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Thursday May 7, 2009No. 9 Gators Face Stiff Test At No. 3 LSU

Gainesville, Fla.

Two of the Southeastern Conference leaders will collide in Baton Rouge this weekend as No. 9 Florida (34-15) visits No. 3 LSU (36-13). The Gators and Tigers are locked in a three-way tie with No. 7 Ole Miss (36-13) on top of the league standings with 16-8 marks. UF is two games ahead of No. 13 Georgia (33-15) in the Eastern Division. All three games from Alex Box Stadium will be televised live – Friday (8 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.) on Cox Sports and Saturday (8 p.m.) on Sun Sports.

 

Florida’s season-high eight-game hitting streak came to a halt with a 17-5 defeat at the hands of FGCU on Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium. It was the Gators’ first defeat since dropping the finale against No. 16 Ole Miss on April 19, 5-3.

 

Senior left-hander Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) (3-0, 3.69) will start the opener against Tiger sophomore right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (5-3, 3.28). Locke will be making his eighth start of the campaign and the initial appearance of his career versus LSU. He has totaled 32 strikeouts and issued eight walks in 39.0 innings and is 3-0 with a 3.63 ERA in league play.

 

In a matchup of right-handers, freshman Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) (5-1, 3.58) will oppose senior Louis Coleman (9-2, 2.71) on Saturday night. In his last outing, DeSclafani worked 5.2 innings, giving up five hits and five runs, and earned the win as the Gators edged No. 6 Georgia, 7-6. On the season, he leads the Orange and Blue with 40 K in 50.1 innings and has limited opponents to a .220 batting average.

 

LSU sophomore righty Austin Ross (5-5, 4.88) will start Sunday’s finale against a Florida pitcher to be determined.

 

Led by senior left fielder Avery Barnes (High Springs , Fla.), who is riding a 12-game hitting streak and is batting .364 overall with 54 runs, 37 RBI, eight homers, six triples and six doubles, the Gators have a team batting average of .309. Freshman first baseman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) is at .354 and paces the squad in RBI (63), homers (11) and slugging percentage (.608), sophomore second baseman Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) is hitting .343 with 46 runs, 38 RBI, 31 walks and six homers, while senior third baseman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) has a .308 clip with 28 RBI and a team-high 10 doubles. Junior center fielder Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (.304) is 13-of-14 on stolen-base opportunities and classmate Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) is on a six-game hitting streak that has raised his season ledger to .365.

 

Florida’s pitching staff boasts an overall earned run average of 4.00 and is anchored by freshman right-hander Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) (3-1, 1.42 ERA, 22 appearances) and junior righty Billy Bullock (Balm, Fla.) (2-2, 1.43 ERA, 10 saves, 37 K in 37.2 IP). Junior southpaw Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla.) is 5-0 with a 2.96 ERA in 23 appearances spanning 27.1 innings and freshman RHP Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) (4-5, 4.15) has made    

 

Last season, the Gators captured their third-consecutive league series by taking two of three games from LSU over March 28-30. The triumph marked the first time in school history that Florida had defeated the Tigers three series in a row. Cole Figueroa (6-for-12, four runs, three homers, three stolen bases) and den Dekker (5-for-10, three runs, two homers) each batted .500 on the weekend.

 

UF overcame a 4-2 deficit with a six-run seventh inning to take an 8-5 win in the opener. After the Gators had tied the game with four-straight hits off Jared Bradford, Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.) launched a three-run homer to left field to put the hosts on top. UF matched a season high by sending 11 batters to the plate in the seventh and totaled seven hits. Bullock allowed 10 hits and four runs (two earned) over seven innings to collect the win, while Josh Edmondson notched his first save by striking out Leon Landry with a pair of Tigers aboard to end the game. den Dekker was 3-for-4 in the initial meeting with the Tigers.

 

Right-hander Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.) registered a complete game and all nine starters had at least one hit as Florida posted a 7-1 win on Saturday. Jon Townsend and McArthur were each 3-for-4 as part of a 14-hit output for the Orange and Blue.

