Saturday April 16, 2005Baseball Nips No. 17 Alabama in Series Opener, 9-8
Helped by four Alabama errors that led to five unearned runs, fifth-ranked Florida collected a wild 9-8 victory over the No. 17 Crimson Tide on Friday night before 2,886 fans at McKethan Stadium. With their third-straight triumph, the Gators (26-8/9-4 SEC) moved into sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference, ahead of Alabama (25-11/8-5 SEC) and South Carolina (28-7/8-5 SEC). Junior Justin Tordi (Orlando, Fla.) was a career-high 4-for-4 with three RBI and made two outstanding defensive plays at shortstop in the ninth inning to preserve the one-run victory.
"I am really proud of the club and the way that they grinded through the game," said head coach Pat McMahon. "Justin (Tordi) swung the bat very well and continues to lead us in different ways. We like to see Darren (O’Day) in the end of the game. He will throw strikes and compete for us every time. Tommy (Boss) going to throw the ball in the strike zone and gives us an opportunity to win when he is on the mound."
Florida jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run single by Tordi. Sophomore Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) reached on a error by the Tide shortstop to start things off before junior T.J. Large struck out sophomore Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.). Freshman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a flare into right and sophomore Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Tordi sent a bouncing ball up the middle that allowed LaPorta and McArthur to come across. Large induced a 4-6-3 double play from junior Stephen Barton (Miami, Fla.) to end the inning.
Powered by a pair of home runs, the Gators increased their lead to 5-0 in the third. Senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) led off with his sixth homer, a shot off the scoreboard overlooking right field to match his career high for dingers in a season. Sophomore Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) stroked a single into left and swiped second for his team-leading 15th stolen base. LaPorta then stepped to the dish and launched his 13th round-tripper of the season over the wall in right.
Alabama narrowed the gap to 5-4 in the fourth with a two-out rally that yielded five hits and chased senior Tommy Boss (Dunnellon, Fla.). Junior Evan Bush put the visitors on the board with his 10th homer of the year to right field and junior Gabe Scott increased his hitting streak to 23 games with a double to left center. Junior Kody Valverde punched a two-bagger down the left field line to score Bush and junior Morrow Thomley reached on an error to give UA runners on the corners. Freshman Cale Iorg punched an RBI single up the middle to put Alabama to within 5-3 and ended the night for Boss (3.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 K). Senior Rocky Scelfo greeted senior reliever Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.) with a double to right field to drive in Thomley and the right-hander had sophomore Greg Paiml fly out to end the frame.
Helped by an Alabama throwing error, Florida grabbed a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the stanza. Tordi sliced a leadoff single through the left side and took second on a one-out base-hit by Corsaletti. A fielder’s choice by sophomore Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) erased Corsaletti at second but allowed Tordi to score when the relay throw eluded the Tide’s first baseman.
A two-out error by the Gators in the fifth enabled UA to close to within 6-5. Freshman Emeel Salem drew a leadoff walk and stole both second and third base before Scott’s grounder eluded Davis for the unearned run. Florida countered with three runs of its own on four hits and a Tide error in the home portion of the inning to build a 9-5 advantage. Leclerc roped a double down the left field line before a two-out throwing miscue on a ball struck by Jeroloman permitted Leclerc to score. UF kept the inning going with consecutive singles by Tordi, Barton and Corsaletti for a four-run cushion.
The Crimson Tide tallied three runs on four hits in the seventh to cut Florida’s lead to 9-8. Paiml punched a double down the left field line and advanced to third on a grounder by Salem. An infield hit by Rice plated Paiml with Bama’s sixth run and a single into right by Bush spelled the end of Falkenbach’s time on the hill. With runners on the corners and one out, Scott smashed a double to deep right field off junior Darren O’Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) to reduce his club’s deficit to 9-7. After an RBI grounder by Valverde reduced Florida’s lead to a run, O’Day struck out senior pinch hitter Zac Welch on a 3-2 pitch to preserve the hosts’ lead.
O’Day plunked Salem with a pitch to open the ninth before Rice laid down a sacrifice to move his teammate into scoring position. The right-hander had Bush hit a hot-shot into the hole that Tordi back-handed and fired over to LaPorta for the second out. Scott followed with another smash to short that Tordi corralled and relayed to first to seal the victory.
Falkenbach improved to 2-1 by working 2.2 innings in which he allowed four hits and four runs, with three strikeouts and a walk. O’Day picked up his third save with 2.2 scoreless frames and gave up one hit. Corsaletti (3-for-5) and Leclerc (2-for-4) joined Tordi with multiple hits for the Gators, who held a 14-11 advantage in hits. Large (5-3) surrendered 12 hits and nine runs (four earned) in 4.2 innings before being replaced by senior Brent Carter (3.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 K). The quartet of Bush, Rice, Scelfo and Scott each contributed two hits apiece for Alabama. The clubs will meet again at 4 p.m. tomorrow, with junior Alan Horne (Marianna, Fla.) (2-2, 4.70 ERA) opposing sophomore Wade LeBlanc (2-1, 3.21 ERA).