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Wednesday March 26, 2008Jacksonville Knocks Off No. 18 Baseball, 8-5

Jacksonville, FL -

Jacksonville (14-8) snapped a 5-5 tie with a three-run seventh to upend No. 18 Florida (18-5) on Wednesday night at John Sessions Stadium. The Dolphins scored the go-ahead run on a balk by sophomore Kyle Mullaney (Jacksonville, Fla.) (0-2) and added two insurance runs courtesy of a wild pitch from the right-hander and a sacrifice fly. The Gators’ three-game winning streak came to an end in part due to 13 runners left on base, three wild pitches and a pair of balks and errors. JU trailed 5-2 in the fourth and emerged victorious with six unanswered runs to split the mid-week series after falling on Tuesday, 11-6.  

 

In the seventh, sophomore Chuck Opachich led off with a flare into right and moved over when Mullaney was charged with a balk. The hurler had a throwing error on freshman Jamaal Hawkins’ bunt, leaving runners on the corners, and then balked again to give the Dolphins a 6-5 lead. Senior Kevin Ferreira extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single through the left side and stole second before a wild pitch by Mullaney allowed Hawkins to come across with the seventh run. Senior Dustin Bamberg (Winter Haven, Fla.) replaced Mullaney (0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R) and yielded a sac fly to junior Jeremy Gillan for an 8-5 score. Bamberg worked a career-high 1.2 innings and collected four strikeouts. 

 

The Gators had used a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Bamberg to take a 1-0 lead in the first. Sophomore Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.) was hit by a pitch with one down and sophomore Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) walked before junior Garrett Dunlap committed a balk to advance the runners. Freshman Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) was walked intentionally to load the bases and Bamberg lofted his first sacrifice fly to straightaway center to begin the scoring. After Adams stole his sixth bag to give UF runners on second and third, Dunlap had senior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) pop up.

 

Moments later, Jacksonville answered with a two-run homer with two down by junior Thomas Myers off junior Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) to seize a 2-1 lead. The southpaw retired the first two batters before Gillan sliced a single into shallow center field. Myers cranked Locke’s next offering over the wall in left for his team-leading fifth dinger. The Dolphins put their next two runners on, as freshman Glen Johnson walked and senior Matt Lopez singled. Following a wild pitch, junior Brad Simmons was plunked to load the bases. Pisani made a running grab of Opachich’s ball to right to strand the runners and keep UF down by a run.

 

Florida regained the lead in the third on a two-out, two-run single by Townsend. Pisani opened the stanza with a double down the left-field line and Adams earned a one-out free pass before Hawkins made a diving stop at short on Bamberg’s grounder to force Adams at second. Bamberg stole his first career base to give the Gators two runners in scoring position and Townsend (3-for-5) brought them both across with a base-knock up the middle.

 

The visitors tacked on two more runs to build a 5-2 lead in the fourth. Sophomore Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla.) led off with a single and Dunlap uncorked two-straight wild pitches to advance Tignor to third. Sophomore Glenn Witkowski entered the game with a 2-0 count and issued a free pass to junior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.). Barnes notched his team-best 13th theft and Pisani walked to fill the bases before Witkowski’s wild pitch scored Tignor. Figueroa then collected his 29th RBI with his fifth sac fly of the campaign into left field.

 

The Dolphins capitalized on junior J.K. LaCoste’s (Jacksonville, Fla.) control issues to pull within 5-4 in the fourth. LaCoste took over for Locke (3.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R) and walked Opachich before Hawkins punched a base-hit into center. A sacrifice bunt by Ferreira pushed the runners to second and third and LaCoste’s second walk of the inning to junior Kevin Fleming loaded the bases. A wild pitch from the lefty enabled Opachich to score and Hawkins delivered an RBI groundout to narrow the gap to one run. Senior Josh Edmondson (LaGrange, Ga.) came in from the bullpen and had Myers ground out to third to preserve UF’s lead.

 

JU made a strong bid to move in front during the bottom of the fifth by loading the bases with one down. However, Edmondson had Hawkins ground into an inning-ending double play. Johnson and Lopez began the frame with back-to-back singles and Simmons executed a sac bunt to advance his teammates. After Edmondson walked Opachich to fill the bases, the righty induced a grounder by Hawkins to Townsend. The third baseman stepped on the bag to force Lopez and then fired a strike across the diamond to senior Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) to retire the side.  

 

The Dolphins used a bases-loaded walk with two down in the sixth to forge a 5-5 tie. Consecutive one-out singles by Fleming and Gillan put the hosts in business. Edmondson rebounded with a strikeout of Myers and was replaced by sophomore Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla.). Johnson reached on catcher’s interference by Tignor to fill the bags and O’Sullivan brought Mullaney to the mound. The righty walked Lopez to even the score at 5-5 and then fanned Simmons to strand the trio of runners.

 

Townsend began the seventh with his second two-bagger of the year, ending the evening for Witkowski (3.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 K). McArthur greeted senior Matt Davis (1-1) with a bunt but Townsend was caught in no-man’s land and was thrown out trying to reach third. Sophomore Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) earned a walk for two men aboard but was erased on Tignor’s grounder. The reliever whiffed Barnes, bringing UF’s total to 11 runners stranded at that point.

 

Davis threw one scoreless inning to register his first win, while junior Tim Brown held UF off the board over two frames and tallied three K for his initial save. Jacksonville held an 11-8 edge in hits, led by two each from Gillan, Lopez and Opachich. Townsend (3-for-5) and den Dekker (2-for-4) paced Florida, while Barnes’ career-high 14-game hitting streak ended with a 0-for-3 performance.

 

The Gators return to SEC action on Friday at 6:30 p.m., when LSU (15-7/2-4 SEC) visits for the opener of three-game series at McKethan Stadium. Sophomore right-hander Billy Bullock (Balm, Fla.) (2-2, 3.23) will oppose Tiger junior left-hander Blake Martin (1-1, 4.10) in the first matchup.

 

-UF-

 

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