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Saturday February 24, 2007Baseball Blanks Kent State, 7-0, To Tie Series

Gainesville, FL

Behind a combined shutout from sophomores Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) and Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.), Florida (5-5) used a 7-0 victory to even its weekend series with Kent State (1-4) on Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. In picking up his first win since April 10, 2005, at Georgia, Locke (1-1) scattered seven hits over a career-high seven innings with two strikeouts and zero walks and Keating threw two innings in UF’s second donut of the year. The Gators broke the game open with a four-run second to end a three-game slide. Freshman Billy Bullock (Valrico, Fla.) (1-1, 7.00) will start Sunday’s rubber match at noon against freshman Kyle Smith (0-0, 3.00).


“From the get-go, our guys got out there on the field and worked hard today,” said head coach Pat McMahon. “I was very pleased with our approach and the way players stepped up to fill different positions in the line up today. Stephen (Locke) did a great job for us. His movement was better and created outs. He is really improving. Cole Figueroa’s late home run was great to solidify our lead. After last night, we talked about staying away from big-run innings on defense and giving away outs. We defended the field better, but we need to maintain that consistency through every game.”


Florida broke the ice for the second-straight day on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the first inning by freshman Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.). KSU junior Dominique Rodgers (0-2) had control issues and walked the first three batters he faced, sophomore Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.), junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) and freshman Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.). After Pisani lofted a sac fly to left, Rodgers had senior Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.) ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. 


Although the Golden Flashes threatened in the second, notching three hits off Locke, they did not score. Sophomore Brad Winter laced a one-out single to left before Barnes robbed freshman Anthony Gallas of possible extra bases with a great catch in center field. Senior Will Vazquez and freshman Jared Bartholomew followed with consecutive hits to fill the sacks before the southpaw jammed sophomore Ryan Mitchell on an infield fly to strand the runners.


“Coach Jones and I talked about putting up zeroes and letting our offense get ahead so we didn’t have to play from behind,” Locke said. “I struggled against VMI, did a little better against Miami and did well today, so I am glad that I seem to be building up each time. Kent State is a good team and put the ball on the bat a lot. We did not make the plays behind Bryan (Augenstein) last night, but we turned it around today with no errors and got in and out quickly on defense.”


Aided by a pair of errors, the Gators tacked on four more runs in the second for a 5-0 advantage. In his first collegiate at bat, freshman Jake Hicks (Molino, Fla.) doubled to left center with one down and scored when senior Brian Leclerc’s (Clearwater, Fla.) ground ball was dropped by the first baseman and rolled away. Freshman Hampton Tignor’s (Sarasota, Fla.) first career base-hit left UF with runners on the corners and Barnes roped an RBI double to plate Leclerc. After Townsend delivered a sacrifice fly to bring in Tignor, Figueroa stroked a single into right center to score Barnes.


Figueroa cranked his fourth home run of the season with Townsend aboard in the seventh to expand Florida’s margin to 7-0. Townsend had earned his second free pass of the afternoon from freshman reliever Robert Sabo and Figueroa sent a 2-1 pitch off the scoreboard overlooking right field.


“It was a great day,” Figueroa said. “After three-straight losses, we were able to come back and pick it back up today. All of the guys contributed, and it was a great team effort out there. We didn’t have any errors today after having six last night, and that is an important factor throughout the duration of the season.”


Figueroa (2-for-3, career-high three RBI) and Hicks (2-for-4) led the Gators’ offense, while Vazquez went 2-for-3 to pace KSU. Rodgers allowed four hits and five runs (two earned) over two innings before junior Evan Smith fired four scoreless frames out of the bullpen. Sabo (0.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R), sophomore Ryan Steele (1.1 IP, 0 H) and freshman Jon Pokorny (0.1 IP) finished up for the Golden Flashes.


Game Notes

  • Stephen Locke’s previous career high was six innings, set twice, most recently against Michigan State on March 13, 2005.
  • The Gators also shut out VMI, 7-0, on Feb. 11.
  • Hampton Tignor threw out Doug Sanders attempting to steal second base in the first inning, UF’s first runner caught this year on the ninth attempt.
  • The Gators have homered in all 10 games this season and have 18 round-trippers.
  • Florida played error-free baseball for the third time in ’07, first since Feb. 13 against Florida A&M.




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