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Sunday May 10, 2009No. 9 Baseball Salvages Finale At No. 3 LSU, 9-3

Baton Rouge, La.

Florida freshman left-hander Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) (3-1) totaled a career-high eight strikeouts over five strong innings and the Gator offense banged out 15 hits to upend No. 3 LSU (38-14/18-9 SEC), 9-3, on Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium. After dropping the first two contests of the series, No. 9 UF (35-17/17-10 SEC) ended a three-game slide to move within a game of the Tigers for first place in the Southeastern Conference with one series remaining. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s squad will host Kentucky (26-24/11-16 SEC) starting on Thursday to wrap up the regular season.

 

After each being held hitless during the first two games in Baton Rouge, the duo of freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (4-for-5, three runs) and junior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (3-for-3, three runs, three RBI) played key roles in the win for the Orange and Blue. Junior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) also went 2-for-5 and drove in three runs.

 

Florida exploded for three runs on four hits in the third against sophomore Austin Ross (5-6) to take its first lead of the series. Senior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) opened the inning with an infield hit to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games but was erased at second base on a fielder’s choice by junior Mike Mooney (Loxahatchee, Fla.). Tucker had a ground-rule double just inside the left-field line for runners on second and third and den Dekker was walked intentionally with two outs to load the bags. Senior Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) (2-for-3, two RBI) had an infield single to score Mooney with the initial run and Jonathan Pigott sliced a two-run single through the left side of the infield for a 3-0 advantage.

 

Junior Ryan Schimpf began the fourth with his 16th homer to straightaway center field close the gap to 3-1. It was the first hit of the game allowed by Maronde. The left-hander responded by striking out the next three hitters, junior Blake Dean, sophomore DJ LeMahieu and freshman Tyler Hanover, to match his career-high of seven K set against Alabama on March 28.

 

UF answered in the fifth with a two-out double by McArthur on a hit-and-run to score den Dekker all the way from first base to take a 4-1 lead. After Ross had set down the first two batters of the inning, den Dekker singled into right field. With den Dekker running, McArthur angled a two-bagger into the gap in left center to re-claim a three-run edge and end the afternoon for Ross. Over 4.2 innings, he gave up eight hits and four runs, with five strikeouts and a walk.

 

In the home part of the inning, senior Derek Helenihi punched a one-out single into shallow right field and moved to second on a balk by Maronde. Sophomore Micah Gibbs dropped in a Texas Leaguer just out of Mooney’s reach for runners on the corners and a sacrifice fly to center field by freshman Austin Nola narrowed the gap to 4-2. Maronde went five full innings in his first start since April 4 at Vanderbilt and limited the high-powered Tigers to three hits and a pair of walks.

 

Junior Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla.) issued a leadoff walk to Schimpf in the sixth and rebounded with a strikeout of Dean before being replaced by senior Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.). Junior catcher Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.) threw out Schimpf attempting to steal second and that play became even more significant when LeMahieu rifled a double down the right-field line. A wild pitch advanced the runner to third and Keating kept him there by catching Hanover looking on strikes.

 

UF expanded the lead to 7-2 on a two-run single up the middle by den Dekker and an RBI bunt single by Jonathan Pigott in the seventh. Mooney and Tucker welcomed sophomore reliever Chad Jones with back-to-back singles before being sacrificed into scoring position by Adams. den Dekker stepped to the dish and ripped a base-knock through the drawn-in infield to give the Gators a four-run bulge and prompt another pitching change. With senior Nolan Cain on the mound for Jones, den Dekker stole second base and took third on a throwing error by Gibbs. After a free pass to McArthur, Jonathan Pigott laid down a perfect bunt in between first and second to bring across den Dekker with the seventh run. Pigott and freshman pinch runner Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) executed a double steal for a pair of runners in scoring position, but Cain worked out of further trouble by having freshman Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach , Fla.) fly out to left field and Munroe ground out to third.

 

The Tigers pulled to within 7-3 in the home part of the frame on an RBI fielder’s choice by Nola. Sophomore Leon Landry roped a pinch-hit single into center field with one down, advanced to second a passed ball and went to third on a base-hit by Gibbs. A grounder by Nola forced Gibbs at second base, enabling Landry to score, and Tucker closed the inning by spearing a liner by freshman Mikie Mahtook that seemed ticketed for extra bases.

 

Florida moved in front, 9-3, in the eighth on an RBI double by Tucker and a safety squeeze by den Dekker. Barnes led off the inning against senior Buzzy Haydel with a double to left and went to third on a sac bunt by Mooney. Tucker matched his career high of four hits with a double over Landry’s head in center to bring in Barnes. Senior Ryan Byrd came in for Haydel and den Dekker dragged a picture-perfect bunt up the first-base line and beat it out for a hit to drive in Tucker for the six-run margin.

 

Freshman Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) replaced Keating (1.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER) and threw a scoreless eighth before junior Billy Bullock (Balm, Fla.) kept the Tigers off the board in the ninth to secure the win. Florida out-hit the hosts, 15-8, had four doubles and three stolen bases.

 

The Gators will host in-state rival Jacksonville on Tuesday in their final non-conference contest of the regular season. First pitch from McKethan Stadium will be at 6:35 p.m. UF will wrap up the SEC slate by hosting Kentucky for three games starting on Thursday.

 

-UF-

 

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