 

LSU prevented the series sweep with a 6-3 victory on Sunday behind a complete game from Bradford as the squads combined for seven homers. Although Figueroa (3-for-4) had a couple of solo shots for the Gators, righty Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) suffered his first loss by yielding five hits (three homers) over 5.1 innings.

 

During its last visit to Baton Rouge, UF captured the first two games over May 11-13, 2007 to clinch its first-ever series victory at Alex Box Stadium. The Gators batted .355 (43-for-121) and totaled 15 extra-base hits (seven doubles, six homers, two triples).

 

Florida pounded out 21 hits and socked four home runs on its way to a 19-3 conquest of LSU in game one. It was the squad’s first road win over the Tigers since March 14, 1999. Matt LaPorta returned to the lineup after missing three games and went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers and matched his career high with six RBI. Chris Petrie (4-for-5) cranked a first-inning grand slam and drove in a career-high five runs as eight of UF’s nine starters turned in multiple-hit efforts. Right-hander Kyle Mullaney worked a career-high eight innings, permitting three runs on eight hits, to improve to 4-1. The 19 runs were the most the Gators have ever scored against the Tigers and the 16-run margin was their highest in the history between the squads.

 

Bryan Augenstein carried a shutout into the eighth inning as Florida clinched the series victory with an 8-4 defeat of LSU on Saturday. The right-hander registered seven strikeouts, scattered eight hits and did not permit any earned runs over 7.2 innings to collect the win. Brian Leclerc (3-for-5) extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games and matched his season best of four RBI, featuring a towering three-run blast in the seventh. The Gators broke open a scoreless game with three runs in the sixth and had a four-run seventh before the Tigers clawed back with four unearned runs in the eighth.

 

LSU salvaged the finale with a 9-4 victory on Mother’s Day. Trailing 4-3, the Tigers used a three-run fourth and four scoreless innings from reliever T.J. Forrest to seal the win. Although Austin Pride went 3-for-4 with his 11th homer, Leclerc’s hitting streak ended when he went 0-for-5.

 

LSU leads the all-time series between the programs, 48-31-1, and holds a 22-9-1 advantage in Death Valley.

 

Gator Bytes

·          The Gators are 10-8 (.556) away from Gainesville this season after going 7-18 (.280) on the road last year.

·          After claiming one league series on the road in 2008, a 2-1 series win over No. 8 Ole Miss, Florida has doubled its output this year by downing Auburn (2-1) and No. 6 Georgia (3-0).

·          Locke will be making his first career appearance against LSU. Five of the southpaw’s seven starts this year have come in SEC play and he has worked at least five innings in his last five outings.

·          Barnes (.364) boasts a 12-game hitting streak, the longest by a Gator this spring. He went 1-for-5 on Wednesday versus FGCU and is 24-for-54 (.444) with 17 runs and seven RBI in that span.

·          The Gators did not notch an extra-base hit in their last game, ending a streak of 27 consecutive contests with either a double, triple or homer. The last time that happened was in a 3-0 loss at North Florida on March 24.

·          Thirty-two of Tucker’s team-high 63 RBI have come in SEC play and he needs five more to tie Brad Wilkerson’s single-season mark for Gator rookies set in 1996.

·          With LSU scheduled to start three right-handers, juniors Mike Mooney (Loxahatchee, Fla.) (.427, 32-for-75) and Jonathan Pigott (.404, 19-for-47) are the squad’s top hitters against RHP.

·          The Gators are 26-for-81 (.321) with the bases loaded and have belted five grand slams. Tucker (6-for-13) has driven in 17 runs, while McArthur (4-for-9) has totaled 10 RBI.

·          Florida is just 14-for-56 (.250) pinch-hitting, led by junior Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.) (.750, 3-for-4), freshman Daniel Pigott (.400, 4-for-10) and freshman Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) (.294, 5-for-17).

·          Opponents are hitting .167 (11-for-66) against Bullock with runners on base and are 3-for-35 (.086) versus Davis with two outs.

·          DeSclafani has limited right-handed batters to a .207 (24-for-116) clip and foes are 22-for-117 (.188) against him with no one on base.

·          The Gators have not committed multiple errors in four-straight games.

 

-UF-

 

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