Sunday May 15, 2005MSU Rallies to Defeat Baseball, 6-5
Mississippi State rallied from a 5-4 deficit with a pair of runs in the ninth inning to defeat No. 10 Florida, 6-5, on Sunday afternoon in front of 2,539 fans at McKethan Stadium. The Bulldogs (33-18/12-14 SEC) tied the game on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice by junior Thomas Berkery (3-for-5, five RBI) and scored the winning run on a throwing error by freshman third baseman Matt Gaski (Greensboro, N.C.) that allowed sophomore Jeffrey Rea to come across.
"Our kids played their hearts out and battled to put themselves in a position to win," said head coach Pat McMahon. "You saw a bunch of players leave it all out on the field this afternoon. The depth and quality of the Southeastern Conference is outstanding. When you compare the SEC to other leagues, you see the strength of the conference from top to bottom."
Sophomore Mike Valentine (5-0) worked a career-high six innings in relief, giving up four hits and one run, to collect the win, while senior Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.) dropped to 3-3 after pitching the ninth. The Gators (34-18/17-10 SEC) stranded eight runners on base, including seven in scoring position.
In the final frame, freshman Michael Rutledge greeted Falkenbach with a single up the middle and was replaced at first base by sophomore pinch runner Ben Grisham. Rea punched a base-hit to left for two runners aboard and freshman Ed Easley dragged a sac bunt to put his teammates in scoring position. Junior Brad Jones was walked intentionally to load the bases and Berkery’s grounder to junior shortstop Justin Tordi (Orlando, Fla.) enabled Grisham to score the tying run as Jones was forced at second. With two down, Gaski misfired on junior Brad Corley’s ground ball to third, allowing Rea to put the Bulldogs ahead to stay.
Berkery launched a three-run homer in the top of the first off senior Tommy Boss (Dunnellon, Fla.) to help the Bulldogs draw first blood. Rea had reached on a fielding error to start the game and moved into scoring position on a single to left by Easley. Boss induced a fly out to left by Jones and Berkery connected on a 2-1 pitch for his seventh dinger of the season.
Florida used three doubles in the second off sophomore Jon Crosby to narrow the gap to 3-2. Sophomore Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) doubled down the right-field line to start the second and freshman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) followed with a ground-rule double to put UF on the board. The right-hander popped up sophomore Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) and had Tordi ground out before junior Stephen Barton (Miami, Fla.) roped another two-bagger to right to bring across McArthur. Senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) flew out to end the inning.
Berkery came through with a two-out RBI single in the third to provide State with a 4-2 lead. Jones had singled up the middle with two down and moved to second on a wild pitch. Berkery recorded his fourth RBI of the game by slicing a base-hit through the left side of the infield.
The Gators put their first two runners aboard in the bottom of the inning but did not score. Sophomore Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) started things off with a single to right and classmate Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) drew a walk. Sophomore Matt LaPorta’s (Port Charlotte, Fla.) fly ball to the warning track in center advanced both runners. However, Crosby worked out of the jam by striking out Leclerc and having McArthur line out to second.
UF tied the game in the home portion of the fourth with two runs on two hits. Jeroloman led off the stanza with his sixth home run of the season, a shot to left center that trimmed MSU’s advantage to 4-3. Tordi then punched a single into left to end the afternoon for Crosby (3.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 K). Junior Jamie Gant issued back-to-back walks to Barton and Corsaletti to load the bases and was lifted in favor of Valentine. With none out, Dickey grounded into a double play to score Tordi with the tying run and Davis popped out to leave Barton stranded on third.
Jeroloman delivered a single into right with one down in the fifth to move the Gators ahead for the first time. LaPorta was plunked to begin the inning and McArthur had a one-out infield single before Jeroloman sent a 1-2 pitch into right for a 5-4 lead for the home team. Tordi reached on a bunt to fill the sacks before Barton’s tapped to Valentine to force McArthur at the dish. Corsaletti grounded out to third to end the inning and leave another runner aboard.
Mississippi State loaded the bases with none out in the sixth but came away empty-handed. Boss (5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 K) surrendered a leadoff single to Berkery and was replaced by freshman Michael Branham (Tampa, Fla.). Corley lashed a single into left off the reliever and junior Joseph Hunter successfully bunted to fill the sacks. Senior Mike Pete (Brandon, Fla.) came out of the bullpen and struck out sophomore pinch hitter Joseph McCaskill swinging and sophomore pinch hitter Brian LaNinfa looking for two outs. Junior Darren O’Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) took the mound and fanned freshman Michael Rutledge on a check-swing third strike to keep the Gators in front.
Corley led off the eighth with a single and O’Day threw Hunter’s sacrifice bunt attempt into center field to allow Corley to reach third. The right-hander responded with a strikeout of McCaskill before yielding to sophomore Steven Porter (Ocoee, Fla.). The southpaw induced an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play from LaNinfa to preserve the Gators’ 5-4 lead.
MSU held a 12-11 advantage in hits and took advantage of three Florida errors. In addition to Berkery, Corley (2-for-5) and Rea (2-for-5, two runs) had multiple-hit outings for the Bulldogs. The quartet of Davis, Jeroloman, McArthur and Tordi chipped in with two hits apiece for the Orange and Blue. Florida will wrap up its home schedule on Wednesday night by hosting Stetson. First pitch at McKethan Stadium between the Gators and Hatters will be at 6:30 p.m.