BASEBALL: Gators Turn FAMU Into Cannon Fodder

Florida A&M came armed with incredible pitch, hitting prowess (of the perfect tune), and plenty of moves to high step across the turf. But, enough about their band! This was baseball, and the Rattlers (0-14) were mere practice fodder for the nationally twelfth-ranked Florida Gators.

Florida blasted the Rattlers 18-3 under a full moon Tuesday night, one week after the Gators dismantled the Rattlers, 17-2. You knew it was bad when the fans started chanting, "Warm up the bus" in the eighth inning, when they probably should have begun the chant after the bottom of the first. And let's face it, inserting the band couldn't have hurt much more, as the Gators set season high records in runs, hits, and errors by an opponent. Florida helped set FAMU baseball back a few years with combined scores of 35-5, while the Rattlers may have done the Gators a favor.

Justin Tordi at bat

The Gators received some much needed assistance from the Rattlers for their upcoming opponent, Rhode Island. Florida A&M threw lefthanders all evening against the Gators. The Rams will bring talented southpaw Zack Zuercher to Gainesville this weekend. The All-American is a Roger Clemens Award candidate who struck out 123 batters in 92.2 innings last year. There is no question that Florida didn't see a pitcher of the caliber of Zuercher Tuesday night, but they got some quality turns in the box against a lefty which can only help.

Florida starter Tommy Wynn gave up two of FAMU's runs in the top of the first. David Hampton walked with one out and advanced to third on Stanley Gnat's single. Hampton scored on Virgil Priestly's grounder to Florida second baseman Adam Davis. Dan Flaherty doubled to center one pitch later scoring Gnat, and the Rattlers led 2-0.

Stephen Barton gets ready to take off

The Gators roared back in their turn in the first. Florida scored four runs as they loaded up the bases courtesy of singles by Stephen Barton and Matt LaPorta, and a walk by Brian LeClerc. Shortstop Justin Tordi ripped a single to right field scoring Barton. LaPorta and LeClerc also scored on the play, when FAMU catcher Elvin Millan threw over second baseman Corey McFadden's head into center field. Millan had Leclerc dead between second and third and any kind of throw to second would have nailed Leclerc but it was that kind of night for FAMU in the field. Tordi advanced all the way to third on the play and scored on a wild pitch a few moments later.

Florida's pitching was keyed by the strong relief performance of lefty Mike Pete (photo, right). He allowed only one hit in 3.2 innings, while sending five Rattlers back to the dugout with a special K. Picking up his first win of the season, Pete (1-0) nearly struck out half (five) of the thirteen batters he faced.

"Coach Jones and I have been working on my arm stroke," said Pete, a senior from Armwood. "It's been running on me, but the ball was sinking for me tonight. It was a good night all the way around."

Florida added one run in the fourth on an Adam Davis home run. They added two more in the fifth, before the flood gates opened in the sixth.

The Rattlers went to the bullpen for reliever Jim Beauford, who would have been better served declining Coach Joe Durant's invitation. Florida touched Beauford for four earned runs without recording an out. In fact, the Gators batted around in the sixth before recording the first out. The Gators then roughed up reliever David James for five more runs, three of them earned.

Everything's a blur except for Brian Leclerc as he's about to slam a hit

The Rattlers added a run in the eighth, only to see the Gators put up two more runs in the bottom of the inning.

Matt LaPorta led the Gators at the plate, going 4-5 with three RBI's. He hit a monster home run that easily cleared the left field stands, one of the longest homers at McKethan Stadium in years.

FAMU pitching was just what the doctor ordered for a pair of Florida players who needed an opportunity to break loose. Third baseman Brandon McArthur (photo, right)ripped four hits in five trips to the plate. The Tampa native had entered the contest hitting just .190. Second baseman Adam Davis finally broke out with a 3-5 performance which included his first home run of the season and two runs batted in. Davis had been hitting just .138.

"It was a good night," McArthur said, grinning. "It was good game for our team overall. What matters the most is how the team performs. It felt good to get out here and make plays."

Gavin Dickey (photo, left) pinch hit in the fourth, before taking over in left field in the fifth. The Tallahassee native went 2-2 with a double, RBI, and a stolen base. He, too, was among the happy Gators after the game.

"Any experience to get live at bats is a good thing," a smiling Dickey said. "I focused on making things happen and it was a good night. I'm ready for my opportunity it presents itself. I enjoyed getting out there and running the bases."

Closer Josh Edmondson came on in the ninth to shut down the Rattlers. He struck out the first two batters he faced. Edmondson then got McFadden to ground out on a first pitch to end the nightmare.

Florida will play a three game series against Rhode Island this weekend at McKethan Stadium. The Rams were 30-20-1 last season, and finished as the Atlantic 10 champions. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday.

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