Thursday May 26, 2005Gators Overcome Six-Run Deficit to Upend Arkansas, 9-8, in SEC Tourney
A one-out single in the bottom of the ninth by junior Stephen Barton (Miami, Fla.) lifted top-seeded Florida (39-18) to a 9-8 triumph over eighth-seeded Arkansas (37-19) in the opening round of the SEC Tournament on Wednesday night at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The Gators trailed 6-2 in the eighth inning before rallying for six runs on three hits and two errors to even the score. UF will play the winner of tonight’s contest between No. 4 Ole Miss and No. 5 Alabama at 9 p.m. tomorrow night. Meanwhile, the Hogs will face either the Rebels or Crimson Tide in the loser’s bracket at 2 p.m.
Sophomore Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) opened the ninth with a single to left before being erased on junior Chris Woods’ (Gainesville, Fla.) fielder’s choice. A single to right center by junior Justin Tordi (Orlando, Fla.) advanced Woods to third and Barton punched a 3-2 pitch from junior Charley Boyce (10-8) up the middle for the game-winning hit. Junior Darren O’Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) allowed one run on two hits over two innings to raise his mark to 7-3. The Gators also improved to 14-5 in one-run games with their first walk-off win since April 1, a 10-9 victory over Kentucky when Woods scored on a wild pitch.
UA freshman Nick Schmidt departed after seven innings in which he limited Florida to two runs on seven hits, with seven strikeouts and four walks. Sophomore Daryl Maday’s arrival appeared to jump-start the Gator offense, as Pat McMahon’s club put six runs on the board to pull within 8-7. Freshman pinch hitter Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.) smoked a double just inside the right-field line and scored when Leclerc’s grounder was misplayed by the second baseman. Woods was hit by a pitch, moving Leclerc to second and a fly ball by Tordi pushed Leclerc to third. After Leclerc scored on a wild pitch, Barton laced a pinch-hit RBI single to right to bring the count to 8-5 and chase Maday.
Senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) stepped to the plate and bashed sophomore Brian McLelland’s 2-1 pitch over the right-field wall for his seventh homer of the campaign to reduce the deficit to 8-7. Davis drew a one-out walk from reliever Boyce before the right-hander walked sophomores Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) and Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.). With sophomore Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) up to bat, a throwing error on a delayed steal enabled Davis to score the tying run. Boyce rebounded to strike out Jeroloman and Barber, the 10th batter of the inning.
Arkansas jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first on a two-run double by sophomore Danny Hamblin. Freshman Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) retired the initial batter of the contest but then surrendered back-to-back singles by freshmen Clint Arnold and Brock Bond. Hamblin laced Locke’s first offering to right center to allow the Hogs to open the scoring for the first time in seven games. Following a groundout that advanced Hamblin to third, the left-hander caught senior Scott Hode looking on strikes.
The Gators cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning on a two-out RBI single up the middle by Jeroloman that scored LaPorta. LaPorta had punched a base-hit with two down to left off Schmidt and moved into scoring position with his third stolen base of the year. Jeroloman stroked a 2-2 single up the middle to bring across his teammate and took second on the relay to the plate. Schmidt worked out of the jam by having freshman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) ground out to third.
Arkansas increased its lead to 3-1 in the second on a two-out flare into shallow center by junior Craig Gentry. Freshman Brian Walker started things off with a single through the left side and was sacrificed to second by senior Clay Goodwin. Locke whiffed junior John Henry Marquardt before Gentry sliced a 0-1 pitch that landed in front of Corsaletti, scoring Walker. A bobble by the outfielder allowed Gentry to occupy second and Arnold made it seven-straight at bats with a hit to give UA runners on the corners. Locke struck out Bond to close the frame.
UF had runners on second and third with none out and loaded the sacks with two down in the home portion of the second but could not cut into Arkansas’ lead. Leclerc drew a walk and classmate Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) roped a double down the left-field line. Schmidt struck out Tordi and freshman Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) before issuing a walk to Corsaletti that filled the bases. The lefty had Davis fly out to right to strand the runners.
The Razorbacks expanded their lead with two runs on two hits and a Gator error in the fifth for a 5-1 advantage. Bond ripped a double to right field to begin the stanza and junior Chris Hollensworth delivered a one-out single up the middle to provide UA with a three-run cushion. After Hollensworth swiped second, a throwing error by McArthur on Hode’s grounder allowed his teammate to score the fifth run.
The Gators countered with one run in the fifth on run-scoring single by Davis but squandered another opportunity by having runners on first and second with none out and failing to score more. Kubin smacked a leadoff double and Corsaletti followed with a single to give UF runners on first and third. After Davis drove in Kubin to close the gap to 5-2, LaPorta grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. A walk to Jeroloman put runners on the corners again before McArthur grounded out to end the inning.
Locke (5-2) departed after 5.1 innings in which he tied his career high with seven strikeouts. The left-hander surrendered nine hits and five runs (four earned). Senior Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.) took over on the mound for his 43rd appearance of the year to set a Florida single-season record.
Arkansas plated two more runs on two hits in the seventh to build a 7-2 lead. Sophomore pinch hitter Jake Dugger delivered an infield single with one down and stole second before Falkenbach plunked Hode. Following a pitching change, Walker greeted senior Mike Pete (Brandon, Fla.) with a double to left center to score Dugger. A sacrifice fly to center by senior Clay Goodwin plated Hode with the seventh run.
UA tacked on an unearned run in the eighth against O’Day for a six-run margin. Bond was hit by a pitch with one out and advanced to second on a base-hit through the left side by Hamblin. Bond would have been caught stealing at third but McArthur was charged with an error when he dropped the relay. A walk to Dugger loaded the bases and Hode lofted a sac fly to center to bring in Bond.
Arkansas held a 14-13 advantage in hits, as the top four hitters in the order were 9-for-19 with four runs. Gentry led the Razorbacks with a 3-for-5 performance out of the leadoff spot, while Arnold, Bond and Hamblin contributed two hits apiece. Barton, Corsaletti and LaPorta chipped in with two hits each for the Gators. Florida and UA have now split four meetings this season.