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Friday February 9, 2007Baseball Falls Short Against VMI In Season Opener, 5-3

Gainesville, FL

VMI used a four-run fifth inning and effective pitching by junior Trey Barham to hand Florida a 5-3 defeat in both squads’ 2007 opener on Friday night in front of 3,856 fans at McKethan Stadium. The southpaw scattered seven hits and registered six strikeouts over 5.2 innings as the Keydets claimed the opener of the weekend series. The Gators held a 12-8 advantage in hits, as the quartet of senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.), junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) and freshmen Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) and Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) had two apiece.   


“This was an outstanding opening-night crowd,” said head coach Pat McMahon. “I am so appreciative of all of our fans who were here. We played some people who have not played in an environment in front of that many people. Sometimes that is difficult, but our guys will come to respond to that very well. We need to bunch our hits together better in run-producing situations and we have to defend the field. That is what playing is all about. We played a lot of different people, and several young players who saw action came through for us. We will keep working hard at it.”


The visitors seized a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a double into the right center field gap by freshman Ryan Litz. Sophomore Eddie Van Es was hit by junior Bryan Augenstein (Sebastian, Fla.) to start the frame and Litz followed with a two-bagger to score his teammate all the way from first base. After rookie Justin Hess legged out a bunt to give VMI runners on the corners, Augenstein induced a 1-6-3 double play from junior Will Smith. Following a walk to junior Shane Geisslinger, the right-hander had senior Chad Rice ground out to third base to strand the runners.


After loading the bases with one down in the fourth, the Gators were kept off the board by Barham. Figueroa singled up the middle for his first collegiate hit to begin the stanza and LaPorta drew a walk. A fielder’s choice by sophomore Cody Neer (Orlando, Fla.) forced LaPorta at second base and advanced Figueroa to third before sophomore Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) smashed an infield single off sophomore third baseman A.J. Yoder to fill the sacks. Barham rebounded with a strikeout of senior Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) and had junior Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) ground out to third to preserve VMI’s one-run advantage.


Helped by two Florida errors, the Keydets erupted for four runs (three unearned) in the fifth to build a 5-0 cushion. Augenstein collected his fourth strikeout of the game to open the inning before a fielding miscue allowed Rice to reach base. With Yoder at the plate, VMI executed a textbook hit-and-run with Rice taking third on Yoder’s single to center field. Senior Robert Crumpler then delivered an RBI single to bring across the second run and sophomore Michael Roberts connected on another base-hit to put the visitors ahead by three. After a fielder’s choice by Van Es erased Roberts at second base for out number two, sophomore Thomas Hayden’s grounder was misplayed into the outfield, resulting in a five-run margin.


Townsend connected on a solo shot to left with one down in the bottom of the frame to pull UF within 5-1. The Gators used the long ball again the next inning, as McArthur belted a round-tripper into the left-field bleachers with two down to reduce his club’s deficit to 5-2. Pigott stroked a pinch-hit in his first at bat to end the night for Barham, who was a second-team All-Big South Conference selection last season. Townsend greeted senior reliever Corey Bachman with a base-hit for a couple runners aboard before sophomore Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) grounded out.


“VMI did a great job all night of getting ahead of everybody in the count,” said Townsend. “That really kept guys off balance. I ran into a slider there, and I was fortunate enough to get a piece of it. It is never easy to lose because you want to come out strong. The great thing about baseball is that you can come out tomorrow and play again. We are going to stick it together.”           


Junior Josh Edmondson (LaGrange, Ga.) replaced Augenstein (6.0 IP, 7 hits, 5 R, 2 ER, 5 K, 3 BB) at the outset of the seventh and yielded one hit over three innings. The Gators did not go quietly in the ninth, as Barnes reached on a bunt against sophomore Kevin Crum and Figueroa sliced a single through the right side for runners on the corners with none out. The right-hander had LaPorta ground into a 6-4-3 double play, although Barnes scored to trim the deficit to 5-3. Crum notched the save by having Neer tap to short to end the game.  


For the Keydets, Crumpler was 2-for-4 and Van Es scored twice. Bachman gave up two hits over 1.1 innings of work, senior Ian Casher had one strikeout and allowed one hit in one frame and Crum recorded the final three outs to help VMI emerge victorious. Florida will send sophomore LHP Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) to the hill tomorrow at 2 p.m. against sophomore righty Michael Bowman.


Game Notes

  • Florida fell to 52-40-1 all-time in season openers, including 32-20-1 at home.
  • Matt LaPorta singled in the first inning for UF’s initial hit of the campaign.
  • Tonight was the second meeting between the clubs and first since April 2, 1921, a 15-5 Gator victory.
  • Brandon McArthur homered in last season’s opener against Cincinnati.
  • The Gators started six new position players tonight, while Matt LaPorta (1B), Brian Leclerc (RF) and Chris Petrie (LF) returned to their same spots to begin the campaign.
  • Jared Kubin went 1-for-3 after being redshirted in 2006.
  • Three true freshmen saw their first collegiate action for the Gators: Cole Figueroa, Matt den Dekker and Jonathan Pigott, while redshirt freshman Clayton Pisani also played for the first time.




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