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Saturday May 6, 2006Baseball Holds Off No. 21 Mississippi State, 9-6

Starkville, MS

Making his first start in two years, junior Steven Porter (Ocoee, Fla.) worked 5.1 innings as Florida (25-25/7-17 SEC) salvaged the finale of its weekend series at No. 21 Mississippi State (33-16/11-12 SEC) with a 9-6 triumph to complete Saturday’s twinbill. The Bulldogs had captured today’s first game, 8-1, in front of 6,614 fans at Dudy Noble Field. Porter (2-0) held MSU to just two hits and one run and his teammates jumped out to 8-0 lead in the fourth to halt a six-game slide. Sophomore Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.) was a career-high 4-for-4 as UF banged out 13 hits.


The Gators opened the scoring on a two-run double in the second by junior David Cash (Odessa, Fla.) off freshman Aaron Weatherford (4-2). Junior Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.) poked a leadoff single into left and was sacrificed into scoring position on a bunt by Barber. A base-hit to left by junior Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) pushed his teammate to third and Cash deposited his fifth two-bagger into left center to move Florida in front.


UF broke the game open with six hits and six runs in the fourth to build an 8-0 advantage. Back-to-back singles to start the inning by Pride and Barber put UF in business and Dickey ripped a two-run double down the left-field line for a 4-0 lead. Cash sacrificed Dickey to third with a bunt and Petrie drove in his teammate with an RBI grounder to put the Gators ahead by five runs. Sophomore Matt Gaski (Greensboro, N.C.) and junior Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) poked consecutive singles and junior Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) cleared the bases with a three-run homer to right center for his sixth round-tripper of the season to chase Weatherford (3.2 IP, 9 H, 8 R, 4 K). 


In the bottom of the sixth, Porter retired senior Jeff Butts on an infield fly before issuing a walk to junior Jeffrey Rea. With a 2-0 count to sophomore Edward Easley, Porter was lifted for senior Darren O’Day (Jacksonville, Fla.). Easley connected on a double down the left-field line to score Rea and junior Brian LaNinfa later smacked a two-out RBI double, narrowing his club’s deficit to 8-2.


Courtesy of a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Dickey, the Gators extended their lead to 9-2 in the seventh. Junior reliever Mike Valentine issued free passes to junior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) and Pride and Barber legged out a bunt to fill the sacks with none out. Dickey lofted his second sac fly of the year to bring in LaPorta and end Valentine’s time on the hill. Senior Brett Cleveland prevented further damage by having Cash’s grounder force Barber at second and the righty had Petrie fly out to center.  


The Bulldogs tallied three runs on four hits in the eighth to pull within 9-5. Rea and Easley produced consecutive hits to begin the stanza and Berkery’s 12th double scored Rea. LaNinfa delivered an RBI grounder for a 9-4 margin and O’Day responded with a strikeout of junior pinch hitter Wyn Diggs. Senior Joseph Hunter stroked a single into left field to pull the Bulldogs within four runs and prompt a pitching change. Junior David Hurst (Jacksonville, Fla.) came out of the bullpen for O’Day (2.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R) and caught sophomore Mitch Moreland looking on strikes to end the frame.  


Mississippi State loaded the bases to start the bottom of the ninth as Jones reached on an error and Butts and Rea each singled. Hurst jammed Easley on a pop-up to Jeroloman and Berkery’s sac fly to right brought in Jones with an unearned run for a 9-6 deficit. With runners on the corners, Hurst fanned LaNinfa to end the contest. Florida held a 13-12 edge in hits, as Barber, Davis (2-for-5), Dickey (2-for-4, three RBI, two runs) and Pride (2-for-4, two runs) turned in multiple-hit outings. The trio of Easley, Hunter and Rea had two hits apiece for the Bulldogs.


Florida returns to action next Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at sixth-ranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide entered the weekend atop the league standings but dropped the first two games at Arkansas to fall into a tie with Kentucky at 15-8 in SEC action.


Game Notes

  • Brian Jeroloman’s home run was his first since April 8 at Kentucky and the 15th of his career.
  • Steven Porter started seven games as a freshman, the most recent came against Florida State on March 31, 2004.
  • Florida now leads its series with Mississippi State in Starkville by a 22-19 count.
  • Today was the Gators’ first doubleheader since falling twice to Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament on May 28, 2005.






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