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Friday February 25, 2005Gator Baseball Holds Off Rhode Island, 5-4

Gainesville, FL

Junior right-hander Alan Horne tossed six strong innings to earn his first victory in a Florida uniform as the 12th-ranked Gators notched a 5-4 victory over Rhode Island on Friday night at McKethan Stadium. The start of the game was delayed 45 minutes due to steady rain. Senior Connor Falkenbach struck out four Rams over the final three innings to collect his first save of the season and lift the hosts (7-2) to their fourth-straight win. The Orange and Blue’s offense was paced by junior Stephen Barton, who stroked a clutch, two-out double in the decisive three-run sixth inning as UF overcame a 3-2 deficit.

Horne (1-0) allowed three runs, although just one was earned, and scattered five hits. The Marianna, Fla., native registered a season-high six strikeouts and issued three walks to pick up his first Division I win since March 7, 2003. In the Rams’ season debut, senior Dan Frederick was on the hook for the loss after he battled through five-plus innings and threw 109 pitches. The righty gave up four runs on five hits, while striking out three and issuing five free passes.

"Those were six quality innings [by Horne]," said Florida coach Pat McMahon. "He continues to get better. What really impresses me is that he continues to make good pitches."

After being held scoreless through the first two innings, the Rams were able to push a run across in the third stanza. With one out, junior Daryl Holcomb drew a four-pitch walk from Horne. Back-to-back singles by junior Wayne Russo and sophomore Scott Brown ensued, allowing Holcomb to cross the dish and take a 1-0 advantage.

The Gators tallied the equalizer in the home half of the third. Senior Jeff Corsaletti started the frame with a single up the middle and sophomore Matt LaPorta followed with a hit by pitch, bringing up sophomore Brian Leclerc. Leclerc beat out a fielder’s choice to second, leaving runners on the corners and one out. Junior Justin Tordi was due up next, and the shortstop was safe at first with a perfectly executed suicide squeeze that pushed across LaPorta with the game-tying run.

URI regained its one-run lead in the top of the fifth. Senior Joe Viscuso worked a free pass to start things off and stole second base before taking third on a smash by Russo. With runners occupying first and third and two outs, Viscuso came across on a passed ball with senior Matt Sullivan at bat. Horne worked his way out of trouble by striking out sophomore Ryan Cunningham swinging.

Florida countered with another run in the bottom of the frame to tie the contest at 2-2. Barton legged out an infield single to begin the stanza and then stole second for his second swipe of the season. Corsaletti worked a base on balls and both runners executed a double-steal to put runners in scoring position. One out later, Leclerc lofted his first sacrifice fly of the season to deep center field to bring home Barton, even the score and collect his 10th RBI of ’05.

The Rams took their third different one-run lead in the visitor’s half of the sixth. Senior Matt Rainville started the inning with a single to left and reached third on a theft of second and a throwing error by sophomore Brian Jeroloman. With one down, freshman Shaun Hagey poked an apparent RBI-single to right field. However on his first step out of the box, the Rams’ designated hitter appeared to injure his knee and fell to the ground. A 9-3 putout was recorded on the play as Rainville scored from third to put his squad in front.

Once again, URI could not retain a lead as the Gators finally put multiple runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth. Frederick walked freshman Bryson Barber to put runners on first and second with no outs to end the evening for the right-hander from Dracut, Mass. Sophomore James Norcott came out of the bullpen and retired the first two batters he faced before the Gators staged a two-out rally. Barton stepped to the dish and crushed a 1-1 offering to deep right centerfield to score Barber and freshman Brandon McArthur. Following an intentional walk to Corsaletti, LaPorta smoked a single past a diving third baseman to plate Barton and give the Gators a 5-3 advantage.

Rhode Island scratched out a run in the eighth to narrow the deficit to 5-4. After getting two quick outs to begin the frame, Falkenbach allowed a double down the leftfield line by Rainville. Next up was junior Josh Nestor, and the Ram catcher grounded a single through the middle that was just out of the reach of Tordi at short, allowing Rainville to score from second.

URI managed to put the tying run aboard in the ninth, as Holcomb laced a one-out single down the left field line. Falkenbach fanned Russo for out number two and Jeroloman fired a bullet to Tordi covering the bag at second to catch Holcomb stealing to end the game.

The trio of Barton, Jeroloman and Tordi each had two hits for the Gators, while four different players turned in multiple-hit efforts for the Rams. Junior Bryan Ball (1-0, 0.75 ERA) will take the mound for Florida tomorrow at 2 p.m. against URI junior southpaw Zach Zuercher.

Game Notes:

  • Florida improved to 1-2 on Friday nights this season.
  • The rain delay and inclement weather limited the crowd at McKethan Stadium to a season-low 713 fans.
  • UF pitchers totaled 10 strikeouts, the sixth time this season the staff reached double-digit K.
  • Justin Tordi extended his hitting streak to seven games.
  • The four stolen bases (in five attempts) were a season-high for the Orange and Blue.
  • Florida is 15-of-17 on the basepaths this year.
  • This was the fifth game of nine played in ’05 that the Gators have drawn six or more walks.
  • Rhode Island had its leadoff batter reach in three of the first six innings. Two of those runners, in the fifth and sixth innings, came around to score.

-UF-

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