UF BASEBALL: Home Run Derby Huge Success

Before several hundred spectators on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon, the University of Florida baseball team and the Gator Dugout Club hosted the Fourth Annual Children's Miracle Network Home Run Derby and "Meet the Players" autograph session at McKethan Stadium. All of the money raised from the event will be donated to the Children's Miracle Network at Shands Children Hospital.

"We could not have asked for a better day weather-wise and I appreciate all of the fans coming out to support such a worthy cause," head coach Pat McMahon said. "I want to give special thanks to the Gator Dugout Club for all of their time and effort and for the outstanding work done by Frances Alfonso, Lee-Ann Humenik and several others from Shands. This was certainly a great way for us to kick off the season."

Former Gator standouts Ben Harrison, Pat Osborn, Ryan Shealy and C.J. Smith, as well as current volunteer assistant coach Brian Fleetwood, comprised the initial hitting group of the Home Run Derby. Throughout the event, each individual took a turn at the plate and swung for the fences until he reached nine outs, which consisted of anything short of a home run. Osborn and Smith led the way with two dingers apiece as the group totaled seven big flies.

Soon after, the 40 members of the 2005 UF squad were divided into 10 different groups containing four players. Freshman Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.) jumped out to the early lead in the contest by slugging four homers, while senior pitcher Tommy Boss (Dunnellon, Fla.) also sent a ball out of the yard to begin the fireworks.

After the second group was kept off the board by a combination of the pitching of assistant coach Tim Parenton and swirling winds, freshman Bo Smith (Gainesville, Fla.) stepped the dish and jacked three home runs to provide all of his group's production. Classmate Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) socked two four-baggers as part of the fourth unit before junior Stephen Barton (Miami, Fla.) and sophomore Seth Steinhauer (Stuart, Fla.) connected three times for groups five and six, respectively.

The competition heated up with the seventh contingent, as the pair of junior Andy Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) and sophomore Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) tied for the top individual spot with four blasts and took over the group lead with eight homers. Sophomore Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) and junior Greg Quatrino (Tampa, Fla.) went deep three times apiece for the eighth group before things really heated up.

Junior Daniel Brooks (Tampa, Fla.) rocketed to the lead by spraying 10 balls out of McKethan Stadium, including several deep over the left field fence into the bleachers, before senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) answered with nine jacks of his own. Not to be outdone, sophomore pitcher Steven Porter (Ocoee, Fla.) chipped in with two of the group's event-leading 21 homers.

Led by two shots from sophomore Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.), the final group's total of three homers enabled the Gators to finish with 63 round-trippers, the exact same figure as last year. Money pledged by various individuals and groups will now be collected and the Children's Miracle Network will be presented with a check prior to one of the UF games at McKethan Stadium this spring.

Calvin Lee, a 12-year-old who received a kidney transplant in November 2003, and 15-year-old Anthony Tornese, a bone marrow transplant recipient, threw out a ceremonial first pitches and helped shag balls with the Orange and Blue throughout the afternoon.

Ranked 15th by Baseball America, the Gators will now turn their attention to preparing for their season opener next Friday night, Feb. 11, against Charleston Southern (1-3). The contest will jump-start a 21-game homestand for McMahon's crew, which finished 43-22 overall and reached NCAA Super Regionals last June.

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