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Friday March 23, 2001Birch Leads Baseball to 7-4 Win Against Arkansas

Gainesville, FL

Reliever Kenny Birch pitched 8.2 scoreless relief innings and Florida rallied from a 4-3 deficit with four runs in the fifth inning to defeat Arkansas 7-4 Friday at McKethan Stadium.

The win improves Florida to 14-13 overall and 1-6 in the SEC while Arkansas drops to 14-13 overall and 2-5 in the SEC.

Birch entered the game in the first inning with one out and the bases loaded and ended the rally when Wes McCrotty grounded into a double play. From the point, he pitched the rest of the way, going 8.2 innings and allowing no runs. He struck out four of his 32 batters faced.

The outing tied the teamís longest outing of the season for a Florida pitcher (Joey Simon went 8.2 innings vs. Florida State) and was a career-high innings pitched for Birch. Birch relieved starter Keith Brice who threw the first 1/3 inning.

The Gators went up for good with four runs in the bottom of the fifth. Aaron Davidson led off with a single to leftfield, Matt Goss walked. Davidson and Goss advanced on a double steal and Pat Osborn drove both home on single to centerfield. Kevin Estrada reached on a throwing error and Brian Rose followed with a two-RBI single to leftfield. All runs were scored with two outs.

Arkansas grabbed a 4-0 lead in the first inning Michael Connorís RBI single to leftfield and a three-run home run from Brian Kirby.

Florida rallied to within 4-3 on a run in the first when Mark Kiger tripled and Matt Siegel drove him in on a RBI single and two runs in the third on a Siegelís solo home run and an errant throw that scored Aaron Davidson from third base.

Arkansas reliever Josh Merryman (2-2) took the loss after throwing 3.0 innings and allowing five hits and four runs (three earned). He walked two and struck out two batters. Starter Layne Berry pitched the first 2.0 innings and allowed five hits, three runs (two ER) and two walks.

Mark Kiger extended his hit streak to 16 games while Kevin Estrada extended his to 10 games. The game was Floridaís fifth come-from-behind victory of the season and marked the Gatorsí first SEC victory.

Florida and Arkansas play game two of the three game series tomorrow at 7 p.m. at McKethan Stadium. Game three will be Sunday at noon.

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