Friday March 20, 2009den Dekker's Homer Carries No. 25 Baseball Over UT, 3-2
Junior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) clubbed a two-run homer with two out in the eighth inning to lift No. 25 Florida (12-7/1-3 SEC) to a 3-2 victory over Tennessee (9-10/1-3 SEC) in the opener of the weekend series between the Eastern Division rivals at McKethan Stadium on Friday night. With the Gators down to their final four outs against Vol junior left-hander Nick Hernandez (1-2), den Dekker cranked a 1-0 pitch deep over the right-field fence for his team-leading third dinger of the year.
Junior Billy Bullock (Balm, Fla.) kept UT off the scoreboard in the ninth to collect his third save and classmate Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla.) (2-0) threw 1.1 scoreless innings to earn Florida’s first league win. Making his first SEC start, junior righty Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) worked a season-high 6.2 innings and totaled nine strikeouts, the most by any UF pitcher this season.
“Today was a great matchup between two talented starters,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We came out and played aggressively. It was a very quick game being just a shade over two hours and came down to one big play, a big swing of the bat by Matt (den Dekker). Hopefully, this win gives us a jump start and we can build on it.
“We’ve been talking to Matt about how to become more of a vocal leader. It’s not just about being a leader on the field, but also being vocal out there as well. Matt stepped up tonight and got the big hit, we’re proud of him.
“This was a big win for us, we needed to have it in a big way. When you start losing, everything starts piling up. Errors are strikeouts are magnified and wins like tonight’s help loosen a team up. We’ve got another big game against them tomorrow and we’ll come ready to play.”
In the home part of the eighth, senior Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.) picked an opportune time for his first hit of the campaign with a leadoff single into left center. Freshman pinch hitter Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance junior pinch runner Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach , Fla.) into scoring position. Hernandez had junior Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.) tap back to the mound and then den Dekker stepped to the plate and launched the four-bagger to right field to give the Gators the advantage.
“It was just such a great feeling,” den Dekker said. “We were trailing and to get a hit like that, it was one of my top moments and had me really pumped. I slowed a bit after I hit it because I knew it was gone and it was just such a great feeling.
“Tennessee is a great team and (Nick) Hernandez is a great pitcher. He changed speeds all night and made it hard to hit. Fortunately, we took care of business and got our first SEC win. Jeff (Barfield) pitched a great game and kept us in it. This was a positive way to get a win over a great team to begin the series.”
Sophomore Cody Hawn (2-for-4) put the Vols on the board with a solo shot in the first inning off Barfield. Hawn’s eighth round-tripper of the year came with two down and was just above a leap from sophomore Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) at the right-field fence.
Tennessee had its first two runners aboard in the fourth but came away empty-handed. Hawn opened the frame with a single through the left side and sophomore Blake Forsythe (2-for-4) reached on a fielding error by senior third baseman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.). Barfield rebounded to have junior Jeff Lockwood fly out and notched back-to-back strikeouts of junior Tyler Horne and freshman Charley Thurber to keep UF’s deficit at a run.
The Vols used a two-out single by Lockwood in the sixth to build a 2-0 lead. Sophomore Kentrail Davis led off with a base-hit up the middle and moved to second on a wild pitch before Hawn hit into a double play. Freshman first baseman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) snared the line drive and tossed over to sophomore shortstop Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) covering second base. Forsythe followed with his second triple and Lockwood brought him in with a single to center field. Barfield made Horne his eighth strikeout victim to end the inning.
In the bottom of the stanza, Adams cut the deficit in half with a two-out RBI single. Pisani doubled with one down when center fielder Davis lost the ball in the lights. After Hernandez had den Dekker ground out, Adams collected his second hit of the night with a bloop single just past freshman shortstop Zach Osborne to narrow the gap to 2-1.
Grisham reached on a one-out fielding error by McArthur in the seventh and Osborne legged out a bunt for a pair of runners aboard. Barfield fanned sophomore Josh Liles for his ninth strikeout and was replaced by Davis. Over 6.2 innings, Barfield scattered eight hits and permitted two runs. Davis had UT’s Davis fly out to deep center field to strand the runners.
Tennessee held a 10-7 advantage in hits, led by two apiece from Forsythe, Hawn and Liles. Hernandez allowed seven hits and three runs over eight innings, with four strikeouts and no walks. Game two of the series will be tomorrow at 4 p.m. and feature UF freshman LHP Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) (1-1, 2.14) against Vol junior righty Stephen McCray (3-0, 2.84).