Baseball Can't Hold On to Late Lead

The University of Florida baseball team (37-18, 16-13 SEC) could not hold onto a 6-3 lead entering the bottom of the eighth as Tennessee (36-19, 14-15 SEC) mounted a come back for the second straight night as the Volunteers pulled out a 9-7 victory on Saturday. The Volunteers scored six runs in the bottom of the eighth to take the series from the Gators.

Matt LaPorta hit a pair of home runs for the Gators as he finished 2-for-3 with three RBI. Freshman Brian Leclerc also drove in a pair of runs for Florida in the loss.

The six-run eighth for Tennessee was highlighted by a three run home run by Rob Fitzgerald that broke a six all tie. Tennessee had earlier pushed three runs across before the Fitzgerald heroics. Florida had opened the flood gates for the Volunteers as a sacrifice bunt that was thrown wide with runners at first and second loaded the bases. In a pinch hitting role Chase Headley doubled in two runs with his shot down the left field line before an RBI sacrifice fly by Chris Kemp tied the contest. Florida reliever Steven Porter would walk the ninth batter Todd Martin, which brought Fitzgerald to the plate in the clutch situation.

Florida starter Tommy Boss kept the game under control as he pitched 5 and 2/3 innings and gave up seven hits and one run with one strikeout. He took the no decision while Connor Falkenbach took the loss for the Gators. Falkenbach pitched just a 1/3 of an inning and gave up two unearned runs as he fell to 7-6 on the season.

In relief, Patrick Hicklen earned the win on the mound for Tennessee. Hicklen would limit the Gators to five hits and three runs and walked four with 10 strikeouts in his 7 and 1/3 innings. Florida knocked Tennessee starter Sean Watson out of the game early which brought on Hicklen who would throw 114 pitches.

Florida gave Boss the support he needed early as the Gators batted around the order in the second while scoring four runs. UF hit two long balls in the inning and had five hits including three for extra bases. Matt LaPorta hit his 11th home run of the season while Brian Leclerc hit a solo shot.

Ben Harrison drew a base on balls to lead off the inning and came home on a one out triple by Adam Davis. LaPorta followed with his line shot two run home run that just stayed fair down the left field line. Following the second out of the inning, Leclerc took Watson's pitch over the wall for a 400-foot home run to right center field. Later in the inning UF would knock Watson out of the game as back-to-back singles brought on Hicklen.

Hicklen would finish the game for Tennessee as he settled down after walking in Florida's fifth run in the third. Florida loaded the bases and Leclers picked up the RBI that brought home Harrison for a 5-0 Gator advantage after three.

Tennessee would finally get to Boss in the sixth as Boss retired 15 of 18 batters he faced through five innings. Alex Suarez drove in Rob Fitzgerald with a sacrifice fly after Fitzgerald had led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a fielder's choice. The next two Tennessee batters hit singles, which brought Florida head coach Pat McMahon to the mound to remove Boss. Reliever Darren O'Day came on and struck out Michael Rivera to end the inning.

The Volunteers would score two unearned runs in the seventh to cut the lead to two runs at 5-3. An error at third plated Kelly Edmundson who led off the inning with a single. Pinch hitter Chris Kemp would score the Tennessee third run as a weird double play that went 1-3-5-4 allowed Kemp to cross the plate. Florida had two crucial errors in the seventh that kept the inning alive for Tennessee.

Florida would get one of the runs back as LaPorta went deep again to give Florida a 6-3 lead. LaPorta would take an 0-1 Hicklen pitch and hit towering no doubt home run to left field.

Florida would add a seventh run in the ninth as Harrison hit a solo shot to left center field. Harrison walked twice and scored three of Florida's seven runs.

The final game of the series and final regular season game is Sunday at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. The game will be televised live on Sunshine Network with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT.

In his last four starts Boss has pitched 23 and 1/3 innings and given up just six earned runs.

LaPorta has hit four home runs in Florida's last three games … His 12 home runs this season are tied for the second most ever in a single season by a Florida freshman … It was the first multi-home run game of his career.

Florida committed four or more errors in a game for just the fifth time this season and for just the second time in an SEC game.

The four Florida home runs were a season high. The Gators had previously hit three home runs in a game twice.

The Gators had 10 or more hits in an SEC game for the 18th time this season.

UF lost for the first time on the road in a Saturday SEC contest.

The Gators have lost five straight game by two runs or less. Florida has played 14 games in the SEC that have been decided by two or less runs.

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