Tide takes 2-0 lead in key Florida series

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Sophomore left-hander Jeffrey Norris, making his first career Southeastern Conference start, limited the No. 6 Florida Gators to two runs through 6 1/3 innings as the University of Alabama won its 25th straight home game. The University of Alabama defeated the Gators 7-2 Saturday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

The left-hander from Vestavia Hills held the high-powered Gators offense to two runs on 10 hits in the longest outing of his two-year career. He added three walks and three strikeouts.

Norris (2-0) left the game with a 7-2 lead in the seventh inning after Florida loaded the bases with one out. Junior closer Brian Reed entered the game and retired eight of the nine batters he faced for his sixth save of the year.

Alabama (27-5, 8-3 SEC) won its 25th consecutive home game, establishing the modern day school record. The current winning streak began with a 17-0 win over Jacksonville State on May 1, 2000. Alabama won its final four home games of the 2000 season and has won all 21 home games this year. The previous record was a 24-game winning streak from April 21, 1996 through March 8, 1997.

The Gators threatened in the seventh inning, scoring one run on four hits to chase Norris from the game.

Ben Harrison and David Klebonis opened the seventh inning with back-to-back singles. After Brian Rose flied to right field, Pat Osborn followed with an infield hit to score Harrison from third base. Aaron Davidson singled to left field to load the bases.

Reed came in and got a pop up from Aaron Sobieraj and then struck out Mark Kiger looking to end the inning. The called third strike brought on a series of arguments from the Florida dugout, which resulted in head coach Pat McMahon and third base coach John Cohen both being ejected from the game.

Florida (24-9, 6-5 SEC) also put the first three runners on base in the first inning against Norris. Center fielder Aaron Davidson led off the game with a home run to left-center field to give UF a 1-0 lead. Aaron Sobieraj followed with a double to right and Mark Kiger walked to put two runners on base. Norris got Ryan Shealy to hit into a double play and then struck out Matt Goss to end the inning.

"Norris was real good," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "I was real pleased with him today. He threw a curve ball for strikes and had good command of his fastball. After the first inning, he had good movement with the fastball away from the right-handed hitters. He kept them off balance."

Alabama tied the game with an unearned in the bottom of the first inning as Scott McClanahan scored from third base on a Jeremy Brown's ground out. McClanahan walked to lead off the inning and moved to second when Adam Pavkovich reached on an error by third baseman Pat Osborn. Peter Stonard reached on a fielder's choice, erasing Pavkovich and sending McClanahan to third. Brown followed with an RBI ground out to first baseman Ryan Shealy to score the tying run.

The Crimson Tide played long ball in the third inning to score four runs and build a 5-1 lead. McClanahan homered to right field with one out to give Alabama a 2-1 lead. It was his fifth home run of the season and fourth in the last five games.

Pavkovich reached on the second error of the game by Osborn at third base and Stonard walked on four pitches. Brown followed with a line-drive home run to right field to give UA a 5-1 lead. It was Brown's team-leading 11th home run of the season.

The two home runs on the third inning gives Alabama at least one home run in a season-high nine straight games. Alabama has 16 home runs in those nine games.

"We did a god job hitting the ball the other way today," Wells said. "We had the one big inning and our pitching made it hold up."

The Crimson Tide extended its lead to 6-1 in the fourth inning on doubles by Travis Garner and McClanahan.

After McClanahan's RBI double, UF starter Alex Hart retired the next 12 batters before Beau Hearod's one-out single to center in the eighth inning. Kevin Coleman replaced Hart after Hearod's single up the middle.

Hart (8-1) worked 7 1/3 innings and allowed seven runs (5 earned) on six hits. He walked three and struck out six.

Boyd's single up the middle brought Hearod home from second base to give the Crimson Tide a 7-2 lead in the eighth inning.

Alabama has held the SEC's best offensive team to three runs in the first two games of the series. Florida entered Saturday's game averaging 11.6 runs and 14.4 hits per game. The Gators have only three runs and 19 hits in two games against the Crimson Tide.

McClanahan and Boyd had two hits each for Alabama. Brown had one hit and four RBI for the Crimson Tide, while McClanahan added two RBI.

Osborn had three hits for Florida and reached base all four times on Saturday. Davidson and David Klebonis had two hits each for the Gators.

The two teams will conclude their three-game series on Sunday at 1 p.m. Also, tonight is the beginning of daylight savings time, so remember to set your clocks forward one hour tonight. Alabama will send senior right-hander Shane Sanders (4-1, 4.19 ERA), while Florida will send left-hander Keith Ramsey (4-1, 5.40 ERA) to the mound.

Alabama looks for its third straight sweep over the Gators in the series finale. The Crimson Tide has won 10 straight games in the series, including sweeps in 1998 and 1999.

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