The victory improves Florida to 28-10 overall, 11-5 in SEC play, while Auburn falls to 25-15 and 8-8 in conference action. Auburn Coach Tommy Slater said the game was a tough one for his team and starter Arnold Hughey, who allowed just six hits in seven and one/third innings to fall to 3-4 on the season.
"I thought Arnold was outstanding tonight," Slater said. "Really he just left a couple of balls up, he just left them up to the wrong guy in LaPorta. In the first inning we're just trying to go off the plate and down with a base open at first and a left-hander on deck and Arnold made one mistake. He left the ball in the middle of the plate up and that's why LaPorta has 15 home runs now. That's what he does with mistakes. If Arnold could have three pitches out of the 94 he threw back tonight he would take those three back...Arnold was outstanding tonight, don't get me wrong. That was a prime performance by a senior. I'm very proud of him and his effort tonight. He saved our bullpen because he went deep into the game for us."
LaPorta led the way for Florida at the plate with three hits as no other Gator had more than one on the night. For the Tigers it was a tough night against Florida starter Tommy Boss (5-2) as Clete Thomas, Josh Donaldson and Bruce Edwards combined for six of Auburn's seven hits with Thomas having Auburn's only RBI on the night. The rest of Auburn's batting lineup had just one hit in 21 at-bats on the night.
Clete Thomas had two hits and drove home Auburn's only run of the night on his 13th double of the year.
It didn't take long for Hughey to feel the bite of the Gator lineup as Jeff Corsaletti led off the game with a sharp single into left field. Hughey recovered to get Gavin Dickey on a ground ball and Adam Davis on a strikeout, but then it was LaPorta time. Getting a pitch out over the plate, LaPorta deposited it over the left field wall for a two-run home run to give Florida the early lead.
Both pitchers settled in pretty quickly as the game cruised through two and a half innings. That's when the rains came. Following a delay of 53 minutes the game resumed with Auburn coming to the plate. It wasn't until the fifth that the fireworks would occur for the Tigers.
Before that Hughey escaped further damage in the top of the fifth inning. Brian Jeroloman, the younger brother of former Auburn shortstop Chuck Jeroloman, led off the frame with a double just inside the first base bag to put the pressure on the Tigers senior hurler. Reaching down deep, Hughey responded with his best stretch of pitching all season as he got Justin Tordi and Jared Kubin on back-to-back strikeouts before Corsaletti hit a ground ball back to Hughey on the mound for the final out.
That gave Auburn some momentum and the Tigers made Boss pay in the bottom of the fifth. Leading off, third baseman Josh Donaldson put down a bunt that third baseman Michael McArthur couldn't field cleanly. Shortstop Adam Stacey was then hit by a pitch to bring center fielder Bruce Edwards to the plate. Looking to move the runners over, Edwards put down a perfect bunt that he beat out for a single to load the bases with nobody out.
Auburn got some bad luck next as Tyler Johnston ripped a ground ball up the middle, but second baseman Adam Davis had him played perfectly and flipped to Tordi for the 4-6-3 double play. On the play Donaldson scored to cut the lead to one, but now there were two outs. It didn't matter to Auburn's Clete Thomas as he doubled off the monster in left field to score Stacey and tie the game at two. It wouldn't last long thanks the power in the Florida lineup.
With one out in the top of the sixth Davis came to the plate looking for a pitch to drive and got it from Hughey, lifting a drive into left-center that hit off the bricks just above the wall for a solo home run. It was Davis' sixth bomb of the season and put the Gators back in front. Already with one on the night LaPorta widened his lead in the SEC with the next pitch as he took a fastball deep over the batter's eye in center field for his 15th home run this year. Now ahead 4-2 Boss went back to work on the hill with a two-run advantage.
The Tigers missed a golden opportunity to get a run back in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Dickey, a current Florida football player, put forth his best Jerry Rice imitation to kill Auburn's rally. With two outs and nobody on Edwards singled to left field to bring Johnstone to the plate. Jumping on a pitch, Johnstone drove it deep into left field. Running full speed, Dickey caught the ball over his shoulder near the warning track to end the inning and save a sure run. Auburn wouldn't challenge again as reliever Darren O'Day came on to finish the final two innings and earn his fifth save of the season.
Auburn and Florida tangle for game two at 4 p.m. Saturday with junior Josh Sullivan taking the mound against Alan Horne for the Gators.