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Friday March 24, 2000Baseball Takes Opener 8-7 Over Arkansas

Fayetteville, Ark.

A passed ball with the bases loaded allowed the go-ahead run to score as Florida took the 11-inning victory 8-7 over Arkansas in the Southeastern Conference series opener at Baum Stadium. Florida (16-13, 3-4 in SEC play) won its second consecutive conference game, while Arkansas dropped to 15- 13, 2-5.

The Gators loaded the bases on two singles by Jason Dill and Pete Nystrom with a walk to pinch hitter Ryan Shealy in the top of the 11th inning. The second pitch from reliever Wes McCrotty to Tony Socarras bounced off the mitt of catcher Greg Blum to plate the go-ahead run.

Reliever Kenny Birch pitched the final four innings, allowing just one run on four hits. He struck out the final batter with two runners in scoring position in the 11th to secure the Florida victory.

Left fielder Matt Siegel helped Florida force extra innings with a perfect throw to the plate from left field to get Jeff Fletcher in an attempt to score from second, ending the bottom of the ninth inning with the game tied at 7. Arkansas had tied the game earlier in the inning on a run- scoring double by Jeff Kessler that scored Jack Welsh, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning.

The game featured several ties and lead changes.

Tim Olson, who went 2-for-3 with four RBI on the night, doubled with the bases loaded in the seventh inning to tie the game at six. Arkansas reliever Brad Bohannan then threw his second pitch to Socarras to the backstop to plate Pete Nystrom.

Arkansas had taken a 6-4 lead with two runs in the sixth inning. Arkansasí Jack Welsh doubled home a run to give the Hogs a 5-4 lead. Welsh later scored on a wild pitch after advancing to third on a fielderís choice for a 6-4 Razorback lead.

Birch entered the game with no outs in the eighth with the potential game- tying run on base via a walk from Smalley. After a stolen base put the run in scoring position, Birch got pinch hitter Travis McDaniel on a ground out to second base, advancing the runner to third base. Pinch hitter Scott Crossett then struck out and Brad Hagadorn flew out to end the threat.

Florida had jumped out to a four-run lead in the top of the first off Arkansas starter Cliff Lee, highlighted by a two-run home run by Olson. Mark Kiger, who led off the game with a double, advanced to third base on a fielderís choice by Kurt Keene and scored when the throw on the relay to first got away. Dill knocked Keene in with a single, followed by Olsonís two-run home run for the 4-0 advantage.

Arkansas pecked away at the lead and eventually tied the game off Smalley, scoring a single run in the second, two in the third and one in the fifth inning to knot the game at 4.

The two teams play the second game of the series Saturday at 3 p.m. The game can be heard on WGGG 1230 AM starting at 2:50 in Gainesville.

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