Sunday April 1, 2012No. 16 Ole Miss Takes Series With 7-6 Win Over No. 1 Baseball
With the SEC travel curfew about to go into effect, No. 16 Ole Miss (20-8/5-4 SEC) capitalized on a bases-loaded throwing error in the ninth to edge No. 1 Florida (24-4/6-3 SEC), 7-6, in front of 8,616 fans on Sunday afternoon at Oxford University Stadium/Swayze Field. The series drew a total of 27,991 fans, the second-highest series total in the facility’s history.
It was the first series loss of the year for the Gators and was the club’s first regular-season series setback since dropping two of three at No. 18 Arkansas last May. The Rebels have now taken home series over the top-ranked team three times in the last four years after defeating Georgia (2009), South Carolina (2011) and Florida (2012).
Deadlocked at 6-6 entering the home part of the ninth and with no inning allowed to begin after 3:45 p.m. CT, junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) struck out leadoff batter Matt Snyder (2-for-5, two RBI). Sophomore Will Allen (2-for-5) singled into left field and was replaced by sophomore pinch runner Bobby Wahl, who was the winning pitcher in Friday’s series opener. Sophomore Preston Overbey singled up the middle, moving Wahl to third, and took second on the relay throw. Senior Zack Kirksey was walked intentionally to load the bases, bringing freshman Senquez Golson to the plate. The Gators brought in senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) from right field as an extra infielder and he fielded a grounder by Golson to first base but misfired on the throw home to junior catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.), enabling Wahl to score the winning run.
UF had trailed by a 5-0 margin and had taken a 6-5 lead in the seventh inning on a solo homer by Tucker before the Rebels had tied the game in the bottom of that frame. Junior Brett Huber (1-1) retired all six batters he faced to earn the victory, while Maddox (2-1) took the loss.
Ole Miss had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning against sophomore Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) on an RBI triple by junior Alex Yarbrough (4-for-5, three RBI, two runs) and a run-scoring single by Snyder. Sophomore Austin Anderson (1-for-2, two runs) had a one-out single up the middle and came all the way around to score on Yarbrough’s triple to the right-field wall. Snyder roped Crawford’s next pitch into left field to give the hosts a two-run advantage.
Ole Miss added three more runs in the second on a solo shot by Kirksey and a two-run double by Yarbrough to build a 5-0 margin. Kirksey led off the frame with his team-leading 10th homer to right center. After a two-out single by junior Tanner Mathis, Crawford was taken out during Anderson’s at bat. Junior Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) walked Anderson and then surrendered a bases-clearing double to Yarbrough. Over 1.2 innings, Crawford yielded five hits and five runs.
Kept in check by sophomore Mike Mayers through the first three innings, the Gators exploded for four runs on five hits in the fourth to narrow the gap to 5-4. Senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-5) started the inning with his third homer of the season into the seats in left field for UF’s first run of the afternoon. Tucker (2-for-4, two runs) had a two-out single and freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) followed with a walk before junior Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) (3-for-4, two runs) smoked a base-hit that Snyder corralled at first base but did not have any one to throw to. Heads-up base-running by Tucker on the play resulted in the Gators’ second run. Freshman Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) (2-for-4) delivered a single into left field to bring across Gushue and junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) poked a base-knock through the left side that plated Fontana and prompted a pitching change. Sophomore Aaron Greenwood took over for Mayers (3.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R) and caught junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) looking on strikes to strand the runners.
Pigott began the fifth with a double into left center and advanced to third on a grounder by freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.). Greenwood countered with a strikeout of Zunino before walking Tucker intentionally. With runners on the corners, the righty had Gushue ground out to keep the Rebels ahead.
Fontana tied the game at 5-5 with a leadoff homer to right field in the sixth. It was his fifth round-tripper of the season to equal his career best set last year. Shafer followed with a Texas Leaguer into left field and Dent dragged a one-out bunt single up the third-base line for a pair of Gators aboard. Greenwood jammed Pigott on an infield fly to second base and Turgeon pop up to the catcher to keep the contest tied.
Freshman Auston Bousfield began the home part of the inning with a single up the middle and was sacrificed into scoring position on a bunt by junior pinch hitter Andrew Mistone. Rodriguez had Mathis ground out, leaving Bousfield on second base, and senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) was summoned from the bullpen. Larson had senior pinch hitter Blake Newalu ground out to end the frame. Rodriguez allowed five hits and zero runs over a season-high four innings, with a season-high six strikeouts.
Greenwood (2.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R) struck out Zunino to start the seventh and was replaced by junior Dylan Chavez. Tucker greeted the reliever with a homer to right center field that moved the Gators in front for the first time in the game, 6-5. The blast was the 50th of Tucker’s career, joining Matt LaPorta (74, 2004-07) and Brad Wilkerson (55, 1996-98) in the 50-homer club at Florida. Fontana stroked a two-out single into left center to prompt another pitching change, as freshman Chris Ellis came in for Chavez. Fontana swiped his team-leading seventh stolen base and Ellis struck out Shafer.
Yarbrough began the Rebels’ seventh with a single into left field off Larson and freshman Bobby Poyner (Wellington, Fla.) took over on the mound. The reliever tried to pick Yarbrough off and the errant throw enabled the runner to reach third. Snyder tied the game with a RBI double down the left-field line and Maddox replaced Poyner. The righty had Allen line out to Fontana and Overbey fly out to center field. The Gators walked Kirksey intentionally and Maddox had freshman pinch hitter Sikes Orvis line out to Fontana to preserve the stalemate.
Huber set down the Gators in order in the eighth and Maddox recorded the first two outs in the bottom of the frame before walking Newalu. The righty fanned Yarbrough to keep the game tied entering the ninth. The Gators will conclude their eight-game road trip on Tuesday night at North Florida (17-13/2-7 A-Sun). Action from Harmon Stadium will begin at 6 p.m.