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Friday May 13, 2005Baseball Downs Miss. State, 8-2, in Opener

Gainesville, FL

Junior Bryan Ball (Punta Gorda, Fla.) limited Mississippi State to two runs over 8.1 innings for his first win since March 18 as No. 10 Florida notched an 8-2 win over the Bulldogs on Friday night in front of 2,429 fans at McKethan Stadium. The righty scattered eight hits, with five strikeouts and five walks to improve to 6-3. The Gators (33-17/16-9 SEC) used home runs from sophomores Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.), Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) and Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) to snap a two-game losing streak and take the opener against MSU (32-17/11-13 SEC).

"I thought Bryan competed," said head coach Pat McMahon. "He made quality pitches when he had to and showed a lot of heart. We did a great job of putting up numbers in the first inning and we defended well throughout the game. We’re a young ball club that battles every day and gets great senior leadership. The key for us is to trust our training and instincts and continue to play well."

The Bulldogs loaded the bases with one down in the first against Ball but did not score. Sophomore Jeffrey Rea walked to start the game and freshman Ed Easley sliced a single through the left side of the infield before junior Brad Jones popped up to short. Junior Thomas Berkery walked on a 3-2 pitch to fill the sacks but Ball retired junior Brad Corley (caught looking) and junior Joseph Hunter (grounder to the mound).

LaPorta provided the Gators with a 3-0 lead soon after by cranking his 20th homer of the campaign with one down and two aboard off senior Alan Johnson. The four-bagger enabled LaPorta to join Brad Wilkerson (23 in 1997 & 1998) and Ryan Shealy (23 in 2002) as the only players in school history to reach the 20 home-run plateau. Senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) had drawn a leadoff walk and was erased at second on a fielder’s choice by Dickey. Sophomore Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) set the table for LaPorta by beating out a hit to short.

Rea opened the third with a double down the left-field line and Easley followed with a base hit into right field. UF turned a 6-4-3 double play on Jones’ grounder as Rea came across the plate with the Bulldogs’ initial run. The Gators loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, as Davis reached on an error, LaPorta was hit by a pitch and sophomore Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) walked. However, freshman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) hit into an inning-ending double play.

Dickey connected on his third homer of the season to begin the home portion of the fifth, giving Florida a 4-1 advantage. Davis punched a single into right and LaPorta walked on four pitches before Leclerc plated Davis with an RBI single into right for a four-run cushion for the home team. After McArthur singled to fill the sacks with none out, Johnson caught sophomore Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) looking on strikes and had junior Justin Tordi (Orlando, Fla.) ground into a 5-3 double play to close the frame.

Florida added three more runs in the seventh on Jeroloman’s fifth homer of the campaign off senior reliever Saunders Ramsey to build an 8-1 advantage. LaPorta had laced a one-out single into right and McArthur legged out an infield hit with two down. Jeroloman stepped to the plate and sent a 1-0 offering from the right-hander out of the yard for his first big fly since April 16.

The Bulldogs chased Ball in the ninth after sophomore Brian LaNinfa drew a leadoff walk and freshman Michael Rutledge had a one-out single. Senior Mike Pete (Brandon, Fla.) gave up a RBI single into left by Rea and had Easley fly out to center before being replaced by classmate Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.). Making his school-record 12th straight appearance, the right-hander allowed an infield hit by sophomore Joseph McCaskill to load the bases and closed the game with a strikeout of Berkery.

Davis (2-for-4, two runs) and LaPorta (2-for-2, three RBI, two runs) helped the Gators out-hit the Bulldogs, 11-10. Easley was 3-for-5 for State, while Johnson (5.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 K, 3 BB) fell to 3-6 with the loss. Florida will send junior Alan Horne (Marianna, Fla.) (5-2, 4.34) to the hill tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. against Bulldog senior RHP Todd Doolittle (4-6, 4.34 ERA)

Game Notes:

  • Matt LaPorta has now belted a home run in eight of the Gators’ nine conference series.
  • Florida has now scored first in four-straight games, including three consecutive times in the opening stanza.
  • Gavin Dickey’s homer was his first since April 17 against Alabama, a span of 13 games and 55 at bats.











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