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Sunday April 17, 2005Alabama's Ninth-Inning Rally Drops Gator Baseball, 9-6

Gainesville, FL

No. 17 Alabama rallied from a 6-3 deficit with six runs on seven hits in the ninth on Sunday afternoon to salvage the finale of its weekend series with a 9-6 victory over No. 5 Florida in front of 2,846 fans at McKethan Stadium. The Crimson Tide (26-12/9-6 SEC) roughed up junior Darren O’Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) (5-3) for four hits and five runs in one-third of an inning to avoid the sweep by the Gators (27-9/10-5 SEC). Freshman David Robertson (6-2) limited UF to one run and three hits in six innings and registered seven strikeouts to earn the win in relief of sophomore Brandon Belcher.

Trailing 6-3 entering the last frame, junior Evan Bush led off for Alabama with a single off to left off O’Day and senior Matt Grooms followed with a pinch-hit single. The right-hander then plunked freshman pinch hitter Matt Bentley to load the bases with none out. After a strikeout of senior pinch hitter Zac Welch, junior Spencer Pennington roped a two-run double to left center field to close the gap to 6-5. Freshman Cale Iorg arched a single into shallow left just beyond the diving effort of sophomore Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) to tie the game and chase O’Day.

Senior Mike Pete’s (Brandon, Fla.) first pitch resulted in a passed ball to move the runners to second and third and Salem dragged a bunt up the first-base line to bring across junior pinch runner Jordan Davis with the go-ahead run. After senior Allen Rice popped up a bunt attempt for the second out, junior Gabe Scott extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a ground-rule double over the wall in right field for an 8-6 UA lead. Bush poked his second single of the inning into left to provide the visitors with a three-run advantage before sophomore Steven Porter (Ocoee, Fla.) struck out Grooms.

Freshman Emeel Salem reached on an infield hit to begin the game and freshman Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) had Rice fly out to left. Soon after, the lefty induced a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play from Scott. In their first turn at the plate, the Gators used a two-run homer from Dickey to break out on top. Senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) had sliced a leadoff single through the right side of the infield and Dickey socked his second round-tripper of the season over the wall in right off Belcher.

The Tide answered with a run in the second on an RBI grounder by senior Rocky Scelfo to cut the deficit in half. Junior Kody Valverde singled to left with one out and junior Morrow Thomley delivered a base-hit up the middle and took second on the relay throw to give UA runners on second and third. Following Sclefo’s grounder, Locke stranded the runner at third by having sophomore Greg Paiml ground out.

Alabama knotted the contest at 2-2 in the third on a one-out double into the right field corner by Rice that scored Salem all the way from first base. Locke rebounded to fan Scott and had Bush ground out to third to keep the game tied.

Florida seized a 5-2 lead in the home portion of the inning on a two-run single by McArthur and added another run on a throwing error. Dickey and sophomore Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) delivered consecutive singles before Belcher struck out sophomore Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.). Sophomore Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) blooped a single into right to load the bases with one down and McArthur poked a two-run single into left to give UF a 4-2 lead. The hit extended the rookie’s hitting streak to 14 games. Sophomore Brian Jeroloman’s (Wellington, Fla.) grounder forced McArthur at second but an errant throw allowed Leclerc to come across with the fifth run.

Valverde opened the fourth with a solo shot to left center field to reduce UA’s deficit to two runs. Freshman Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) led off with a successful bunt and moved to second on a wild pitch by Belcher. Following a walk to Corsaletti, Robertson took over for Belcher, who allowed seven hits and five runs (four earned) with three walks and three strikeouts over three innings. Dickey sacrificed junior pinch runner Stephen Barton (Miami, Fla.) and Corsaletti into scoring position, and the right-hander caught both Davis and LaPorta looking on strikes to escape the jam.

Salem collected his third hit of the game against Locke in the fifth but was erased at second base by Jeroloman. The Gator catcher has now thrown out 23 of the 42 runners who have tried to steal against him this season. Senior Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.) relieved Locke (5.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 4 K) to begin the sixth and threw three scoreless innings before giving way to O’Day.

An RBI single by McArthur with two down in the seventh gave Florida a 6-3 cushion. Davis had opened the frame with a single into left and swiped second base for his team-leading 16th theft of the campaign. Robertson retired LaPorta and Leclerc before McArthur sent the hurler’s next offering into right field for his third run batted in of the afternoon. Jeroloman followed with a knock up the middle to give the Orange and Blue runners on the corners but Tordi flew out to end the inning.

Alabama out-hit Florida, 14-10, as Salem finished 4-for-5 with two runs. Dickey, Davis and McArthur each contributed two hits for the Gators, who fell to 23-6 at home this season. Florida faces No. 9 Florida State for the second of three meetings this season on Tuesday night in Tallahassee. First pitch from Dick Howser Stadium will be at 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on Sun Sports. The Gators defeated the Seminoles, 9-2, on March 30.



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