VMI’s bullpen held Florida scoreless over
the final four innings and the Keydets used a 10-hit
attack to hand the Gators a 7-4 loss before a crowd of 3,225 fans at McKethan Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore Michael
Roberts (2-for-5, two runs) and freshman Ryan Litz
(2-for-4) each drove in two runs, while senior Chad Rice was 2-for-5 out of the
leadoff spot and scored twice for the visitors. Gator senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.)
matched Brad Wilkerson’s career home run record of 55 with a fourth-inning solo
shot. Looking for the sweep, VMI will send sophomore left-hander Travis Smink to the mound in tomorrow’s series finale at 1 p.m.
against UF freshman RHP Billy Bullock (Valrico, Fla.).
“The game played out a lot like yesterday,” head
coach Pat McMahon said. “We are playing
catch-up. VMI is a very opportunistic team and made some really quality plays.
We had chances offensively that we did not take advantage of, and defensively,
there were miscues that opened doors for VMI. I am a believer that you make
your own breaks. Our effort, hard work and the want-factor are there, so we
just have to work to improve upon those missed opportunities.”
Making his first appearance since the opener of the
championship round of the 2005 College World Series versus Texas,
Florida sophomore Stephen Locke (Tampa,
Fla.) retired the side on 11
pitches in the first inning. The Keydets responded
the next frame with two runs on three hits to grab a 2-0 lead. Roberts led off
with a single through the left side and classmate Eddie Van Es beat out a bunt
for two runners aboard. A sacrifice bunt by freshman Justin Hess advanced both
runners into scoring position and Litz opened the
scoring for the second-straight day with an RBI single into right center.
Although Locke fanned freshman David Lottman, a
passed ball enabled Van Es to come across with an unearned run.
“I probably need a few more starts to get back into
it,” Locke said. “Even though I gave up a couple of runs before the third
inning, I felt like I clicked in and got some command. My fastballs started
moving. I am just going to try to build on that from here. It has been a year
and a half since I pitched out in Omaha.
I was anxious to get out there today and get that Orange and Blue back on again.”
The Gators cut the deficit in half in the home part
of the second on an RBI fielder’s choice by freshman Clayton Pisani (Naples,
Fla.). Junior Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.)
started things off with a base-hit into left center and moved to second on a
wild pitch by VMI sophomore Michael Bowman. Rookie Matt den Dekker (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
collected his first career hit with a single to center to give UF runners on
the corners and Pisani’s grounder forced den Dekker out
at second but allowed Barber to score.
VMI tacked on two more runs in the third to build a
4-1 advantage. Rice and sophomore A.J. Yoder opened the stanza with
back-to-back hits and senior Robert Crumpler executed
a sac bunt to push his teammates over. After a grounder by Roberts drove in
Rice and left Yoder on third, UF’s second passed ball
of the afternoon resulted in another run for the Keydets.
Van Es walked on four pitches and Hess stroked a two-out single before Locke
struck out Litz to prevent further damage. LaPorta led off the bottom of the fourth by cranking
Bowman’s 0-1 offering over the wall in center field to bring Florida within 4-2.
“We just didn’t do the little things right today,
but I am pleased with the way the team is coming together,” LaPorta
said. “At one point, there were only two starters from last year on the field.
A lot of young guys are seeing time now and getting their feet wet, so a lot of
things need to come together now.”
Roberts had consecutive singles to start the Keydets’
fifth turn at the plate and were sacrificed into scoring position by Van Es,
prompting a Gator pitching change. Locke worked 4.1 innings and gave up nine
hits and six runs (five earned), with two strikeouts and one walk. Hess greeted
sophomore Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.)
with a ground ball that scored Crumpler and Litz notched his second RBI of the day by punching a
two-out single into shallow left field for a 6-2 VMI lead.
answered with two runs of its own in the home part of the inning to trim the
margin to 6-4. Sophomore Cody Neer (Orlando,
Fla.) opened with a pinch-hit
double off sophomore reliever Chris Henderson, who had taken over for Bowman
(4.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 K, 1 BB). With one down, junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.)
smacked a run-scoring single into left field and stole second base before LaPorta collected his second RBI with a line drive
base-knock into left.
The Gators loaded the bases in the seventh with one
down but came away empty-handed. Freshman Cole
Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) drew a one-out walk from senior
Corey Bachman (1.1 IP, 1 H) and Townsend followed with a flare into left to
prompt a pitching change. Senior Ian Casher committed a balk to advance
Figueroa and Townsend and the Keydets decided to walk
LaPorta intentionally. The move paid off when Barber
grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Keating threw a career-high three innings, limiting
VMI to just a fifth-inning single. As a rookie, the right-hander totaled 2.2
innings of action in three appearances. Senior Steven Porter (Ocoee,
Fla.) took over on the hill
and retired the first two hitters he faced before running into some trouble in
the ninth, when VMI added an insurance run. Rice reached on a leadoff error,
occupied second on a balk and raced over to third on the same play courtesy of
a throwing error. After Crumpler’s one-out grounder
was misplayed, leaving the Keydets with runners on
the corners, Roberts’ squeeze bunt brought across Rice to finalize the 7-4
VMI held a 10-9 edge in hits, as the top seven
batters in their lineup chipped in with at least one. For UF, LaPorta (2-for-3, 2 RBI) and Townsend (2-for-4) turned in
multiple-hit efforts. Henderson
picked up the victory in relief of Bowman, with Crum notching his second save
with a perfect ninth inning.
last time the Gators opened a season 0-2 was in 1982, when the squad
finished 34-24-1 overall and captured the SEC’s
Eastern Division, regular-season and tournament titles on its way to an
appearance at the NCAA Atlantic Regional.
LaPorta has two hits in each of the games this
den Dekker made his first career start in center field and went 1-for-3.
Gators stranded six runners and committed three errors.
Neer poked his second double in as many games.