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Saturday February 17, 2007Baseball Holds Off No. 5 UM, 7-5, To Clinch Series

Gainesville, FL

Florida (4-2) sent 10 batters to the plate during a five-run fourth inning and used strong relief pitching to defeat fifth-ranked Miami (3-4) for the second-straight day, 7-5, in front of a season-high crowd of 4,427 fans at McKethan Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The victory enabled the Gators to clinch the series against the Hurricanes for the third-consecutive year, a feat they had never accomplished, and marked the club’s seventh-straight win in the series.

 

Sophomore reliever Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.) notched his first career win, while senior David Hurst (Jacksonville, Fla.) picked up his first save with 1.2 scoreless frames as UF collected its fourth win in a row. Freshman right-hander Billy Bullock (Valrico, Fla.) (1-0, 0.00) will start tomorrow’s finale at 1 p.m. against Miami junior LHP Manny Miguelez (0-0, 2.25).

 

“I am extremely pleased with our bullpen’s performance today,” said head coach Pat McMahon. “Guys are beginning to understand their role on the mound, and that is important so that we can defend well behind them. Our bullpen is something that we take a lot of pride in with their work ethic to keep us at the level of play we need to be at throughout the season. Matt’s (LaPorta) play in the ninth inning was such an outstanding defensive play, where he had the presence of mind to get up and get it to David (Hurst) to make the play. David did well to finish for us too. Miami is a terrific team and they give us a lot of competition every time we play them. One of our goals is to not to look at yesterday or tomorrow. We just take on today, so this was a great game for our team’s psyche.”

 

Sophomore Yonder Alonso provided the Hurricanes with a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning with a two-run homer to left field off sophomore Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.). Freshman Ryan Jackson singled through the left side with one down and Alonso sent a 0-1 offering out of the yard for the first round-tripper surrendered by the Gators this season and his team-leading fourth four-bagger.

 

In the bottom of the inning, the Gators cut the deficit in half but left the bases loaded against senior Danny Gil. Junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) roped a leadoff double to extend his hitting streak to six games and scored on freshman Cole Figueroa’s (Tallahassee, Fla.) RBI single up the middle. Gil hit senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) to move Figueroa into scoring position and the hurler rebounded by having freshman Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) fly out to left. A wild pitch by Gil advanced Figueroa to third and LaPorta was out 2-4-3 on the play. Although Gil plunked freshman Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.) with two down and walked junior Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.) to fill the sacks, the righty had senior Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) ground out to strand the runners.

 

Figueroa tied the game in the bottom of the third with his second dinger of the campaign, a shot deep over the palm trees in right field. However, Florida could not cash in another bases-loaded opportunity and the score remained 2-2. den Dekker stroked a one-out single into right and moved into scoring position with his second stolen base before Pisani drew a base on balls. A hit through the right side by Barber loaded the bases and Gil bounced back with back-to-back strikeouts of Leclerc and freshman Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla.).

 

“They were throwing a lot of first-pitch fastballs, and our guys were taking advantage of that,” Figueroa said. “Later in the game, they threw more off-speed that had us off guard. We kind of played down a little bit then, so it was good that we had jumped out to a big lead. I think I have been swinging pretty well, but it is still early in the season and I have a lot of work left to do.”

 

UM grabbed a 3-2 lead in the fourth on an RBI single by senior Gus Menendez. Rookie Mark Sobolewski punched a one-out flare into left and advanced to second on a Gator fielding error. Menendez followed with a rip up the middle for his third RBI of the series and later went to second on a wild pitch by Locke. The southpaw buckled down to retire freshman Jason Hagerty (flyout) and sophomore Blake Tekotte (grounder). In his second start of the campaign, Locke scattered four hits and gave up three runs over four innings with two strikeouts and a walk.

 

Freshman Eric Erickson took over for Gil (3.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R) in the fourth and the Gators sent 10 batters to the plate and tallied five runs on four hits and an error to assume a 7-3 lead. Sophomore Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) and Townsend had consecutive singles to start things off and Figueroa’s grounder moved his teammates to second and third. Following an intentional walk to LaPorta, the slugger’s second of the season, den Dekker coaxed a walk after a 10-pitch battle to tie the game. Pisani’s grounder to third was then misplayed, enabling Townsend to come across for a 4-3 UF advantage. Junior Dustin Bamberg (Winter Haven, Fla.) delivered a pinch-hit RBI single and sophomore Cody Neer (Orlando, Fla.) went down on strikes before freshman Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) smashed a pinch-hit, two-run single into center field to provide the hosts with a four-run cushion.

 

The Hurricanes countered with a run in the sixth to narrow the gap to 7-4. Sophomore Dave DiNatale led off with a double down the right-field line off Keating and classmate Dennis Raben’s single left UM with runners on the corners with none out. A grounder by Sobolewski brought across DiNatale and Keating had senior Roger Tomas fly out before catching Hagerty looking at strike three. Miami pulled closer the next inning on a two-out single by Alonso that scored sophomore Jemile Weeks, who had a two-bagger down the left-field line. McMahon replaced Keating (2.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R) with junior Josh Edmondson (LaGrange, Ga.), who had DiNatale line out to LaPorta.

 

Raben’s fly ball to begin the eighth was dropped, leaving him on second base. After Edmondson set down Sobolewski, he was replaced by Hurst. The left-hander induced a pair of ground balls to preserve the Gators’ two-run edge. In the ninth, Jackson poked a two-out single to left center and senior left fielder Chris Petrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) ended the ballgame with a sterling grab of a ball launched by Alonso. A sparking defensive play by LaPorta opened the UM’s last turn at the dish, as the first baseman robbed Tekotte of potential extra bases with a diving stop and flipped to Hurst for the out.

 

Miami is such a talented team,” Hurst said. “It takes a lot of effort to beat them, so when Matt (LaPorta) dove on the line in the ninth inning to get the ball, those are huge plays for us. Our bullpen has been working really hard, too. We have new guys in there, and some of the older guys and I are trying to help them out. When we opened the season, I don’t necessarily think we were playing poorly, but it gave us a chance to see how well we have to play day-in and day-out and how important consistency is for us to be successful.”

 

Each squad finished with nine hits, with Figueroa (2-for-5, two RBI) and Townsend (2-for-5, two runs) leading the way for Florida. Alonso’s 2-for-4, three-RBI effort led the Hurricanes and Jackson was 2-for-5. Erickson (0-1) took the loss after a four-inning stint in which he yielded four hits and five runs (three earned) with four K.

 

Game Notes

  • The Gators have hit a home run in all six games this season.
  • Both of Cole Figueroa’s homers have started an inning (8th against VMI, 2/11 & 3rd this afternoon).
  • The teams have combined for 12 errors in the first two games of the series, seven by Miami and five by Florida.
  • Jonathan Pigott is 2-for-3 (.667) as a pinch hitter this year.

 

-UF-

 

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