Saturday March 28, 2009Seven-Run Ninth Carries No. 23 Baseball Over Alabama, 9-8
Florida freshman Daniel Pigott’s (Ormond Beach, Fla.) drag bunt single with two down in the bottom of the ninth scored classmate Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) from third base with the winning run as the No. 23 Gators (17-8/5-3 SEC) capped off a remarkable comeback to post an 9-8 triumph over Alabama (16-9/3-5 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium in front of 3,173 stunned fans. After trailing 7-0 in the seventh and 8-2 entering the final frame, UF sent 11 batters to the plate and scored five runs with two outs to clinch the series victory in dramatic fashion. Florida tallied seven runs on five hits and capitalized on three Tide errors in the decisive stanza.
“I’m proud of the way that our guys kept battling until the end,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Even the freshmen were producing down the stretch. Games like that don’t come around too often. What will be overlooked in tonight’s win is that we didn’t commit an error the entire game. Our defense is much improved from where we were earlier in the year.
“If the bunt works, then we look good and if it doesn’t, then it is a huge coaching mistake. It worked out for us tonight and Coach (Craig) Bell deserves the credit for suggesting it. Coach (Brad) Weitzel played a key role in our lineup adjustments late in the game. What was important is that we also didn’t have any base-running mistakes. We ran intelligently and didn’t do anything that would prevent our comeback. Like our coaching staff always tells our players, ‘It’s not over until the last out.’ We didn’t give up and it shows our team that there is always the chance to come back.”
“When I first saw the sign (for the bunt), I wasn’t expecting it, but it was the perfect call,” Pigott said. “I just put the bunt down and ran as hard as I could. It was really fun and I am proud to be part of a comeback like that.”
With the Gators down to their last three outs against freshman starter Adam Morgan, freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (3-for-5, three RBI) led off with a wind-blown triple to straightaway center field. Freshman pinch hitter Ben McMahan (Windermere, Fla.) drew a one-out walk and junior Matt den Dekker’s (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) fly ball into left field was dropped by freshman Taylor Dugas, scoring Tucker. A walk to junior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) loaded the bases and sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-5) came through with an infield single to close the gap to 8-4. Alabama then replaced Morgan (8.1 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 2 ER) on the mound with sophomore Jimmy Nelson (1-3).
The righty had senior Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.) line out to left field for the second out and the Tide committed its fifth error of the game on senior Avery Barnes’ (High Springs, Fla.) potential game-ending grounder, with den Dekker coming home to reduce the deficit to 8-5. Weitzel had a seeing-eye single through the right side to drive in the elder Pigott and Tucker evened the game with a two-run single up the middle. Tucker took second on a fielding miscue by senior center fielder Alex Kubal on the play and Weitzel occupied third, setting the stage for the younger Pigott. The rookie executed a bunt up the third-base line on a 1-1 offering to bring home Weitzel and trigger a massive celebration from the Gators who came piling out of the dugout.
Alabama erupted for three hits and four runs off freshman Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) in the third to begin the scoring, as sophomore Josh Rutledge (3-for-5, three RBI) roped a two-run single and sophomore Ross Wilson clubbed a two-run shot. Junior Cody Trotter was hit by a pitch to open the inning and raced over to third base on a one-out double by Dugas that extended the rookie’s hitting streak to 15 games. Rutledge drove in both of his teammates with a single into left field and Wilson followed with his fifth dinger into the left-field bleachers.
The Tide tacked on another run in the fourth courtesy of a suicide squeeze by Kubal that brought in junior Jake Smith. Smith had led off with an infield hit and junior Clay Jones executed a hit-and-run to give the Crimson Tide runners on the corners with none out. With Smith on his way home with one down, Kubal placed a bunt up the first-base line for a 5-0 margin.
Back-to-back two-out RBI singles by junior Brandon May and Smith in the fifth resulted in a 7-0 lead for the visitors. Rutledge started the frame with a base-hit into left and moved over on senior Kent Matthes’ grounder. May poked Maronde’s next pitch into left field to score Rutledge and prompt a pitching change. The southpaw allowed seven hits and seven runs, with a career-high seven strikeouts, over 4.2 innings. May advanced to second on balk by freshman Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) and Smith delivered a single that plated UA’s seventh run.
Tucker put the Gators on the board in the seventh with an RBI single up the middle. Barnes opened the stanza with a walk and senior Brandon McArthur’s (Seffner, Fla.) grounder was misplayed by Rutledge for two men aboard. Soon after, Tucker drove in Barnes with his fourth hit of the series for a 7-1 count.
An Alabama fielding error by Smith in the eighth resulted in a 7-2 score. Jonathan Pigott began the inning with a single and advanced on a one-out single by junior Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla.). Barnes’ grounder eluded Smith to bring across Pigott but then McArthur lined into an inning-ending double play.
The Crimson Tide countered with a run in the ninth to build an 8-2 lead. Kubal doubled down the left-field line and took third on a wild pitch. After Dugas walked, Rutledge sliced a single into left field that ended the day for Panteliodis. The southpaw was effective over 3.1 innings, scattering five hits and allowing just one run, with three strikeouts. Wilson welcomed freshman Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) with a sac bunt for two runners in scoring position and the righty retired Matthes and May to give Florida momentum entering the home part of the ninth. Larson wound up earning the decision to improve to 2-1.
Each team totaled 12 hits, while Alabama committed six errors and the Gators were perfect in the field for the second-straight day. Gator senior right-hander Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.) (2-3, 4.68) will face Alabama junior lefty Del Howell (2-0, 0.00) in tomorrow’s series finale at 1 p.m.