Saturday February 26, 2005Ball and O'Day Combine to Three-Hit URI, 6-0
Junior Bryan Ball limited Rhode Island to two hits over 6.2 innings and No. 12 Florida plated four runs in the first frame on its way to a 6-0 shutout of the Rams on Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The right-hander (2-0) registered four strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 0.48 in 18.2 innings this season, while junior Darren O’Day worked the final 2.1 scoreless innings for the home team. Sophomore Matt LaPorta was a perfect 3-for-3, scored twice and belted his team-leading sixth homer with a solo shot in the second as the Gators (8-2) notched their fifth straight win. UF will wrap up the weekend series versus URI (0-2) tomorrow at 1 p.m.
"Bryan has worked so hard to take the ball into different parts of the strike zone," said head coach Pat McMahon. "Matt (LaPorta) continues to swing the bat well for our ballclub. He possesses power, a great approach and has a strong work ethic, a dangerous and powerful combination."
The Gators jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in their first at bat by sending nine batters to the dish and pounding five hits off heralded URI junior southpaw Zack Zuercher. Senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on a base-hit into left field by sophomore Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.). Freshman Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) followed with an RBI single to left to score Corsaletti with the game’s opening run and sophomore Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) lofted a Texas Leaguer into right center to bring across LaPorta for a 2-0 advantage. UF executed a double steal to put two more runners in scoring position and Zuercher responded with a strikeout of junior Justin Tordi (Orlando, Fla.). Sophomore Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) then ripped a two-run single past diving first baseman Chris Stelma for a four-run lead.
With two down and no one aboard in the second, LaPorta cranked Zuercher’s 1-0 offering into the left field bleachers for his team-leading sixth homer of the campaign to increase UF’s margin to 5-0.
Florida padded its lead in the fourth thanks to some wildness by the URI All-American pitcher. Sophomore Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) walked with one out and stole second before Corsaletti earned a free pass with two down. Zuercher plunked LaPorta to load the bases and then hit Kubin with an errant pitch to bring across Dickey. However, Leclerc was caught looking on strikes to leave the sacks full.
Rhode Island threatened in the seventh, as junior Josh Nestor drew a one-out walk and senior Mike Rainville poked a single into right field. Ball caught freshman pinch hitter James Deady looking on strikes for the second out and turned the game over to O’Day. The righty induced a ground ball from Stelma to leave the runners stranded. O’Day allowed a leadoff single in the eighth and retired the final five URI hitters to close the game.
The Gators out-hit the Rams by a 9-3 margin, as seven different players contributed a hit. Zuercher (0-1) allowed eight hits and six runs (all earned), with eight strikeouts and three walks in his season debut. Senior Tommy Boss (1-0, 8.00 ERA) will pitch the final game of the series for Florida tomorrow against Rhode Island sophomore right-hander Steve Holmes (5-1, 3.46 ERA in 2004).