Gators' Rally Bites Razorbacks

HOOVER, Ala. -- Trailing by six runs with six outs remaining, Florida coach Pat McMahon looked around the dugout and loved what he saw.

"I saw a bunch of guys in our dugout that believed they were going to find a way to get it done," McMahon said. "When you do that, you put yourself in a position to be successful."

The positive attitude paid off as the top-seeded Gators successfully pulled off a 9-8 come-from-behind win against eighth-seededArkansas in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, Ala.

It dropped the Razorbacks into today's loser's bracket and they'll play the loser of the late game between No. 4 Ole Miss and No. 5 Alabama at 1 p.m.

Florida erased an 8-2 deficit by scoring six runs on three hits and two errors (both by Hogs second baseman John Henry Marquardt) in the eighth before pushing the winning run across in the ninth on Stephen Barton's RBI single.

"We weren't playing well at all," said Florida center fielder Jeff Corsaletti, who was 2 for 4. "Those first seven innings, we know that's not the way we play. This team, we don't give up. We play 27 outs and we expect that from everyone.

"That's what we pride ourselves on and we finally found a spark."

The Gators' spark spoiled a strong performance by Arkansas starting pitcher Nick Schmidt, who struck out seven and walked four while allowing two earned runs on seven hits in seven innings.

Schmidt, who seemed poised to pick up his second win against the conference champs in less than three weeks, had to overcome early command problems with his breaking ball Wednesday.

"He pitched a great ball game," said Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn. "Unfortunately, that's probably the third or maybe even the fourth game we've blown for him. He should easily have double digits in wins, but right now, we're struggling on the mound."

Struggling is quite an understatement since the only two pitchers who appear to be able to get opponents out consistently are Schmidt and Charley Boyce, who gave up the winning run in the ninth after coming on in relief in the eighth.

Pitching on four days' rest, Schmidt came out after throwing 127 pitches, including 80 for strikes.

"The game within the game is we worked hard to create pitches," McMahon said. "So maybe a decision has to be made to get him out of the game earlier and that's by winning pitches. You keep battling, you put yourself into a good position later in the game."

Relievers Daryl Maday and Brian McLelland couldn't get past the eighth. Maday gave up three runs (two earned) before being replaced by McLelland with one out.

The first and only batter McLelland faced, Corsaletti, slammed a two-run homer over the right-field wall to cut Arkansas' lead 8-7 and forced the Hogs to go to Boyce, their closer and sometimes starter.

Another run came across against Boyce, who walked the first two batters he faced, on Marquardt's second error of the inning to even the score at 8-all.

Arkansas strung together three consecutive hits in the first inning with Danny Hamblin's two-run double to deep right-center spotting the Razorbacks the early advantage.

After Florida's Brian Jeroloman hit an RBI single in the bottom of the first, the Hogs added another run to make it 3-1 when Craig Gentry singled to center to score Brian Walker, who reached on a leadoff walk.

In the fifth, Arkansas tacked on two more runs to extend the lead to 5-1. Brock Bond led off the inning with a double and scored on a line drive up the middle by Chris Hollensworth, who later scored on a throwing error.

The Gators began crawling back in the bottom of the fifth when Schmidt appeared to be tiring. They had three hits in the inning, highlighted by Adam Davis' RBI single that cut the Hogs' lead to 5-2.

But Arkansas put up two runs in the seventh and another in the top of the eighth. Walker's RBI double to left-center highlighted the seventh while Scott Hode's sacrifice fly pushed the Hogs' final run across in the eighth.

"Even the balls that were booted there in the eight inning, they were hit hard," Van Horn said. "There was a lot of little things like that and we outplayed for seven innings.

"That's why this is so disappointing."

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