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Wednesday May 12, 2010No. 4 Baseball Handles Florida Atlantic, 7-3

Gainesville, Fla.

Powered by three home runs and outstanding relief pitching, No. 4 Florida (34-12) dealt Sun Belt Conference leader Florida Atlantic (31-19) a 7-3 setback on Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium. Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) tied the Gators’ single-season record homers by a freshman with his 16th to even the game in the third, senior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) put the hosts in front with a two-run shot in the fifth and freshman Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) provided insurance with a two-run blast in the seventh.

 

Senior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.) (3-0) tossed four scoreless frames to collect the win and the trio of sophomore Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.), sophomore Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) and junior Kevin Chapman (Coral Springs, Fla.) each threw one scoreless inning as Florida improved to 24-3 at home this season.     

 

Commenting on Toledo’s return from an injury sustained on March 14, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan acknowledged, "It was a special moment. The players were excited to get him back out there. As a coach, you get a little choked up. He was chomping at the bit. It was great to see him out there, and obviously he will be a huge part of our success down the stretch."

 

Junior Andy Mee gave the Owls a 3-0 lead with a three-run homer in the first off freshman left-hander Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.), who was making his initial start. Junior Raymond Church reached on a leadoff error by Maddox at third base and sophomore Mike Albaladejo legged out a bunt for two runners aboard. Mee notched his eighth home run by sending the ball over the wall in left center.

 

In the bottom of the inning, the Gators had the bases loaded with none out and managed one run on a sacrifice fly by freshman Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) to narrow the gap to 3-1. Fontana (2-for-3, three runs, two RBI) poked a single up the middle off junior Mike Gipson and den Dekker drew a walk before sophomore Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) loaded the bases with a single into right field. Gipson had Maddox pop out in foul territory before Johnson drove in Fontana with his first career sac fly to left. Gipson had sophomore Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) fly out to strand the runners.

 

Rodriguez gave up four hits and three runs (two earned) with two strikeouts over two innings. After Barfield retired the Owls in order in the top of the third, Maddox tied the game at 3-3 with a two-run, two-out homer into the left-field bleachers. Gipson had recorded the first two outs before issuing a free pass to Tucker. Maddox stepped to the plate and launched his team-leading 16th homer to not only tie the game but match Florida’s single-season record for homers by a freshman set by Jason Dill in 1998.  

 

Sophomore Ryan Garton (6-2) replaced Gipson (4.0 IP, 4 R, 3 R) prior to the home part of the fifth and plunked Fontana to start the frame. den Dekker moved UF in front, 5-3, with his career-high ninth homer that sailed over the right-field fence and struck a car parked along Stadium Road.

 

Barfield fired a season-high four scoreless innings in which he gave up one hit and Toledo entered at the start of the seventh to a standing ovation making his first appearance since March 14 against Charleston Southern. Junior Nick DelGuidice led off with an infield single and redshirt sophomore Joey Burkhalter (2-for-3) deposited a one-out flare into right center for two Owls on base. Freshman catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) picked Burkhalter off first base and Toledo followed with a strikeout of senior Anthony Mesa to end the inning.

 

Fontana provided the Gators with a 7-3 advantage in the bottom of the inning with his second round-tripper of the year, first since Feb. 25 against Siena. Zunino began the stanza with a base-hit into center to raise his hitting streak to 11 games and Fontana blasted a 3-1 pitch from Garton off the top of the scoreboard overlooking right field. Senior Ryan Bernal took over for Garton (2.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R) and allowed one hit over the final two innings with three K.

 

After Larson worked a perfect eighth with two strikeouts, Chapman finished off the Owls with a 1-2-3 ninth inning and had two punchouts to secure the victory. Tied for the league lead with No. 7 South Carolina (37-11/17-7 SEC), the Gators return to conference action this weekend by hosting Eastern Division rival Georgia (14-33/3-19 SEC) in a three-game series starting on Friday at 8 p.m. The opener will be carried live on ESPNU, while games two and three will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Game Notes

·          After trailing 3-0, Florida plated seven-straight runs to register its 11th come-from-behind win of the season.

·          Breakdown of Austin Maddox’s home runs this season: solo (9), 2-run (2), 3-run (4), grand slam (1).

·          Brian Johnson extended his hitting streak to seven games with a third-inning single.

·          Matt den Dekker’s 29 career dingers are the most of any active Gator.

·          UF has belted three homers in three-consecutive games.

 

-UF-

 

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