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Saturday March 17, 2007Baseball Out-Slugs Mississippi State, 10-8

Gainesville, FL

Florida (11-11/1-1 SEC) evened its series with Mississippi State (11-4/1-1 SEC) with a 10-8 victory on Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. Powered by senior Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) (3-for-4, two RBI, two runs) and freshman Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) (3-for-5), every Gator starter contributed at least one hit to the squad’s 17-hit outburst.


Sophomore Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) (3-2) worked six innings for his first SEC win since April 10, 2005, at Georgia and senior Steven Ocoee (Ocoee, Fla.) hurled the final three innings with a season-high four strikeouts to pick up his first save. Freshman third baseman Connor Powers (2-for-4) belted a pair of homers and tallied a career-high four RBI for State.   


The Bulldogs opened the scoring against Locke in the first inning on a fielder’s choice by junior Mitch Moreland. Senior Jeffrey Rea rifled a double off the wall in the left to begin the game and advanced to third on a one-out base-hit through the left side by junior Edward Easley. Moreland’s grounder to second drove in Rea and Locke notched his second strikeout of the frame by catching senior Brian LaNinfa.


In the bottom of the inning, sophomore Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) poked a two-run single with the bases loaded off junior Justin Pigott to give the Gators a 2-1 advantage. With one down, Figueroa lashed a single into right and senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) followed with a double into the left-field corner. Senior Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.) was plunked to fill the sacks and Kubin’s flare into left center moved the hosts in front.  


Florida increased its lead to 3-1 in the second on an RBI grounder by Figueroa, the 20th run driven in by the rookie. Freshman Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.) and junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) had back-to-back one-out singles and had moved into scoring position on Pigott’s balk.


Easley belted a three-run shot in the third to put MSU back on top, 4-3. Rea started the inning with his second hit of the game and freshman Brandon Turner’s double gave the Bulldogs two runners aboard and none out. Easley stepped to the plate and connected on his fifth homer of the season into the left-field bleachers.


Four fifth-inning runs, courtesy of back-to-back RBI singles by sophomore Cody Neer (Orlando, Fla.) and freshman Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) and a two-run double by Townsend, resulted in a 7-4 edge for the Gators. Pride led off with a single and Leclerc smashed his second double of the season with one down to give UF two runners in scoring position. Neer legged out an infield hit to short to score Pride and Pigott followed with a single into left to bring in Leclerc. After Pisani popped up in foul territory, Townsend bashed his team-leading seventh double down the left-field line to give the hosts a three-run edge.


Mississippi State narrowed the gap to 7-6 in the sixth on Powers’ two-run dinger over the left-field fence. Locke retired the first two batters before yielding a single to senior Joseph McCaskill. Powers’ fourth round-tripper came on a 2-1 offering by the left-hander. Florida countered with a two-out RBI single by Leclerc that scored LaPorta in the home part of the frame to take an 8-6 lead. LaPorta started with a base-hit, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and raced home on Leclerc’s knock into left.  


In the eighth, Pride drew a leadoff walk from rookie reliever Ricky Bowen and was replaced at first by freshman Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.). A grounder by junior pinch hitter Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.) moved den Dekker along and Leclerc’s third hit of the contest resulted in a 9-6 score. Leclerc swiped second, took third on Neer’s flyout and strolled home when a balk was called on Bowen to provide UF with a 10-6 cushion.


McCaskill opened the ninth with a single and Powers cranked his second homer of the game over the wall in right to trim the Gators’ advantage to 10-8. Porter set down the next two MSU batters before Rea drew a two-out free pass. The left-hander fanned Turner to complete Florida’s first SEC triumph of the season.


Pigott fell to 2-2 after surrendering 15 hits and eight runs over seven innings, with five strikeouts and two walks. The quartet of LaPorta, Neer, Pigott and Townsend chipped in with two hits for the Orange and Blue. Freshman RHP Billy Bullock (Valrico, Fla.) (2-3, 3.24) will start tomorrow’s finale at 1 p.m. live on Sun Sports against senior RHP Josh Johnson (2-0, 2.38).




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