Senior pinch hitter Chris Petrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) snapped a 4-4 tie with a bases-loaded single in
the bottom of the ninth to help Florida
(23-20/10-8 SEC) edge Kentucky
(27-12-1/7-10-1 SEC), 5-4, in front of 3,004 fans on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The Wildcats had rallied with two runs in
the top of the frame and the SEC’s travel curfew
meant that the contest would be ending after the completion of the inning.
“I was really appreciative of the wonderful crowd
that came out with the early start today,” said head coach Pat McMahon. “The home field advantage is really important. Kentucky does as fine of
a job as I’ve seen controlling the running game. So many of our guys did a
great job at the plate for us, like Jon (Townsend), who has been an outstanding
hitter in clutch situations and came up big in the ninth. Brian (Leclerc) has been in the program for four years. He has
really worked through the slump he had, and I am proud of that. At the mound,
Billy (Bullock) is emerging and got us through five-plus here today. He pitched
to both sides of the plate and saw a lot of left-handed batters.”
Townsend (London, Ky.)
opened the decisive stanza with a single off Kentucky
senior Dewayne Oxford (3-1) and was replaced by sophomore pinch runner Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.).
Sophomore Jared Kubin
poked a one-out single to advance Barnes and sophomore pinch hitter Cody Neer (Orlando, Fla.)
legged out an infield hit to load the bases. Petrie then sliced a 1-1 pitch
into right center to give the Gators the series victory. It was his lone at bat
of the series.
knotted the game at 4-4 with four hits in the top of the ninth off sophomore Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.). Senior Mike Brown launched a
leadoff double and scored on freshman Keenan Wiley’s bouncer up the middle to
trim the deficit to 4-3. A passed ball moved Wiley to second and a fly ball to
deep center by junior Sawyer Carroll nudged his teammate to third. Keating
punched out senior Sean Coughlin for out number two and junior Brian Spear
knotted the game at 4-4 with a clutch single into center on a full count.
Keating worked 2.1 innings, giving up five hits and one earned run, to improve
to 3-1 on the year.
A sparkling defensive play enabled the Gators to keep
the Wildcats off the board in the first inning. After Wiley beat out a bunt
with one down, Carroll poked a double to right off freshman Billy Bullock (Valrico, Fla.). Senior right fielder Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.)
threw to freshman second baseman Clayton
Pisani (Naples, Fla.), who fired a perfect strike to freshman catcher
Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla.)
to nail Wiley at the dish.
out of the gates with four consecutive hits off junior Greg Dombrowski
but managed just one run. Freshman Cole
Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.),
senior Matt LaPorta
(Port Charlotte, Fla.) and Leclerc
opened with three-straight singles to load the bases. LaPorta’s
shot up the middle boosted his hitting streak to 19 games. After Townsend stroked
an RBI single, Dombrowski induced ground balls from Pisani and freshman Jake
Hicks (Molino, Fla.), the latter of which was converted
into a 6-4-3 double play.
“Everyone in this dugout knew how big that win was
for us,” Leclerc said. “Being 10-8 in the SEC is
different than 9-8 with a tie. It is the difference between us being in the
middle of the pack or near the top. We did our part here today.”
Although the Gators expanded their advantage to 2-0
in the third, they left the bases full. Figueroa started the frame with a base-hit
and Leclerc was hit by a pitch with one down before
Townsend collected his second RBI of the day by stroking a single to left. Pisani’s single loaded the sacks and ended Dombrowski’s (2.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R) tenure. Freshman Duran
Ferguson struck out Hicks and freshman Matt
den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale,
Fla.) to strand the trio of
Pisani delivered a double in
the fifth to provide UF with a three-run lead. Leclerc
had a leadoff double to right and advanced to third on Townsend’s grounder
before Pisani connected on his fifth two-bagger.
Junior Brock Baber replaced Ferguson (2.0 IP, 2
H, 1 R, 3 K) and junior Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.)
drew a pinch-hit walk for two runners aboard. The reliever answered with a
strikeout of den Dekker and uncorked a wild pitch to put two Gators in scoring
position. Baber bounced back to have freshman Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) ground out to third.
The Wildcats mounted a rally in the sixth to pull
within 3-1 and left the bases loaded. Brown roped his 13th double to begin the
frame, prompting a pitching change. Bullock scattered five hits over five
innings, notched one strikeout and was charged with one run. Freshman Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.)
yielded a sacrifice bunt to Wiley that pushed Brown to third and Carroll had an
infield hit to put the Wildcats on the scoreboard. Coughlin and Spear had
back-to-back walks to load the bases and bring in freshman Kyle Mullaney (Jacksonville, Fla.)
for Chapman. The righty caught freshman Anthony Ottrando looking on strikes and had sophomore Ryan Wilkes
fly out to den Dekker in center to preserve the two-run lead.
the gap to 3-2 in the seventh on a bases-loaded walk before Keating had Spear
ground out to bring Kentucky’s
total to nine left on base. Mullaney retired the
first two batters before issuing a walk to Brown and a single to Wiley. Senior Steven Porter (Ocoee, Fla.) was summoned from the bullpen,
walked Carroll to load the bases and walked Coughlin to bring in a run. Keating
came in and put out the fire on a grounder to Pisani.
The Gators’ bid for insurance in the bottom of the
stanza fell by the wayside when freshman James Paxton had Kubin
ground into a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play. Leclerc
started things off with a double and a throwing error by Wilkes on Pisani’s grounder left Florida with runners on the corners and one
down. Paxton came out the bullpen for Baber (2.0 IP, 1 H) and came through with
a critical double play grounder to keep the Wildcats down a run.
In the eighth, freshman Brock Wright opened with a
pinch-hit single and was erased at second when Wilkes’ sacrifice attempt was
fielded cleanly by Townsend and thrown to Figueroa covering the bag. Wilkes
moved to second on a throwing error by Keating with one down to advance the
tying run into scoring position. The right-hander had Kipnis
pop out to Townsend and whiffed junior Antone DeJesus to end the inning.
With the time limit for the game approaching,
senior Austin Pride (Longwood,
Fla.) ripped a two-out RBI single for a 4-2
Tignor and Figueroa connected on back-to-back singles
with two down and Pride’s base-knock into right gave the hosts a two-run
retired Leclerc at 2:12 to continue the game, as no
new inning could start after 2:15 p.m.
17-12, and the squads combined to strand 23 runners. Figueroa (3-for-5, two
runs), Leclerc (3-for-4) and Townsend (3-for-5, two
RBI) each had three hits for the Gators. Wiley went 3-for-4 and Brown was
2-for-4 with three runs for the Wildcats. The Gators return to action on Friday
night in the opener of a three-game series in Nashville against No. 1 Vanderbilt. First
pitch from Charles Hawkins Field will be at 8 p.m.