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Sophomore Jonathan Tucker had a two run double for Florida in the 4-3 loss.

Friday May 30, 2003Baseball Drops One Run Game to Open NCAA Regional

Gainesville, FL

Sophomore Jonathan Tucker had a two run double for Florida in the 4-3 loss.

The University of Florida baseball team (34-20-1) opened their 21st NCAA Regional with a tough one run loss 4-3 to 14th ranked and second seeded Florida Atlantic (47-14) Friday in Coral Gables, Fla. The Gators left eight runners on base and could not push across the tying run late in the game.

FAU closer Chris Pillsbury came into the game in the ninth with the Owls clinging to a one run advantage. Pillsbury quickly retired the first two batters in the ninth, but a Justin Tordi single and a Brett Dowdy single put runners at the corners. Pillsbury then coaxed Jonathan Tucker into a hard groundout to shortstop to end the game.

Dowdy would finish the game going 3-for-5 with a run scored as Florida had nine hits in the ballgame. Mario Garza had a pair of hits including a double while Tucker drove in two on a double off the right field wall.

"This was an outstanding game for both teams," said Florida head coach Pat McMahon. "Our guys battled their hearts out but could not come up with that one big play to turn the game in our favor."

After a scoreless first, the Owls struck in the second as Rusty Brown led off the inning with a solo homer to right field. Florida starter Justin Hoyman had retired Florida Atlantic in order in the first. FAU then added a pair of runs in the third after Rob Horst led off the inning with a single up the middle. Hoyman then struck out the number nine hitter for the first out of the inning before a pair of hits added to the Florida Atlantic lead.

After a Evan Brannon single, Derek Hutton made the score 2-0 in favor of the Owls with a double that took a big bounce over third baseman Brett Dowdy’s head. A fielder’s choice RBI groundout by Jeff Fiorentino then scored Brannon for the third FAU run.

Jeff Core went through the first four innings allowing just three baserunners on a base hit and a pair of walks. The Gators then pushed a pair of across in the fifth against the FAU ace to cut the lead to 3-2. With two outs and Justin Tordi on first, Brett Dowdy singled into center. Jonathan Tucker then just missed tying the game as his shot to left field hit the top of the wall scoring both baserunners. It was Tucker’s 16th double of the season.

Fiorentino added to the FAU lead in the sixth as he hit a one-out solo homer to left center. Fiorentino would finish the game with two of the four Florida Atlantic RBI. That run would prove to be game winner as it gave the Owls a two-run lead.

FAU’s Core was removed after six innings of work after he gave up six hits and two runs with two walks and three strikeouts. Core would improve to 10-2 with the victory on the mound before he gave way to Matt O’Brien.

Florida had an opportunity against Core in the sixth after a single by Ben Harrison and a double by Mario Garza put two runners in scoring position with two outs. Core then got the final out on a flyout to center, which ended the threat.

O’Brien would retire Florida in order in his first inning of work before Stephen Barton cut the lead in half. Barton would lead off the Florida eighth and take O’Brien’s 1-1 pitch over the right field wall to make the score 4-3. It was Barton’s fourth homer of the season.

Hoyman would go the distance for the Gators as he dropped to 8-6 with the loss. He gave up seven hits and the four runs while striking out six.

"You have to give credit to Florida Atlantic, they really pitched it well and came up with the big hits when they needed it," said McMahon. "This is a double elimination tournament and we will be ready to play tomorrow."

Florida will play the loser of top seeded Miami against fourth seeded Bethune-Cookman on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET. The game is being broadcast live on Sunshine Network with Mick Hubert and Nick Belmonte calling the action from Mark Light Stadium.

NOTES

  • Florida Atlantic and Florida were meeting for the first time in the post-season and the first time since UF defeated FAU 10-0 in 2001.
  • Justin Hoyman had entered the game giving up two home runs all season, but gave a pair of solo shots to FAU.
  • Florida hit a homer in their fourth straight game.
  • The Gators fell to 6-7 in one-run games this season.
  • Dowdy had his 14th game this season with three hits.
  • Pat McMahon’s record in NCAA postseason play fell to 17-17.
  • Hoyman pitched his sixth complete game of the season which is the most since John Burke had six in 1991 (11 seasons).
  • Florida hit two doubles in the game to raise their season total to 127 which is tied for the seventh most in a season in school history.
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