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Tuesday April 3, 2007LaPorta Helps No. 22 Baseball Topple No. 1 FSU, 16-7

Jacksonville, FL

Senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) bashed a pair of three-run homers and registered a career-high six RBI to power No. 22 Florida (19-13) to its eighth-straight victory, 16-7 over No. 1 Florida State (29-3) in front of 12,280 fans at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville on Tuesday night. The crowd was the second-largest in the facility’s existence, shy of the 12,943 for the Jacksonville Suns’ inaugural game in the ballpark on April 11, 2003.

 

LaPorta went deep in both the first and second innings and has clouted 10 home runs in his past seven outings, a stretch in which he is hitting .517 (15-for-29) with 19 RBI and 14 runs. On the season, the slugger has a .433 batting average with 15 homers and has driven in 35 runs. Senior Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.) also belted a grand slam as part of a seven-run second inning as the Gators evened the season series with the Seminoles at a win apiece. The squads will meet in the rubber match in Tallahassee on April 18.   

 

The Seminoles seized a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on a two-run homer by sophomore Buster Posey. Junior Mark Hallberg had punched a one-out single up the middle off freshman Clint Franklin (Orlando, Fla.) and Posey followed with his first round-tripper to left field.

 

Florida countered in the bottom of the frame on a three-run blast to left by LaPorta to grab a 3-2 advantage. Junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) and sophomore Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) opened with consecutive singles off sophomore Caleb Graham (1-2) and LaPorta cranked his 14th homer on the next pitch into the crowd just beyond the left-field fence.

 

The Gators exploded for seven runs with two out in the second, highlighted by another three-run bomb by LaPorta and a grand slam by Pride, to build a 10-2 lead. Graham retired the first two batters and then issued back-to-back walks to Townsend and Barnes. LaPorta stepped to the plate and mashed an opposite-field homer to right for number 15 and his fifth multiple-HR effort of the year to chase the right-hander, who allowed four hits and six runs in 1.2 innings. Freshman Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) greeted sophomore reliever Travis Burge with a double down the right-field line, senior Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) singled for runners on the corners and senior Chris Petrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) earned a free pass to fill the sacks. Pride bashed the first he saw from the southpaw high over the left-field fence for his seventh homer and the Gators’ initial grand slam of the season.

 

FSU clawed back with three runs on three hits and an error in the third to narrow the gap to 10-5. Hallberg’s fly ball was dropped by Petrie to start the inning and he took second on the play. Posey’s base-hit gave the Seminoles runners on the corners and junior Jack Rye’s RBI single into left center ended the night for Franklin (2.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R). Junior Dennis Guinn poked a single through the right side of the infield off freshman Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) to bring in Posey and a wild pitch enabled Rye to take third. A walk to freshman Jason Stidham filled the bases before Chapman struck out pinch hitter Ruairi O’Connor. Freshman D’Vontrey Richardson lofted a sacrifice fly to center for a 10-5 score and Chapman had senior Brandon Reichert fly out to end the frame.

 

Florida boosted its lead to 12-5 in the home part of the stanza. Freshman Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla.) drew a leadoff walk from freshman reliever Casey Whitmer and Townsend was hit by a pitch. Barnes launched a ball to deep center field over Richardson’s head but ran too quickly around the bases and came up on Townsend close to third base and was thrown out. After Barnes’ double scored Tignor, LaPorta was walked intentionally for the 10th time and a fielder’s choice by Figueroa yielded the Gators’ 12th run.

 

Rookie Matt Fairel replaced Whitmer prior to UF’s fourth at bat and struck out Petrie. However, a wild pitch allowed Petrie to reach and a ricochet allowed him to occupy second base. Pride smacked a single to push his teammate to third and freshman Matt den Dekker’s (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) groundout put the Gators ahead, 13-5.

 

Florida State tacked on a pair of runs in the seventh to pull to within 13-7. Guinn doubled to right center to start things off and sophomore pinch hitter Tommy Oravetz connected on a one-out double off senior Kris Gawriluk (Deltona, Fla.). Junior Josh Edmondson (LaGrange, Ga.) took over for Gawriluk, who gave up three hits and two runs over 2.1 innings, and had Richardson foul out to LaPorta at first base. Soon after, Richert laced a single up the middle to bring in sophomore pinch runner Mark Gildea.

 

In the bottom of the frame, the Gators responded with two more runs to create a 15-7 cushion. Barnes and LaPorta drew consecutive walks from senior Brian Chambers and Figueroa’s infield hit was thrown away by the pitcher, allowing both of his teammates to score. Den Dekker clubbed a solo shot off junior Danny Rosen to begin Florida’s eighth to finalize the nine-run margin. It was the rookie’s sixth homer of the year.

 

Each club totaled 13 hits, with Barnes a perfect 3-for-3 with three runs to lead the Gators. Chapman (2-1) permitted two hits and zero runs over two innings to collect the win. UF returns to Southeastern Conference action this weekend at McKethan Stadium when it hosts No. 4 South Carolina (23-6/5-4 SEC).  

 

-UF-

 

 

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