BASEBALL: Gators play host to FAMU

Fresh off its first action of the 2005 season, a 2-1 series victory over visiting Charleston Southern, Florida welcomes in-state foe Florida A&M (0-9) for the first of two meetings between the squads this season. The Gators will also host the Rattlers on Feb. 22 at McKethan Stadium.

The contest will feature a pair of rookie hurlers taking the hill. UF southpaw Stephen Locke will be making his collegiate debut for the home team, while FAMU will counter with right-hander Mike Tavernier (0-1, 9.95 ERA, 6.1 IP, 4 K).

The lone senior position player for the Gators, center fielder Jeff Corsaletti has started off his final season with a bang. The Port Charlotte, Fla., native batted .556 (5-for-9) versus the Buccaneers, including an impressive 3-for-4 outing in the series finale in which he matched his career high of six runs batted in and missed hitting for the cycle by a triple. He also led the Orange and Blue with five runs, a pair of stolen bases and cranked a three-run homer off the scoreboard overlooking right field. Juniors Bryan Ball (1-0, 1.50 ERA, 6.0 IP, 7 K) and Darren O'Day (1-1, 0.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 4 K) picked up UF's wins following a season-opening defeat in 11 innings on Friday night.

After being held to 14 hits and seven runs over the first two games by CSU, the Gators claimed the rubber game of the set by erupting for 15 runs on 10 hits to cruise to a 15-6 victory. UF raced out to a 5-0 advantage in the bottom of the second inning and later batted around in the seventh for seven more runs to put the game out of reach. Junior Stephen Barton (2-for-5, two runs), sophomore Matt LaPorta (three-run homer) and freshman Brandon McArthur (2-for-2, two RBI) also provided an offensive spark.

Florida A&M arrives in Gainesville seeking to apply the brakes to an 0-9 start to the season. The Rattlers fell in both ends of a doubleheader at Florida International on Jan. 29, 6-0 and 5-3, and were swept in a three-game series at home by Mercer over Feb. 5-6 (5-0, 10-3, 12-3). Last week, FAMU was on the short end to Jacksonville twice (13-3, 8-4) and dropped the return engagement to Florida International over the weekend in Tallahassee, 9-1 and 6-1.

The Orange and Green is batting .179 (50-for-280) as a team and has been outscored, 74-18. Senior first baseman Virgil Priestly and senior left fielder Dan Flaherty share the top spot among everyday players with .233 averages on identical 7-for-30 efforts, while junior third baseman Michael Sweatt (.125) has driven in a team-high four runs.

Florida holds a 12-0 advantage in the series that dates back to March 29, 1980. Behind a three-hit, four-RBI performance from C.J. Smith, Florida posted an 11-5 victory over Florida A&M on Feb. 18, 2004. Two other Gators, Justin Tordi and Jonathan Tucker, chipped in with two RBI each as the hosts received solid pitching performances from four pitchers. Ball picked up his first win of the season on the mound as he went four innings and gave up three hits and three runs (one earned) with a pair of strikeouts.

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