LeClerc hammers 3 HRs as Gators rout FAMU 17-2

By the time Brian LeClerc stepped to the plate the third time Tuesday might, the ball looked as big as a cantaloupe traveling in slow motion. The sophomore outfielder was in one of those zones when every time he swung the bat good things happened for the Florida Gators.

He got a fast ball on the first pitch of the second inning and he promptly deposited it over the wall in left center field. He got another fast ball on the first pitch in the third inning and this one he sent sailing over the wall in right field, this one a two-run homer. In the third inning, with a runner on first, he took a ball, then a called strike. The next pitch was a fast ball that he cranked out of McKethan Stadium for his third home run of the game.

LeClerc thought the called strike was out of the strike zone, but instead of griping, he calmly stepped out of the batter's box, took a deep breath and regained his focus.

"I just took a deep breath and stepped back in there, tried to hit the ball like I did the first two times," said LeClerc, a Clearwater native whose three-home run night was the first of his career at any level of baseball.

LeClerc and senior center fielder Jeff Corsaletti provided all the power and runs the Gators needed Tuesday. Corsaletti matched Sunday's six RBI performance against Charleston Southern with another six, driven home by two homers and a single as the Gators hammered Florida A&M, 17-2, to extend the winless Rattlers losing streak to 10 games.

For the Gators it was their third win in four games and it sets the stage for a weekend encounter at McKethan Stadium with the Miami Hurricanes, ranked second in the latest Collegiate Baseball poll.

"I think you guys should expect good things out of us this weekend," said LeClerc, whose three homers in a game were the first for a Gator hitter since Ryan Shealy launched three against Ole Miss back in 2002.

Coach Pat McMahon was pleased with LeClerc's performance, particularly since his young outfielder has had some minor health issues in the weeks leading up to the start of the season.

"He's had some little injuries that he's had to battle through and hopefully he's a little more healthy and that shows," said McMahon. "He swing the bat very well tonight. I'm very pleased with him because we need that kind of effort out of Brian LeClerc."

Florida pounded out 16 hits, a season best effort, and the Gators got a surprising effort on the mound from a trio of freshmen pitchers. Starter Stephen Locke went four innings, allowed just three hits and one run while striking out four. Michael Branham came on in relief, went two innings, giving up no hits and an unearned run while striking out two, and the third freshman, Tommy Wynn, struck our four in two innings of hitless baseball. Senior Christian Madson struck out the side in the ninth after allowing a leadoff single.

"Stephen Locke in his first collegiate appearance as a Gator was terrific," said McMahon. "He threw very well and located his pitches and that was very pleasing to see. Michael Branham did a great job of locating and throwing the ball in the strike zone and Tommy Wynn pitched very well. Those are three young freshmen that we are going to count on very heavily. The key for them tonight was no walks."

Corsaletti got the Gators going in the bottom of the first with a two-run homer to left center to bring home Stephen Barton, who had reached on a FAMU error. The senior from Port Charlotte didn't take batting practice before the game because of a late class.

"He [Corsaletti] was in class until six o'clock and he got out here just in time to play," said McMahon. "I told him maybe we ought to do that more often!"

Corsaletti came into the game hitting .556. When he took a rest after the fifth, his season numbers read eight hits in 13 at bats, seven runs scored, two doubles, three homers, 12 runs batted in and a .615 batting average.

What pleased him more than his own efforts was the fact that the team has started swinging the bat very well the last two games.

"We're finally starting to come through as a team and starting to hit the ball well," he said. "All the guys are putting the pieces together. I know I'm really seeing the ball well and it's good. I think our hitting is starting to be contagious and I think that's big going into this weekend with Miami."

LeClerc's first homer in the second was part of a three-run inning that gave the Gators a 5-0 lead. Corsaletti drove in two runs with a nice piece of hitting when he fought off a ball on his fists and dropped it over the shortstop's head into shallow left field, plating Adam Davis and Stephen Barton.

Florida put six more runs on the board in the third. LeClerc and Corsaletti each smacked two-run homers in the inning. The two home runs sandwiched a two-run double by Barton, and from there the Gators were in cruise control the rest of the way.

LeClerc's third home run of the game was in the fourth, another two-run job. In a four-run sixth, the Gators got a two-run sacrifice fly from Bryson Barber, whose long fly ball to the deepest part of the park. FAMU's Kevin Clethan made a spectacular over the shoulder catch for the out but he fell down as he caught the ball. Jeff Tordi scored easily from third and LeClerc raced home all the way from second.

It wasn't all fun and games for the Gators, however. Florida had another poor outing in the field, committing four errors, three by Davis at second base. Florida has committed 14 errors in four games, a troubling fact to McMahon.

"You can't give people four outs an inning and walks," said McMahon, noting that the Gators would be working hard to correct the errors in the field prior to Friday. "You must give teams a standard three outs an inning and we have to perform better that way."

The Gators host Miami for single games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Righthanders Tommy Boss and Alan Horne will likely go Friday and Saturday with Bryan Ball getting the Sunday start.

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