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Friday April 2, 2010No. 8 Baseball Edges No. 17 Vanderbilt, 3-2

Gainesville, Fla.

Senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) snapped a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning with a two-run homer as No. 8 Florida (19-6/5-2 SEC) nipped No. 17 Vanderbilt (23-5/4-3 SEC), 3-2, on Friday night in front of 4,093 fans at McKethan Stadium. UF’s victory in the opener of the weekend series halted the Commodores’ eight-game winning streak.

“I knew they were a good club and Sonny Gray was really good tonight,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He dials it up when he needs to. We played really good defense throughout the game and made a good play with runners on first and third in the top of the third inning by playing the run-down correctly with a guy at third that hasn’t played a whole lot of third base. They put the ball on the ground with some bunts and the defense did a nice job. We made plays when we needed to and that was the bottom line. When you face Sonny Gray, that’s what it comes down to, one play here, one pitch there.”

After Gray (4-3) issued a one-out walk to freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) in the seventh, junior Richie Goodenow took over on the hill. Over 6.1 innings, Gray yielded four hits and two runs, with seven K and a career-high five walks. den Dekker (2-for-3, two runs) greeted the reliever with his fifth homer to deep right field to provide the Gators with a 3-1 advantage.

“It was really good to see Matt (den Dekker) come up with that big two-run homer,” O’Sullivan said. “We talked about senior leadership, how they need to step up and be more vocal. I thought the dugout was outstanding tonight and thought the energy was great and the fans had a lot to do with that.”

“I’ve just been trying to work on hitting lefties and staying locked in there, I got a good pitch to hit and took it off the barrel,” den Dekker said. “That first pitch, I kind of hooked it. Then I got locked in a good hitters’ count and got another fastball down the middle. The pitchers were battling, but Alex (Panteliodis) kept it close and gave us a chance to win. That’s how it has to be on a Friday night.”

With the Commodores trailing by a run in the ninth with two down, sophomore Drew Fann poked a pinch-hit single into right field and senior Brian Harris (2-for-5) followed with a base-hit through the right side to move freshman pinch runner Andrew Harris into scoring position with the tying run. However, Gator junior Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) struck out sophomore Riley Reynolds to nail down his fifth save and preserve the win for senior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) (1-0).

Vanderbilt seized a 1-0 lead in the second inning, when freshman Anthony Gomez delivered a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded off sophomore Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.). Senior Andrew Giobbi (3-for-3, two runs) had opened the frame with single up the middle, freshman Connor Harrell ripped a one-out single through the left side and sophomore Joe Loftus walked to load the bases. Gomez lofted a sacrifice fly to straightaway center field to score Giobbi with the initial run before Panteliodis had a grounder by freshman Mike Yastrzemski force Loftus at second base.

The Commodores put their first two runners aboard in the third but came away empty-handed. Brian Harris led off with a double into left center and Reynolds legged out a bunt single for runners on the corners. Although VU attempted a double steal to bring across another run, the Gators were able to tag Harris out in a run-down between third base and home. After Panteliodis struck out sophomore Jason Esposito and issued a walk to Giobbi with two down, the southpaw had sophomore Aaron Westlake ground out.

In the fourth, junior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) was hit by a pitch with one out and freshman Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) followed with his first career hit, a single into left field. Gray rebounded with back-to-back strikeouts of freshman Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) and sophomore Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.).

The Gators evened the game in the fifth on a two-out RBI single up the middle by freshman Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.). After Gray had retired the first two batters, den Dekker sliced a sharp single into right field and sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) earned a free pass. Maddox came through with his team-leading 34th RBI with a base-hit on Gray’s next offering, giving him six-straight multiple-hit outings and a 1-1 score.   

Giobbi began the sixth with a single into left field before Panteliodis had Westlake ground into a 4-6-3 double play that featured a tremendous relay throw from freshman shortstop Fontana. Panteliodis collected his sixth strikeout with a punch-out of Harrell.

In the seventh, Loftus led off with a double to left field and was sacrificed to third on a bunt by Gomez. Barfield replaced Panteliodis, who gave up seven hits and one run over 6.1 innings, with six K and two walks. The right-handed reliever had junior pinch hitter Bryan Johns fly out to center and Harris ground out to keep the contest tied.

Barfield (1.1 IP, 1 R, 1 H) set down the first four hitters he faced before Giobbi roped a two-out double in the eighth. Chapman surrendered a two-bagger to Westlake to narrow the gap to 3-2 before having Harrell ground out to shortstop.

The Commodores held an 11-6 advantage in hits and neither team committed an error. Johnson (2-1, 3.42) will oppose junior right-hander Taylor Hill (3-1, 2.55) tomorrow at 4 p.m., live on Sun Sports. The game can also be seen on DirecTV channel 656 and DISH Network channel 448.
Game Notes
The Gators claimed the series opener between the teams for the third year in a row.
*Florida improved to 16-1 at McKethan Stadium and is 4-0 in SEC play on its own turf.
*Jeff Barfield notched his first victory since March 3, 2009, at Stetson.
*UF is now 5-5 against ranked teams this year.
*Seven of Matt den Dekker’s 25 career home runs have been two-run shots.
*Austin Maddox extended his hitting streak to nine games with a first-inning single. His career high is 10 games between Feb. 24 and March 14.
*Four of Vanderbilt’s 11 hits were doubles.



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