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Friday May 12, 2006Baseball Fends Off No. 8 Alabama, 4-3

Tuscaloosa, AL

Sophomore Bryan Augenstein (Sebastian, Fla.) worked 8.1 innings and the duo of junior David Hurst (Jacksonville, Fla.) and senior Darren O’Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) each recorded an out with two Alabama runners aboard in the bottom of the ninth as Florida (26-25/8-17 SEC) nipped the eighth-ranked Crimson Tide (34-17/15-10 SEC), 4-3, on a wild Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.


Augenstein (9-5) scattered eight hits, registered six strikeouts, and allowed three sixth-inning runs as the Gators claimed the opener of a Southeastern Conference series for the first time since March 17. O’Day collected his eighth save in nine opportunities with a dramatic strikeout to close the contest. In the second matchup, Florida will send senior RHP Bryan Ball (Punta Gorda, Fla.) (4-8, 5.15) to the hill tomorrow at 5 p.m. against junior LHP Wade LeBlanc (7-0, 3.02).  


Thanks to a fortuitous bounce, Florida took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out RBI single by junior Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.). Junior Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) opened the game with a single up the middle off junior Bernard Robert and was sacrificed into scoring position by junior Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.). Robert was a late starter after Alabama elected to push LeBlanc back a day. After junior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) drew a walk, a fielder’s choice by junior David Cash (Odessa, Fla.) forced Davis at third. The Gators caught a break when Pride’s grounder caromed off the lip of the infield grass at third into the outfield for a single, allowing LaPorta to score the game’s opening run.


Junior Emeel Salem extended his hitting to 13 games with a leadoff single in the bottom of the first before junior Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) robbed senior Matt Downs of potential extra bases with a leaping grab against the right-field wall. Augenstein struck out freshman Alex Avila and Jeroloman gunned down SEC stolen-base leader Salem attempting to swipe second to end the frame. It was the 16th runner caught stealing for the Gators’ backstop.


Junior Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) led off the second with his 11th home run to left center to give UF a 2-0 advantage. It was his first round-tripper since April 21 versus Auburn, moving him to within one of LaPorta’s team-leading total of 12. Back-to-back one-out singles by sophomore Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) and Davis later put the Gators in good shape. Robert caught Jeroloman looking on strikes and walked LaPorta on four pitches to load the bases but wiggled out of jam by having Cash fly out to center.


The visitors increased their margin to 3-0 in the third on a single by Leclerc. Pride started the frame with a free pass, stole second base and was driven in courtesy of a liner to right from his teammate. Pride is a perfect 5-for-5 on the basepaths in league action while Leclerc’s RBI was his 25th.


McArthur led off the sixth with a base-hit up the middle and was moved over on a bunt by Davis. A fielding error on Jeroloman’s grounder gave the Gators runners on the corners with one down and LaPorta drew his career-high fourth walk to fill the sacks. Senior Jordan Davis was called out of the bullpen to replace Robert (6-5, 5.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 4 K) and allowed an RBI grounder to second by Cash for a 4-0 Florida lead. The reliever prevented further problems by fanning Pride on three pitches to bring UF’s runners left on base to 10.  


The Crimson Tide countered with three runs on four hits in home part of the sixth to trim the deficit to 4-3. After retiring seven-straight batters, Augenstein plunked junior Greg Paiml with one down and Salem followed with his third hit of the night. Oddly enough, Alabama’s fourth hit of the contest was the first to reach the outfield. Dickey made a diving stab in center against Downs for the second out and Avila smoked an RBI single through the right side to narrow the gap to 4-1. Senior Kody Valverde and senior Evan Bush punched consecutive two-out base-knocks for a 4-3 count before Augenstein had sophomore Matt Bentley fly out to left.


In the eighth, Jeroloman and LaPorta earned back-to-back walks with one out from Davis. LaPorta’s fifth free pass matched the single-game record by a Gator held by Brad Wilkerson, who had five against Florida State on March 3, 1996. Davis induced fly balls from Cash and sophomore pinch hitter Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.) to give Florida 13 runners stranded.


Dickey cranked a triple off the base of the wall in right center field with one out in the ninth and was thrown out at the dish on an 8-6-2 relay. There was a confrontation at the plate between Dickey and Crimson Tide catcher Valverde, emptying both benches and resulting in the ejection of both players, in addition to Barber, junior Chris Petrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) for UF and sophomore Josh Copeland and Robert for UA.


Alabama put two runners aboard in the ninth but the Gators held on for the 4-3 victory. Bentley lofted a Texas Leaguer into shallow center to reach with one down in the ninth and was replaced by freshman pinch runner Jeff Texada. Augenstein walked freshman pinch hitter Ryan Rhoden on four pitches and was lifted in favor of Hurst, who had junior Brandon Belcher fly out to senior center fielder Chris Woods (Gainesville, Fla.). O’Day closed the door by whiffing Paiml on a 3-2 pitch to end the ballgame.


Florida out-hit Alabama, 11-8, led by Davis (3-for-4), Dickey (3-for-5) and Leclerc (2-for-5). Salem was 3-for-4 for the Crimson Tide, raising his average to .376. UF left 13 runners on base, compared to six for the hosts.


Game Notes

  • Bryan Augenstein threw at least seven innings for the 12th time in his 14 starts.
  • Matt LaPorta was the first Gator to have four walks in a game since Brian Jeroloman against Arkansas on March 21, 2004. His five free passes matched Brad Wilkerson’s single-game school record.
  • David Cash (0-for-5) stranded 10 runners on base.
  • Brian Jeroloman threw out Emeel Salem twice and did not permit a steal.
  • The Gators took the series opener for the first time since a 6-3 triumph over Arkansas on St. Patrick’s Day.






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