Friday April 3, 2009No. 19 Baseball Grabs Opener At Vanderbilt, 8-4
No. 19 Florida (19-9/7-3 SEC) extended its Southeastern Conference winning streak to seven games with a come-from-behind 8-4 victory over Vanderbilt (17-12/3-7 SEC) on Friday night at Hawkins Field. With the Gators trailing by a 4-3 score in the seventh, freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (3-for-5, three RBI) smacked a two-out, two-run double off junior Mike Minor (2-3) to seize the advantage in the opener of the weekend series. The Orange and Blue added three more insurance runs and junior Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla.) (3-0) did not allow a hit over 3.1 scoreless innings with a career-high four strikeouts to earn the decision.
The top six batters in the UF lineup contributed multiple-hit outings as Kevin O’Sullivan’s club matched a season high with 18 hits. The Gators also moved into a tie for first place in the Eastern Division with No. 1 Georgia (24-4/7-3 SEC), which lost to No. 2 LSU in Athens, 8-4.
Florida seized a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a two-out RBI single by junior Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.) (2-for-5, two RBI). Junior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2-for-5, two runs) had singled through the right side with one down and moved over to third base when Minor threw sophomore Josh Adams’ (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-5) grounder into center trying to force the runner at second. With runners on the corners, Minor made senior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) (2-for-5, two runs) his fifth strikeout victim. Although Adams moved into scoring position with his third stolen base and Munroe sliced a single to bring in den Dekker with the opening run, Adams was cut down at the plate to end the frame.
Freshman Jason Esposito evened the score with a leadoff homer in the home part of the third off junior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.). His third dinger of the campaign cleared the wall in left field and came on the initial pitch.
Florida had a pair of runners aboard in the fourth with one down following senior Brandon McArthur’s (Seffner, Fla.) (3-for-4) second hit of the game and a double by freshman Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.). Minor kept the game tied by having sophomore Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) pop up to right field and struck out junior Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.).
Sophomore Steven Liddle roped a double to start the bottom of the fourth and raced over to third on a wild pitch by Barfield. The right-hander rebounded to set down sophomore Curt Casali (strikeout), redshirt freshman Aaron Westlake (ground out) and junior Andrew Giobbi (strikeout).
UF plated a pair of runs in the fifth to take a 3-1 advantage, courtesy of an RBI grounder by Munroe and a two-out infield single by Tucker. After den Dekker opened the stanza with a single and Barnes added a base-hit with one down, the Gators executed a double steal to put themselves in business. The move paid off when Munroe’s grounder to third brought in den Dekker and Tucker’s high chopper beyond third base scored Barnes for a two-run lead.
Giobbi roped a two-out triple with the bases loaded off junior reliever Clint Franklin (Orlando, Fla.) in the sixth to give the Commodores a 4-3 lead. Freshman Riley Reynolds singled with one down but was erased at second base on Liddle’s fielder’s choice. With two down, Liddle advanced on a wild pitch and Casali drew a walk to force a pitching change. Franklin replaced Barfield (5.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 4 K) and walked Westlake to fill the sacks. Giobbi cleared the bags with a three-bagger into the right-field corner and freshman Joe Loftus and Esposito earned back-to-back walks to extend the inning further. Davis was summoned for the ineffective Franklin (3 BB, 1 H) and retired sophomore Alex Hilliard on one pitch to hold the deficit at one run.
Florida countered with a two-run, two-out double by Tucker in the seventh to re-claim the advantage. Adams and Barnes collected consecutive singles with one down and were pushed into scoring position on a grounder to first base by Munroe. Tucker cranked an 0-2 pitch to straightaway center field off Minor for his team-leading sixth double to put the Gators ahead by a 5-4 count. Over seven innings, Minor yielded 12 hits and five runs (four earned). The southpaw totaled nine strikeouts and did not permit any walks.
The Gators tacked on two insurance runs in the eighth on den Dekker’s RBI grounder and a clutch two-out single by Adams. Cooper legged out an infield hit against sophomore Taylor Hill and Pisani executed a hit-and-run with a single through the left side for runners on the corners and one down. den Dekker’s ground ball to second base off sophomore Richie Goodenow plated Cooper and a passed ball later nudged Pisani to third. Soon after, Adams stroked a single into left field to provide the visitors with a three-run cushion.
In the ninth, Munroe led off with a single into left center off sophomore Russell Brewer and took third on Tucker’s third hit of the contest. Still with none out, freshman Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) knocked a single up the middle to finalize the 8-4 margin. UF held a commanding 18-5 edge in hits and did not commit any errors en route to ending a three-game losing streak in the Music City.
The Gators and Commodores will meet tomorrow at 4 p.m., live on FSN Florida as the SEC Game of the Week. Freshman LHP Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) (1-1, 3.77) will oppose sophomore RHP Caleb Cotham (3-3, 4.54).