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Saturday April 23, 2005Baseball Clinches Series With 5-4 Win over No. 23 Auburn

Auburn, AL

Behind a gutsy pitching performance from junior Alan Horne (Marianna, Fla.) and four RBI by sophomore Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.), fifth-ranked Florida upended No. 23 Auburn, 5-4, on Saturday afternoon in front of 3,422 fans at Plainsman Park. In clinching their fifth consecutive conference series, the Gators (29-10/12-5 SEC) snapped a 4-4 tie in the fifth on a double by LaPorta to defeat the Tigers (25-16/8-9 SEC).

Horne (4-2) tied a career high with eight strikeouts and matched a season high with seven innings in which he threw 122 pitches, allowed 11 hits and gave up four runs. Senior Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.) fired two perfect frames to notch his fourth save. The clubs will wrap up the series tomorrow at 1 p.m. CT, with UF sending junior Bryan Ball (Punta Gorda, Fla.) (5-1, 2.22 ERA) to the mound against AU freshman RHP Cliff Mullins (1-0, 2.19 ERA).

LaPorta (2-for-4) put the Gators on the board with a three-run shot in the first over the Green Monster off junior Josh Sullivan. The four-bagger was the third of the series and 16th of the campaign for the SECís home run and RBI leader. Senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) had opened the game with a single into shallow left and advanced to second on a wild pitch before sophomore Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) drew a one-out walk. LaPorta cranked a 1-1 pitch out of the yard for the 30th round-tripper of his career, moving him into 10th place on the schoolís all-time list.

Powered by a rare inside-the-park grand slam by junior Jeff Boutwell, Auburn seized a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the inning. Junior Tyler Johnstone punched a leadoff single and stole second and junior Clete Thomas followed with a single to give AU runners on the corners. After Thomas stole second, junior Josh Bell drew a free pass from Horne to load the bases with none out. Boutwell then sent a long drive to the wall in center that Corsaletti attempted to snare with a leaping grab. However, the ball eluded his glove and rolled far enough away from him and sophomore left fielder Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) that allowed Boutwell to circle the bases for the Tigersí first inside-the-park homer since April 12, 1992.

Auburn put its first two runners aboard in the second but Horne was able to work out of the jam. Sophomore Bruce Edwards looped a single into right center and Johnstone followed with a bunt single. The right-hander struck out Thomas and induced a grounder from Bell that was converted into a 5-4-3 double play.

Florida tied the score at 4-4 in the fourth on a two-out double by Corsaletti that scored Tordi, who had poked a one-out single up the middle. Corsalettiís team-leading ninth double bounced into the triangle in center and was the 47th of his career, moving him to within three of Brad Wilkerson (50) for fifth place.

Although the hosts put their first two runners of the fourth on base against Horne, the Tigers came away empty-handed. Freshman Josh Donaldson opened the frame with a double to left center field and moved to third on a bleeder to right by junior Adam Stacey. Horne struck out Edwards before Johnstoneís sacrifice bunt gave AU runners on second and third with two out. Thomas smoked a hot-shot that LaPorta knocked down, corralled and made a diving stab at the bag to beat the runner.

UF seized a 5-4 advantage in the fifth on LaPortaís double down the left-field line that plated Davis all the way from first base. Davis had drawn a leadoff walk on four pitches from Sullivan and LaPorta smacked a 1-2 pitch for his 50th RBI of the year. However, he was thrown out at third trying to extend his hit into a triple. Horne set down Bell (flyout) and senior Karl Amonite (strikeout) before surrendering consecutive singles to Boutwell and freshman Russell Dixon. The righty caught Donaldson looking to retire the side.

Sullivan (6-4) departed after five innings in which he allowed seven hits and five runs, with three strikeouts and two walks. Junior Grant Cardwell came out of the bullpen and tossed a perfect sixth for the Tigers. In the seventh, Davis roped a one-out double to left off sophomore Jared Shore and the Tigers decided to walk LaPorta intentionally. Sophomore Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) advanced Davis to third with a fly ball to the warning track in center to prompt another pitching change for the home team. Senior John Madden answered the call by striking out freshman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.).

Falkenbach relieved Horne prior to the bottom of the eighth and put down the Tigers in order. Corsaletti legged out an infield hit to begin the ninth and stole second base as Madden was striking out Dickey. Stacey made a tremendous play at short on a ball into the hole by Davis and fired a perfect throw to erase Corsaletti at third before LaPorta grounded out to hold the deficit at a run. Auburn held an 11-9 advantage in hits, led by Boutwell (3-for-4, four RBI).


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