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Friday May 4, 2007Mullaney's Pitching and Neer's Offense Lead Baseball Over Alabama, 6-2

Gainesville, FL

Making his second career start, freshman Kyle Mullaney (Jacksonville, Fla.) limited Alabama (26-21/10-12 SEC) to two runs over 7.1 innings as Florida (24-23/11-11 SEC) captured the series opener with a 6-2 win at McKethan Stadium on Friday night. The right-hander (3-1) scattered nine hits and was supported by two home runs and three RBI from sophomore Cody Neer (Orlando, Fla.) (3-for-4). Senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) was walked three times intentionally and flew out to see his hitting streak halted at 20 games.

 

“Kyle (Mullaney) did such a great job tonight,” said head coach Pat McMahon. “He was locating his pitches, and gave us an outstanding performance for the second consecutive Friday. Alabama is a very good offensive club, and you have to be able to pitch through the runs. Kyle made quality pitches in key situations. Cody (Neer) worked with his swing a lot this week. The ballpark played big tonight, and those runs were so important in this win.”   

 

Neer put the Gators on the board with a two-out solo shot in the second off sophomore Tommy Hunter (5-4). The round-tripper cleared the wall in center field and was Neer’s fourth of the year, first since socking a three-run walk-off against No. 4 South Carolina on April 7.

 

Alabama evened the score in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by freshman Jake Smith. Junior Matt Bentley led off with an infield hit off Mullaney and senior Brandon Belcher followed with a hard single to second. A throwing error on the play by sophomore Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) enabled the runners to occupy second and third and Smith’s fifth sac fly allowed Bentley to come across. Sophomore Kyle Moore was hit by a pitch for two runners aboard and Mullaney worked out of the jam by having senior Greg Paiml fly out and senior Emeel Salem force Moore at second with a grounder.

 

Florida answered in the bottom of the frame on Neer’s second homer of the night to take a 3-1 lead. Senior Chris Petrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) opened the frame with a double and Neer cranked the next pitch to left center for his first career multi-HR game.   

 

“It felt good to be able to come up with big hits tonight,” Neer said. “The first homer was a fastball, and the next was a breaking ball. I shortened my swing, and that helped me a lot. I had been missing pitches in the zone, so I had to make sure that I squared up if the pitches were in the zone.”

 

The Gators expanded their margin to 4-1 in the fifth on a RBI grounder by junior Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.). Junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) smoked his first triple into the right-field corner and scored on Barber’s roller to first.

 

UF tacked on two more runs in the sixth to build a 6-1 advantage. Barnes started things off with a double and was moved over by freshman Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.). LaPorta was walked intentionally for the third time and senior Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) plated Barnes with a grounder. Townsend came through with a run-scoring single to right to put the Gators ahead by five runs.  

 

In the eighth, freshman Brandon May led off with a single to right center and freshman Del Howell and Bentley produced back-to-back one-out hits to load the bases and end the night for Mullaney (7.1 IP, 9 H, 2 R). Belcher greeted senior David Hurst (Jacksonville, Fla.) with a sac fly to left to narrow the gap to 6-2 before the southpaw induced an inning-ending flyout to center by Smith.

 

“This win gave me a lot of confidence,” Mullaney said. “I realized that if I threw strikes and let them put it in play, our defense would make the plays behind me. I didn’t strike anyone out or overpower anyone tonight. I was just trying to let them hit the ball just enough so that we could make the outs happen.”

 

Each team had 11 hits, with May a career-best 4-for-4 for the visitors. Hurst threw 1.2 scoreless innings for his sixth save and Hunter gave up 11 hits and six runs before sophomore Casey Kebodeaux retired both batters he faced in the eighth. Junior RHP Bryan Augenstein (Sebastian, Fla.) (4-5, 6.35) will oppose Tide sophomore LHP Miers Quigley (4-4, 3.72) in Saturday’s game two at 4 p.m.    

 

-UF-

 

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