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Tuesday March 6, 2007Jacksonville Edges Baseball, 6-5

Gainesville, FL

Jacksonville (8-10) rallied from a 5-2 deficit to hand Florida (9-7) a 6-5 setback on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium. The Dolphins took advantage of two Gator errors in the ninth to plate the winning run. Junior Matt Gardner (2-2) threw two perfect innings to pick up the victory and halt UF’s four-game winning streak.


In the final stanza, JU senior Pete Clifford drew a leadoff walk from junior Josh Edmondson (LaGrange, Ga.) (0-1) and moved to third when senior Mike McCallister’s sacrifice attempt was thrown away. With runners on the corners, senior Ryan McArdle’s grounder was misplayed to enable Clifford to come across with the go-ahead tally. A sacrifice bunt by junior Ben Kerr moved both runners into scoring position with one down, resulting in the Gators replacing Edmondson (2.0 IP, 0 H, 1 R) with senior Steven Porter (Ocoee, Fla.). A botched suicide squeeze caused McAllister to be thrown out at third and Porter struck out senior Logan James to end the frame. Soon after, Gardner retired the Gators in order to secure the win. 


“We were up 5-2 and our guys fought hard to keep it close, so it was a tough loss,” said head coach Pat McMahon. “We didn’t pitch or defend as well tonight, and there were a lot of errors. It is also difficult to be successful out of the bullpen pitching behind the count, so we need to work on that. We play at Texas A&M this weekend, and they are one of the outstanding programs to compete against. It will be a great challenge for us, and we will be working hard this week to prepare for that series.”


The Dolphins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening frame against freshman Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.). Junior Kevin Ferreira started off with an infield hit and rookie Chuck Opachich followed with a single to right field before a grounder by Clifford moved the duo into scoring position. Chapman walked McCallister to fill the sacks with one down, and a fly ball in foul territory by McArdle scored Ferreira from third. JU executed a double steal to bring across the second run, as a throwing error enabled Opachich to score.


Florida knotted the contest in the third with three hits and a couple of runs. Freshman Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla.) delivered the Gators’ initial hit off sophomore Tim Brown and sophomore Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) extended his hitting streak to seven games with a liner into right. Junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) cut the deficit in half with an RBI infield single to short, scoring Tignor, and a ground ball by rookie Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) advanced the runners. Senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) was walked intentionally for the fifth time this year to load the bases and junior Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.) lofted a sac fly to center to even the game at 2-2.


“I started the season slow with hitting, and Coach Parenton took me in and worked with me for a while,” Tignor said. “I see the ball a lot better, so that worked well for me tonight. As a team, there are so many new starters that it is going to take time for us to mesh together out there. The older guys are doing a great job of trying to keep us level-headed.”


In the fifth, the Gators used back-to-back home runs by Figueroa and LaPorta to seize a 5-2 advantage. Townsend was hit by a pitch with one down and Figueroa mashed Brown’s 3-0 offering over the scoreboard in right field for his team-leading sixth round-tripper. LaPorta then stepped to the plate and belted a 3-1 pitch into the left-field bleachers for his fifth HR, ending the night for Brown (4.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R).


Jacksonville loaded the bases with none out and narrowed the gap to 5-4 in the sixth. McCallister was hit by sophomore Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.) to begin the frame and McArdle smoked a base-hit through the left side for runners on the corners. Kerr grounded back into the box to Keating, whose attempt to catch McCallister in a run-down resulted in the sacks being full. Senior David Hurst (Jacksonville, Fla.) replaced Keating (2.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R) and walked James for a 5-3 count before fanning senior Donnie Vickers. After a sac fly to straightaway center by junior Matt Lopez trimmed UF’s lead to a run, the left-hander induced a pop out by Ferreira.    


The next inning, Clifford tied the game at five runs apiece with his third homer of the campaign. The blast cleared the wall in center and prompted a pitching change, as Edmondson took over for Hurst (1.1 IP).


Although UF committed two errors in the eighth and a wild pitch left the Dolphins with runners on second and third, Edmondson had Opachich ground out to third to preserve the stalemate. Freshman Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.) legged out an infield hit off junior David Yates (1.0 IP, 1 H) to start UF’s eighth, but Gardner came out of the bullpen and set down the next three Gators.       


The hosts held an 8-6 advantage in hits, as Tignor went 2-for-4. Ferreira and Opachich were each 2-for-5 for the Dolphins. The Gators’ six errors matched a season high. Florida heads to the Lone Star State this weekend to face No. 9 Texas A&M (15-2). First pitch from Olsen Field on Friday night will be at 7:30 p.m.         




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