Fla.) blasted a three-run
homer with two out in the ninth as No. 22 Florida (20-14/8-3 SEC) stunned No. 4
South Carolina (25-7/6-5 SEC), 9-8, on Saturday afternoon in front of 3,651
fans at McKethan Stadium. The Gators trailed 8-2 in
the eighth before senior Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.)
clubbed a grand slam to pull the hosts within 8-6.
“Our guys just kept pushing today,” said head coach
Pat McMahon. “When you’re down, 8-2,
it is not an ideal situation to be in, but we never gave up. Cody (Neer) has done such a great job of continuing to get better
every day. He really worked hard at the plate there at the end, coming from
behind in the count with two strikes. Brian (Leclerc)
worked hard in rehab to get back. His grand slam was huge, and it was set up by
our other guys being unselfish and getting on base.”
Junior Wynn Pelzer (1-2) set down the first two
Florida hitters in the ninth before walking senior slugger Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) (2-for-3, two RBI) on four
pitches. Junior Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.)
was hit by a pitch for a pair of runners aboard and Neer
launched the right-hander’s 1-2 offering to straightaway center field. South Carolina junior center fielder Steven Reinhold
appeared to make a dramatic game-ending catch at the wall but his momentum
knocked the ball out of his glove, whipping the Orange and Blue fans into a
frenzy. Neer’s third home run of the campaign
was his first since Feb. 13 against Florida A&M.
“It is a great feeling to have been able to do
that,” Neer said. “We were playing catch-up the whole
game. I knew with two outs that our goal was to keep guys at the plate and to
keep winning pitches. I just happened to get a good fastball and make a good
swing. I was just going for a base hit. I never would have thought it would be
a home run.”
Hurst (Jacksonville, Fla.) worked a perfect ninth for the
home team to improve to 2-0 with the win. Making his first start of the year,
sophomore Will Atwood scattered six hits and allowed two runs over a
career-high seven innings for the Gamecocks but was not involved in the
South Carolina used a
pair of two-run homers to begin the scoring in the third against freshman Tony Davis (Cooper City,
James Darnell drew a walk with one down and sophomore Justin Smoak extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games
with his team-leading 10th round-tripper to left center field. After junior
Phil Disher earned a free pass and advanced to second
on a wild pitch, sophomore Andrew Crisp connected on his third homer of the
year to give the Gamecocks a 4-0 lead and end the afternoon for Davis (2.2 IP,
2 H, 4 R, 5 BB).
The Gators narrowed the gap to 4-1 in the bottom of
the frame on a two-out RBI single by LaPorta. Atwood
set down the first two Gators before yielding a walk to junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.).
Freshman Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.)
lashed a base-hit into right and LaPorta raised his
hitting streak to a career-high 10 games with a base-knock up the middle.
Atwood struck out senior Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.)
with runners on the corners to end the frame.
Sophomore Reese Havens provided Carolina with a 6-1 advantage with his second
dinger in the fourth. Junior Travis Jones poked a leadoff single off freshman Kyle Mullaney (Jacksonville, Fla.),
stole second and moved to third when the relay throw went into the outfield.
Havens then belted a 2-2 pitch just above the orange line beyond the left-field
sac fly of the year pulled the Gators within 6-2 in the fifth. Freshman Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) led off with a bunt and went to
third on Figueroa’s second hit of the game. LaPorta
sent a drive to the warning track in right field for his 37th RBI.
Darnell roped a two-out RBI single in the sixth to
boost South Carolina’s
lead to 7-2. Mullaney had the first two hitters
ground out before Havens singled through the right side of the infield. Junior
Harley Lail collected the visitors’ seventh walk of
the afternoon and Darnell cashed in with a hit into shallow left.
Jones jacked his third homer of the series and
sixth of the year with one down in the eighth off freshman Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs,
Fla.) to put the Garnet and
Black up 8-2. Chapman had taken over for Mullaney
(3.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R) prior to the seventh stanza.
an opportune time for his first homer of ‘07, as he belted a grand slam off
junior Curtis Johnson with none out in the home part of the inning to reduce UF’s deficit to 8-6. LaPorta started
the frame with a single, junior pinch hitter Barber walked and Neer was hit by a pitch. Leclerc
bashed the righty’s first pitch over the right-field
fence for his second grand slam. After Johnson fanned sophomore pinch hitter Avery Barnes (High Springs,
Fla.), Pelzer came out of the bullpen to
strike out senior pinch hitter Chris
Petrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) and den Dekker.
“This was a big confidence booster for us to be
able to battle back from being down, 8-2,” LaPorta
said. “We stress it a lot to be mentally tough because it is never over, like
you saw, until it’s over. We got two quick outs and then Bryson (Barber) and I
battled to get on base. Then, Cody came up and did his job. That was huge for
Thanks to Neer’s
game-ending homer, UF had a 9-8 edge in hits. The trio of Figueroa, LaPorta and Neer finished with
two hits apiece, while Havens (2-for-4) and Jones (2-for-3) powered USC. Florida will send freshman RHP Billy Bullock (Valrico,
4.66) to the hill tomorrow at 1 p.m. against rookie RHP Blake Cooper (4-0,
1.40). The game will be carried live by ESPN.