Friday March 18, 2005Baseball Defeats Ole Miss, 5-4, in SEC Opener
Sophomore Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) snapped a 4-4 tie with a leadoff home run in the seventh to lift No. 6 Florida to a 5-4 victory over No. 14 Ole Miss in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams in front of 3,320 fans at Oxford-University at Swayze Field on Friday night. Junior Bryan Ball (Punta Gorda, Fla.) improved to 5-0 by working 7.1 innings and senior Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.) went 1.2 frames for his third save as the Gators (16-4) ended a six-game slide against the Rebels (15-4). UF also halted a 10-game losing streak in Oxford, as it had not defeated the hosts since earning a 7-3 triumph on March 29, 1997.
Senior Cooper Osteen led off the bottom of the first for the Rebels with a double to left center off Ball and advanced to third on a passed ball by sophomore catcher Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.). An RBI grounder by sophomore Chris Coghlan put the hosts on the board.
Florida answered with the tying run in the second on a run-scoring grounder by Jeroloman. Sophomore Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) lashed a one-out single into right and junior Justin Tordi (Orlando, Fla.) followed with a base-hit into shallow center field before junior Mark Holliman uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners into scoring position. Jeroloman’s ground ball to second enabled Leclerc to come across but Holliman answered with a strikeout of freshman Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) to leave Tordi at third.
Helped by a Gator fielding miscue, Ole Miss moved in front in the second by a 2-1 margin. A throwing error by junior third baseman Stephen Barton (Miami, Fla.) allowed Mark Wright to reach base and occupy second and sophomore Alex Presley’s grounder pushed his teammate to third. An infield hit by freshman Zack Cozart gave the Rebels the advantage.
UF used three consecutive singles in the third to build a 3-2 cushion. Sophomore Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) punched a single into left and senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) increased his hitting streak to 11 games with a base-hit to left field to move Dickey to third. An RBI single into right field by sophomore Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) brought Dickey across with the tying run and Barton walked to fill the bases with none out. A fielder’s choice by LaPorta resulted in a Gator lead.
The Rebels used back-to-back home runs with two down in the bottom of the third to seize a 4-3 advantage. Junior Stephen Head, the 2004 SEC Player of the Year, cranked his sixth round-tripper on a 2-2 pitch with a shot 395 feet deep to right center field. Soon after, junior Brian Pettway sent an 0-1 offering 381 feet into the terrace overlooking left field for his sixth dinger to give the Rebels their third lead of the night.
Although UF evened the game in the fifth, 4-4, it squandered a prime opportunity for more runs by hitting into a double play with the bases full. Corsaletti opened the frame with a seeing-eye single to right and advanced on a grounder by Davis before Barton walked on four pitches. Facing a 1-2 count from Holliman, LaPorta knotted the game with an RBI single into left and a bleeder by Leclerc filled the bases for the Gators with just one down. However, a poorly-placed bunt by Tordi resulted in a 1-2-3 double play to help UM escape the jam.
Kubin roped a one-out single into left in the sixth and was sacrificed to second by Dickey before UM decided to lift Holliman (5.2 IP, 9 H, 6 K, 4 R, 3 BB) in favor of junior Matt Maloney. Corsaletti earned a free pass for a pair of Gators aboard and Davis legged out an infield hit to load the bases for the visitors. The southpaw responded by catching Barton looking on strikes to bring Florida’s runners left on base total to eight.
In the bottom of the inning, Wright looped a single into left and alertly took second on a bobble by Dickey. Unfazed, Ball made Presley his fourth strikeout victim and then had Cozart ground out to Davis in the hole to preserve the stalemate.
LaPorta started the seventh with his team-leading seventh homer of the campaign, a towering blast over the left field wall on a 1-0 pitch from Maloney to provide the Gators with a 5-4 lead. The four-bagger was the first for the slugger since going deep on Feb. 26 against Rhode Island. Leclerc followed with a single into left but was stranded as the reliever retired Tordi (strikeout), Jeroloman (flyout) and Kubin (strikeout).
Senior Barry Gunther began the home portion of the seventh with a single into right and Franklin fouled off a bunt for strike three. A fielder’s choice by Osteen erased the lead runner at second and Ball had Coghlan force Osteen at second for the final out.
After setting down Head on a drive to the warning track in the eighth, Ball (7.1 IP, 7 H, 5 K, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB) was replaced by Falkenbach. The righty had Pettway ground out before giving up an infield hit to freshman Justin Henry. Jeroloman gunned down Henry attempting to take second to send the game to the ninth.
Davis and Leclerc each finished 3-for-5 for Florida, while LaPorta was 2-for-5 and drove in three runs. Eight different players accounted for the Rebels’ hit total as the Gators held a 13-8 advantage. Maloney fell to 4-1 after scattering four hits over 3.1 innings and registering six strikeouts. Junior Alan Horne (1-1, 4.87 ERA) will take to the hill tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m. CT against Head (3-0, 2.84 ERA). Horne played at Ole Miss during the 2002 and 2003 campaigns.