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Tuesday May 11, 1999Central Florida Defeats Florida, 8-7

Gainesville, FL

Florida’s defense committed costly errors down the stretch, and its wary arms could not hold a four-run lead through six in falling to Central Florida 8-7 at McKethan Stadium before a crowd of 1,630.

The Gators (31-22) took a 7-3 lead into the seventh with reliever Sergio Rodriguez in control on the mound. Rodriguez retired two batters after allowing a double to UCF’s Matt Meath and a single to Mark Batia. Jeff Cardozo relieved with one runner in and a runner on first but failed to retire either of two batters he faced.

Ben Grezlovski (9-6) came in with runners on first and third, two outs, and Florida up 7-5. Pinch-hitter Keith Walsh greeted Grezlovski with a RBI single to left field. The Gators appeared poised to hang onto their slim lead, though, as leftfielder Jason Dill nailed Bill Oakley at the plate to end the seventh and keep Florida ahead 7-6.

Florida’s bats cooled after the sixth inning when UCF’s Jason Arnold (7-4) entered and pitched four hitless innings to keep the Golden Knights (34-19) in the game. Kurt Keene led Florida’s early offense with four hits, tying a season high. Greg Catalanotte added his 17th home run of the season and had four RBI.

Grezlovski was unable to hold the one-run cushion in the eighth. He walked Brent Spooner with one out. Meath then grounded to second baseman Taylor Wood. He flipped to Josh Canales to force Spooner at second, but Canales could not handle the throw. After retiring the next batter, Grezlovski gave up a two-run double to Matt Bowser to put UCF in front 8-7.

Matt Goss led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk. The Gators rally attempt was silenced when pinch-hitter Mark Ellis, not in the lineup because a sore hamstring, popped up a sacrifice attempt for the first out. Pinch-hitters Matt Heath and Tony Socarras struck out to end the game.

Florida hosts No. 12 Alabama this weekend in the final SEC series of the season. The Gators are in second place in the SEC East at 13-14, one game behind South Carolina and one game ahead of Kentucky. Florida currently holds the eighth and final SEC Tournament spot. Alabama will enter the weekend at 18-9 in SEC play, second in the Western Division.

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