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Tuesday April 1, 2014Florida Atlantic Edges No. 20 Florida Baseball, 5-4, In 11 Innings

Gainesville, Fla.

Redshirt freshman Cain Spangler scored the winning run with two down in the 11th inning as Florida Atlantic (16-12) nipped No. 20 Florida (19-10), 5-4, on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium. The loss ended the Gators’ four-game winning streak and was the Owls’ first triumph over UF since March 4, 2009, ending a stretch of five defeats.

 

Spangler (1-for-3) had a one-out single off of sophomore Aaron Rhodes (Venice, Fla.) (3-2) and moved into scoring position on a base-hit into left center by sophomore Brendon Sanger (2-for-4). After a fielder’s choice by senior Tyler Rocklein left the Owls with runners on the corners and two out, Rocklein broke for second base with junior Ricky Santiago at the plate. Rhodes threw over to first base and, with Rocklein in a rundown, Spangler beat the relay throw home to score the decisive run.

 

The Gators had reached FAU sophomore Brandon Rhodes for three runs on two hits and two walks in the first inning. Junior Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) and sophomore Richie Martin (Brandon, Fla.) drew consecutive walks and sophomore Harrison Bader (Bronxville, N.Y.) (2-for-5) singled into left to load the bases. Junior Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) opened the scoring with his seventh sacrifice fly of the year to center field, junior Braden Mattson (San Antonio, Texas) (3-for-5) followed with an RBI single and junior Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.) delivered an RBI grounder.

 

FAU loaded the bases with one down against redshirt junior Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) in the second inning and narrowed the gap to 3-1 on an RBI grounder by freshman CJ Chatham (2-for-5, two RBI). Over two innings, Whitson gave up three hits and one run, with three strikeouts and one walk.

 

Chatham brought the Owls within 3-2 in the fifth with a leadoff homer to left field off of freshman A.J. Puk (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). It was his third big fly of the campaign.

 

Freshman Shaun Anderson (Coral Springs, Fla.) replaced Puk (3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 6 K) prior to the sixth and retired the first two Owls before surrendering a double into left center by sophomore Billy Endris. Redshirt freshman Esteban Puerta (4-for-5) followed with a game-tying single into right center field for a 3-3 count.

 

Freshman John Sternagel (Rockledge, Fla.) put the Gators back on top, 4-3, with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning. Mattson had a one-out single and Shafer was hit by a pitch before UF executed a double steal for a pair of runners in scoring position. Sternagel lofted a ball to left field for his fourth RBI in the past two games.

 

Sanger knotted the game at 4-4 in the seventh with a two-out RBI double to left field. After freshman Stephen Kerr (2-for-6) doubled to left with one down, sophomore Danny Young (Boca Raton, Fla.) came in for Anderson. A wild pitch moved Kerr to third and Sanger’s two-bagger tied the game and prompted a pitching change. Junior Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.) fanned Rocklein to preserve the stalemate.

 

Chatham led off the ninth with a base-hit through the left side and Kerr singled to left field before a wild pitch advanced both runners. Harris struck out Spangler and walked Sanger intentionally before being replaced by Rhodes. The righty had Rocklein and Santiago each line out to Turgeon to keep the game deadlocked.

 

The Gators put their first two aboard in the ninth, as Sternagel and sophomore pinch hitter Jason Lombardozzi (Chambersburg, Pa.) each singled. A fielder’s choice by freshman Buddy Reed (Finksburg, Md.) forced Sternagel at third, Turgeon’s grounder erased Reed at second base and redshirt senior Kevin Alexander (3-0) had a fielder’s choice by Martin provide the fans with free baseball.

 

Postgame Quotes

Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan

On the pitching of the bullpen:

“I thought they threw the ball well, and that was the plan going into the game. We needed to get some guys some work. In a couple of key situations, we didn’t make some very good two-strike pitches.”

 

On the hitting tonight:

“The bottom line is we scored three (runs) in the first and one run over the next 10 (innings). We threw away a lot of at bats. I didn’t think the team was ready to play; we got them together after the third inning. I warned them after the game on Sunday that it was a heck of a week and we should be proud of what we accomplished, but Tuesday is a different ballgame. Unfortunately, we just didn’t tack on any more runs.”

 

On the play of Florida Atlantic tonight:

“Credit Florida Atlantic, they did a really nice job. Their pitchers threw strikes and they made some really nice plays in the outfield. They deserved the win.”

 

Game Notes

·         Florida fell to 4-2 in extra innings this season and dropped to 15-6 at McKethan Stadium.

·         The Gator pitching staff registered a season-high 19 strikeouts, exceeding 16 vs. UConn on March 8.

·         Junior Braden Mattson tied his season high of three hits.

·         Freshman A.J. Puk’s six strikeouts were one shy of his career best against UConn on March 8.

·         After a career-high three RBI on Sunday against No. 4 LSU, freshman John Sternagel added a sac fly tonight in the sixth inning.

 

Up Next

The Gators will embark on a season-high, eight-game road trip with a series at No. 19 Kentucky (20-9/4-5 SEC) starting on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The entire series can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Jeff Cardozo and Steve Russell.

 

Follow the Gators

Live stats for each game are available on GatorZone.com and fans can also receive updates of each game on @GatorZoneBB, the official Twitter account of the Gator baseball team.

 

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