Saturday April 16, 2005Baseball Stops No. 17 Alabama, 7-4
Before 3,643 fans on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium, No. 5 Florida defeated No. 17 Alabama, 7-4, to clinch its fourth-straight Southeastern Conference series. Sophomores Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) (3-for-5, two runs, two RBI) and Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) (2-for-3, two RBI) belted solo homers and junior Alan Horne (Marianna, Fla.) worked 5.2 innings to improve to 3-2 on the campaign.
The Gators (27-8/10-4 SEC) notched their fourth win in a row and will send freshman Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) (5-0, 1.77 ERA) to the hill tomorrow in the series finale at noon. The Crimson Tide (25-12/8-6 SEC) will counter with sophomore Brandon Belcher (4-0, 3.79 ERA).
The Gators used a pair of home runs in the second inning off Tide sophomore Wade LeBlanc to grab a 2-0 lead. Leclerc jumped on a 0-1 offering from the left-hander with one down and delivered his eighth round-tripper onto the roof of the batting cages beyond the right field fence. Two batters later, Jeroloman launched his fourth dinger of the campaign over the wall in right.
"Those home runs really got us going this afternoon," said head coach Pat McMahon. "I thought Alan (Horne) had a quality start and threw some quality pitches in clutch situations. Mike (Pete) did a great job in the middle of the game to record some big outs for us."
Senior Rocky Scelfo punched a leadoff single in the third for Alabama before Horne struck out freshmen Cale Iorg and Emeel Salem. The righty issued a walk to senior Allen Rice but worked out of the jam by having junior Evan Bush fly out to sophomore Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) in left.
A sacrifice fly by junior Morrow Thomley to the warning track in center field in the fourth scored classmate Gabe Scott with Alabama’s first run. Scott had increased his hitting streak to 24 games with a double down the left field line to start the inning and senior Zac Welch followed with a single into shallow center field. Horne had junior Kody Valverde pop up before Thomley sent a drive to the 400-foot mark that senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) tracked down for the second out and allowed Scott to come across.
UF moved ahead 3-1 in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single into left field by Jeroloman. Sophomore Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) had smashed a leadoff single and reached second with two down on a throwing error during a rundown play. Following Jeroloman’s single, junior Justin Tordi (Orlando, Fla.) collected his sixth hit in a row during the series to give the Gators runners on the corners. A wild pitch by LeBlanc enabled Tordi to advance to second and freshman Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) walked to fill the bases. However, the southpaw had Corsaletti fly out to left to strand the three runners.
The Tide loaded the bases with two down in the fifth but came away empty-handed to keep the margin at 3-1. Rice reached on an infield hit and Horne permitted consecutive walks to Bush and Scott to load the sacks. The righty went to 3-2 on Welch before inducing a pop-up to Dickey to escape the jam.
Florida tacked on two more runs on four hits in the home portion of the inning to build a 5-1 lead. Dickey dragged a bunt to start things off and raced over to third on a one-out base-hit by LaPorta. Leclerc collected his second RBI of the afternoon with a single to right field and a well-executed squeeze by freshman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) gave the Gators another run and chased LeBlanc (2-2) (4.1 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 6 K). In addition, the single raised McArthur’s hitting streak to 13 games. Jeroloman flew out to right against junior reliever Jordan Davis but a throwing error on the relay pushed both runners into scoring position. Tordi walked to load the bases but Davis had junior pinch hitter Stephen Barton (Miami, Fla.) ground out to force Tordi for the out to retire the side.
Thomley and Scelfo stroked back-to-back singles with one down in the sixth and a fly out by Iorg advanced the runners and ended the afternoon for Horne (5.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 4 K). Senior Mike Pete (Brandon, Fla.) came out of the bullpen and had Salem fly out to Dickey to preserve the Orange and Blue’s four-run cushion.
Barton and Corsaletti laced back-to-back, two-out RBI singles in the seventh to fashion a 7-1 lead. Leclerc opened the stanza with a single into center and McArthur walked before Jeroloman laid down a sacrifice bunt to move his teammates over. After Davis countered with a strikeout of Tordi, two more base-hits brought UF’s total to 13 on the afternoon.
Helped by a Gator error, Alabama pushed across three unearned runs in the eighth to trim its deficit to 7-4. Valverde reached on a miscue with one down and Thomley’s fielder’s choice forced his teammate at second. A pinch-hit single by freshman Matt Bentley advanced Thomley to third and Iorg punched a double into shallow right to score Thomley. A bleeder by Salem just beyond the mound brought Bentley in to close the margin to 7-3. An RBI single by Rice cut Florida’s lead to three runs and prompted McMahon to replace Falkenbach with junior Darren O’Day (Jacksonville, Fla.). The right-hander fanned Bush to strand a couple of Tide runners on base and threw a perfect ninth for his fourth save.
Florida finished with a 14-11 advantage in hits, as four players collected multiple hits. For the Crimson Tide, Scelfo (2-for-3), Rice (2-for-4) and Welch (2-for-5) led the charge for Jim Wells’ club.