-out walk in his first plate appearance and junior Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) followed with a base-hit into left field. Schmidt worked out of the jam by striking out juniors Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.) and Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.).


Arkansas drew first blood in the second on a sacrifice fly by freshman David Hum that brought across junior Danny Hamblin. Hamblin and freshman James Ewing had opened the inning with back-to-back singles and a wild pitch by Ball allowed the lead runner to take third. However, Ewing was thrown out on the play attempting to steal second by Jeroloman. Hum lofted a ball to straightaway center field that easily scored Hamblin.


The Gators countered with a run in the second on an RBI single by junior Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.), who drove in three runs on the night. Junior David Cash (Odessa, Fla.) roped a leadoff double and senior Stephen Barton (Miami, Fla.) walked before Dickey deposited a flare just beyond first base. Although sophomore Matt Gaski (Greensboro, N.C.) grounded into a double play, Barton came home with the apparent go-ahead run. The umpires ruled interference on the play, sending Barton back to third. Schmidt stranded the runner with a strikeout of junior Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.).


Ball set down 11 straight Arkansas hitters before Hamblin stroked a one-out double in the seventh. Ewing delivered an RBI single to right field to move the Hogs in front and wound up on third after a throwing error on the relay by Leclerc. After Ball had Hum ground out, junior Blake Parker extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single up the middle to give UA a 3-1 lead.  


Helped by two errors in the bottom of the inning, Florida seized a 4-3 advantage. Cash opened the frame with his second two-bagger of the night and was sacrificed to third by Barton. Dickey’s grounder was then thrown away by Schmidt, allowing Cash to score and enabling Dickey to occupy second. Another throwing error by Arkansas on Gaski’s grounder brought across Dickey with the tying run and Davis smashed a double to center to give the Gators a 4-3 lead. LaPorta walked to give UF a pair of runners on base before Schmidt made Jeroloman his 11th strikeout victim. Junior reliever Brian McLelland came in and set down Pride on a grounder to first.  


Florida tacked on a couple of insurance runs in the eighth to seal the victory. Leclerc drew a leadoff walk and was sacrificed to second by Cash. An infield hit by senior Chris Woods (Gainesville, Fla.) gave the home team runners on the corners and Dickey ripped a base-hit to give UF a 5-3 lead. Gaski executed a squeeze bunt to drive in Woods with the sixth run.


Senior Darren O’Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) retired all six Arkansas batters he faced over two innings to collect his fourth save. The right-hander recorded four strikeouts and lowered his earned run average to 1.25. Florida out-hit the Hogs, 8-6, as Dickey (2-for-4, three RBI) and Cash (2-for-3, two runs) turned in multiple-hit outings. Ball scattered six hits over seven frames and gave up three runs (two earned) without issuing any walks. Schmidt (6.2 IP, 6H, 4R, 2ER, 11K, 4BB) suffered his first defeat since last May. Sophomore Bryan Augenstein (Sebastian, Fla.) (5-0, 1.37) will face UA right-hander Charley Boyce (2-0, 3.92) tomorrow at 4 p.m.


Game Notes

  • Matt LaPorta’s last appearance for the Gators was on Feb. 22 against Florida A&M, Florida was 8-5 with him out of the lineup.
  • Brandon McArthur was a late scratch for tonight’s game with a bruised shin.
  • Stephen Barton’s hitting streak ended at a career-high six games.
  • Bryan Ball is now 16-5 in his career at McKethan Stadium.
  • The Gators are 4-1 in SEC openers under Coach McMahon.






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