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Sunday April 1, 2007den Dekker's 11th Inning Blast Lifts Florida Past Georgia, 3-2

Athens, GA

Freshman Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) snapped a 2-2 tie with a towering home run with two down in the 11th on Sunday afternoon to help Florida (18-13/7-2 SEC) complete its first sweep of Georgia (10-17/3-6 SEC) at Foley Field since 1993. The rookie’s fifth round-tripper off junior Joshua Fields (1-4) boosted the Gators’ winning streak to seven games, including consecutive weekend road sweeps of Auburn and Georgia. Freshman Kyle Mullaney (Jacksonville, Fla.) threw a career-high three scoreless innings to improve his season ledger to 2-0.


Junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) and freshman Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) poked consecutive singles off freshman Justin Earls to start the game before a 33-minute rain delay. When play resumed, senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) hit into a 4-6-3 double play and senior Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.) grounded out to keep the game scoreless. 


The Gators squandered a chance to get on the board in the third, when they loaded the bases with one out and could not break the ice. den Dekker and Townsend started the frame with walks and Figueroa’s grounder advanced both runners into scoring position. LaPorta was walked intentionally for the ninth time this year to load the bases and the move paid off when Earls struck out Pride and had sophomore Cody Neer’s (Orlando, Fla.) grounder force LaPorta at second.


Neer put Florida ahead, 2-0, on an infield hit with two down and the bases full of Gators in the fifth. Figueroa poked a seeing-eye single with two out and LaPorta drew a walk to end the afternoon for Earls. Over 4.2 innings, the right-hander scattered four hits, issued five free passes and registered three strikeouts. After sophomore reliever Trevor Holder issued a base on balls to senior pinch hitter Chris Petrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) to load the sacks, Neer sent a check-swing roller up the third-base line. The relay throw from junior Ryan Peisel over to first was seconds late and both Figueroa and LaPorta came around to score.   


Georgia cut the deficit in half during the sixth inning courtesy of a bases-loaded walk. Freshmen Rich Poythress and Luke Stewart stroked back-to-back one-out singles off freshman Billy Bullock (Valrico, Fla.) and the righty had Peisel fly out to right before yielding to senior David Hurst (Jacksonville, Fla.). Bullock worked 5.2 innings, giving up six hits and one run, with two K and a walk. Hurst walked rookie Matt Cerione to fill the bags, then walked freshman pinch hitter Joey Lewis for a 2-1 margin. Hurst rebounded with a crucial strikeout of senior pinch hitter Matt Robbins after the batter fouled off multiple 3-2 pitches.


The Gators’ bid for another run in the seventh was denied on a sterling defensive play by sophomore shortstop Gordon Beckham. With Townsend at second and LaPorta at first because of walks, Neer roped a ball that seemed destined for center field. However, Beckham made a diving stop and flipped to second to preserve the 2-1 score.


The Bulldogs tied the game in the bottom of the frame on a two-out double down the left-field line by Poythress. Senior Steven Porter (Ocoee, Fla.) took over for Hurst at the outset of the stanza and set down the first two hitters he faced. Beckham smashed a single to right and Poythress’ fourth double resulted in a 2-2 stalemate. 


Piesel led off the home part of the eighth with a single into right but was erased at second on Cerione’s failed sacrifice attempt. Junior Josh Edmondson (LaGrange, Ga.) replaced Porter and was greeted by a base-hit from Lewis. A grounder by sophomore Miles Starr pushed the runners into scoring position and prompted another pitching change, as freshman Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) came in from the bullpen. A walk to senior Jonathan Wyatt loaded the bases and the southpaw worked out of the jam by having junior Matt Olson ground out to Figueroa.


In the bottom of the ninth, Mullaney put down the first two UGA hitters before walking Stewart. A balk advanced junior pinch runner Blake Cannady into scoring position and a fielding error by Townsend extended the inning. Mullaney rebounded to have Cerione ground out to send the game to extra innings.


Georgia held an 11-9 advantage in hits and left 15 runners on base, compared to 12 for UF. Figueroa and Townsend had two hits apiece for the visitors, while the trio of Beckham, Poythress and Stewart chipped in with two each for UGA. The Gators are back in action on Tuesday night when they meet No. 1 Florida State (29-2/7-1 ACC) at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville at 7 p.m. This will be the second of three meetings between UF and the Seminoles this season. FSU collected a 14-6 victory at McKethan Stadium on Feb. 20.




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