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Sunday February 11, 2007LaPorta Sets Home Run Record; Baseball Blanks VMI, 7-0

Gainesville, FL

Senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) became Florida’s all-time leader with his 56th career home run and freshman Billy Bullock (Valrico, Fla.) hurled 5.2 scoreless innings in his collegiate debut to lift the Gators (1-2) to a 7-0 win over VMI (2-1) on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. LaPorta opened the home part of the seventh by mashing the first pitch from senior reliever Ian Casher over the wall in left center to break a tie atop the school list with Brad Wilkerson. It was the slugger’s second dinger in as many days and he batted a sizzling .583 (7-for-12) in the series.

 

“I was telling myself to relax and I got a good swing to get it out of the yard,” LaPorta said. “It didn’t really hit me as I was running the bases, but when I sat down in the dugout it hit me that I had the Florida home run record. I just thought that was amazing.”

 

A 6’6” right-hander, Bullock scattered four hits and registered four strikeouts and the duo of junior Josh Edmondson (LaGrange, Ga.) and senior David Hurst (Jacksonville, Fla.) held the Keydets to one hit over 3.1 innings to complete UF’s first shutout since Feb. 10, 2006 (10-0 over Cincinnati). The Gator offense pounded out 13 hits, highlighted by four home runs, to salvage the finale of the weekend set.

 

“I was extremely proud of our team today,” said head coach Pat McMahon. “After Friday and Saturday, I was so pleased with the way our ballclub performed and responded to those games today. This afternoon, you saw some players against outside competition who were more comfortable in that arena, and that is a big part of the success equation. Billy (Bullock) did a tremendous job. We needed a great outing today, and he came through for us. I am also so proud to have Matt (LaPorta) in our program. He does so much in a leadership role. You look at the great players at UF, and there have been some great home run hitters. Now, Matt stands in that role as well.”

 

Florida jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI grounder by junior Dustin Bamberg (Winter Haven, Fla.). Freshman Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) laced a one-out single into right center field and LaPorta followed with a base-hit through the left side. A wild pitch by VMI sophomore Travis Smink allowed the runners to occupy second and third and Bamberg’s ball to second base in his first at bat of the campaign helped the Gators move in front for the first time in the series.

 

Senior Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.) belted a solo homer with two down in the second over the right-field fence for a 2-0 UF advantage. The round-tripper was his first since March 21 of last season against Stetson and was the Gators’ fourth of the weekend. Freshman Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) punched a single up the middle and junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) roped a double down the left-field line to extend the inning before Smink worked out of the jam by having Figueroa pop in foul territory to sophomore third baseman A.J. Yoder. 

 

UF used the long ball again in the third, as sophomore Cody Neer (Orlando, Fla.) cranked his first career home run into the visitors’ bullpen for a 4-0 Florida cushion. LaPorta smoked his second hit of the day to begin the frame and Neer connected on Smink’s 1-0 offering with one down for his third extra-base hit versus the Keydets. After a two-out walk to freshman Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.), sophomore Chris Henderson was summoned to replace Smink (2.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 K). Henderson kept the Orange and Blue scoreless over a 3.1-inning stint and gave up one hit.

 

Bullock set down the first two Keydets in the sixth before yielding a double down the right-field line to Yoder. With the runner in scoring position, Edmondson was called out of the bullpen to replace the rookie. After issuing a walk to senior Robert Crumpler, the righty had sophomore Michael Roberts fly out to the warning track in right to strand the runners and preserve the 4-0 lead.

 

“It was really exciting out there today,” Bullock said. “Our team got off to an early lead so it was pretty easy to pitch once we got started. I was a little more comfortable than I would have been if we were down. The guys were putting runs on the board, and four home runs really help a lot when you’re pitching.”

 

The hosts added two more runs in the seventh for a six-run advantage. Following LaPorta’s historic blast, the Gators manufactured another tally with two down. Freshman Matt den Dekker (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) stroked a base-hit into right field and Pisani was hit by a pitch. Sophomore pinch hitter Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) then welcomed VMI sophomore reliever John Phelps with an RBI single. Figueroa completed the scoring with a leadoff homer in the eighth, his second hit of the afternoon.

 

Florida’s top three hitters in the lineup, Townsend (2-for-5), Figueroa (2-for-5) and LaPorta (3-for-5), were a combined 7-for-15 (.467) with four runs scored. Yoder went 2-for-3 to lead the Keydets. The Gators will be back in action on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m., when they host Florida A&M.

 

Game Notes

  • Cole Figueroa, Cody Neer, Matt LaPorta and Jon Townsend had at least one hit in every game of the series.
  • The Gators batted .306 (34-for-111) with seven homers in the three games and their pitching staff compiled a 2.33 earned run average.
  • Florida’s bullpen allowed one unearned run in 11 innings of work.
  • UF’s four homers were its most since clubbing four in a 20-4 rout of Cincinnati on Feb. 12, 2006.
  • Figueroa debuted with a .357 (5-for-14) performance in his opening weekend of collegiate action.

 

-UF-

 

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