Saturday April 4, 2009Vanderbilt Edges No. 19 Baseball, 4-3
Vanderbilt (18-12/4-7 SEC) evened its weekend series with No. 19 Florida (19-10/7-4 SEC) on Saturday afternoon with a 4-3 triumph in front of a capacity crowd of 3,700 fans at Hawkins Field. The Commodores capitalized on all three Gator errors in the contest and broke a 3-3 tie in the seventh with an RBI fielder’s choice by sophomore Steven Liddle that brought across classmate Alex Hilliard, who had reached on a leadoff miscue.
Sophomore righty Caleb Cotham (4-3) worked eight innings for the victory, allowing four hits and just one earned run, with six strikeouts and five walks. Freshman Sonny Gray retired junior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) on a fly ball to left field with sophomore Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) on second base as the potential tying run in the ninth to collect his fourth save. UF’s seven-game SEC winning streak was halted with the defeat.
The Gators plated an unearned run in the first inning to draw first blood. den Dekker drew a leadoff walk from Cotham, stole second base and took third on a one-out single by senior Avery Barnes (High Springs , Fla.) (2-for-4). Cotham attempted to pick Barnes off first base but the throw went wide, enabling den Dekker to break the ice. Barnes swiped second and sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) walked for two runners aboard, only to have Cotham rebound with consecutive strikeouts of freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) and junior Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.).
In the bottom of the inning, Vanderbilt answered with an unearned run of its own to even the game. Junior Brian Harris was hit by freshman Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) to open the frame and the left-hander had Liddle fly out to center with one down. However, den Dekker lost the ball in the sun and dropped it for two runners on base. Sophomore Curt Casali walked on four pitches to load the bases and junior Andrew Giobbi lofted a sacrifice fly into center to score Harris with the tying run. Maronde caught redshirt freshman Aaron Westlake looking on strikes to end the stanza.
den Dekker took advantage of another Commodore error in the third to move Florida back in front. After a leadoff single through the right side and a stolen base by den Dekker, Barnes’ grounder to shortstop was misplayed by Harris, allowing the go-ahead run to come across.
Hilliard roped a one-out triple to right center field in the fifth to put the hosts in great shape to square the contest. Maronde worked out of trouble by inducing back-to-back infield flies by Harris and freshman Riley Reynolds.
Munroe clubbed his third homer with one down in the sixth for a 3-1 Gator lead. The ball cleared the 375-foot sign in left field and was Munroe’s first big fly since March 21 against Tennessee.
The Commodores scored two runs on two hits and capitalized on Florida’s second error of the day to forge a 3-3 stalemate in the sixth. Liddle started the frame with a single into right field and senior Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) booted Casali’s grounder before Giobbi had a base-hit to load the bases with none out. Westlake delivered an RBI grounder to narrow the gap to 3-2 and prompt a pitching change. Freshman Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) replaced Maronde (5.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER) and had freshman Jason Esposito ground out to second, scoring Casali with the equalizer. DeSclafani kept the game deadlocked by having freshman Joe Loftus pop up.
Another Gator error in the seventh paved the way to a 4-3 lead for Vanderbilt. Hilliard reached on a fielding miscue by Adams and was sacrificed to second by Harris. Reynolds had an infield hit for runners on the corners and one out and Liddle’s fielder’s choice to first base scored Hilliard to snap the tie. Tucker threw home trying to get the runner, leaving the Commodores with two on base. DeSclafani (2-1) had Casali fly out and retired Giobbi on a grounder to hold the deficit at one run.
With Florida down to its last turn at bat, McArthur delivered a one-out single off Gray and pinch runner Cooper stole second base with two down. Senior pinch hitter Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.) battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk and Gray had den Dekker fly out to left to end the game and preserve the victory.
Vanderbilt out-hit the Gators by a 6-5 margin, as six different players chipped in with one apiece. The Gators stole a season-high six stolen bases but stranded seven base-runners. The teams will close the series tomorrow at 2 p.m., live on Cox Sports. Neither club has announced its starting pitcher yet.