BASEBALL: Gators Walk Away With Win Over 'Nova

The eighth-ranked Florida Gators baseball team ran their record to 11-3 Sunday by taking the rubber match of a three-game series with Villanova, 6-5, in 10 innings before a McKethan Stadium crowd of 2,689. Villanova (5-3-1), which beat the Gators 11-1 Friday night in the first game of the series, played Florida tough all weekend and it took everything the Gators had to polish off the Wildcats Sunday afternoon.

Patience was the key for the Gators. The winning run was produced on a walk to Jared Kubin with the bases loaded. The walk to Kubin was the fourth straight free pass of the inning for the Gators and it sent Brian Leclerc home with the game-ender.

The Wildcats got outstanding starting pitching the entire series and their Sunday starter, Kevin Mulvey, looked every bit as good as the starters of the first two nights as he struck out five of the first nine batters he faced. The Wildcats backed the sharp pitching with opportune hitting, striking for one run in each of the third and fourth innings to take a 2-0 lead.

The Gators finally woke up the bats in the fourth inning. Stephen Barton and Adam Davis led off the fourth with singles but Jeff Corsaletti hit into a double play, advancing Barton to third. Barton bluffed a steal of home, creating enough of a distraction that Mulvey balked in the Gators first run.

In the fifth inning the Gators managed four singles and an untimely Villanova error to produce three runs for a 4-2 lead. It was the bottom third of the order that got the Gators started. Brian Jeroloman walked and Jared Kubin followed with a single. Daniel Brooks beat out a bunt and the throw to first went wild, scoring Jeroloman and Kubin. Brooks came home on an Adam Davis single.

Gator starter Tommy Boss went five and two-thirds innings, giving up seven hits and two earned runs. He was pulled after throwing 68 pitches. Steven Porter came on to throw to one batter, getting the third out on a fly ball to end the sixth.

Connor Falkenbach came in in the seventh inning to strike out two of the four batters he faced. In the bottom half of the inning, Barton reached first on a throwing error, then stole second. Corsaletti singled him home to stake the Gators to a 5-2 lead.

Falkenbach ran into trouble in the eighth. He walked the lead off batter but got a double play grounder. Trouble followed in the form of consecutive singles by in the second but got a double play to clear the bases and two outs. Back to back singles were followed by a three-run homer by the Wildcats James Dolbier, who sent a rocket over the left center field wall to tie the game at 5-5.

Darren O'Day came on to get the Gators out of the eighth. He allowed two hits over the final two innings to earn his third win in four decisions and lower his earned run average to 0.61. He struck out two.

In the bottom of the eighth inning Gator shortstop Justin Tordi was thrown out trying to get home after a force out at second. The double play also earned Tordi a trip to the showers as he came hard at the Villanova catcher with his elbows high and was ejected from the game.

Gator Coach Pat McMahon says Tordi won't miss any more playing time.

"That's a tough play," McMahon said. "We have a wheel play there as the middle infielder loses his feet on the play. Having said that, we had a tough collision at the plate. I think both coaching staffs and the umpires did a good job of keeping things under control. Justin Tordi plays as hard as you can play. Obviously, you don't like to see the result of that and hope their catcher is okay. That is baseball. If you play the game hard, things like that occur, hopefully no further injuries will occur. You want to play hard, but you want to play hard with class."

The Gator offense sputtered in the ninth going three and out without getting the ball out of the infield. In the tenth the Gators didn't need any hits as the four walks plated the game-winning run.

Following the game McMahon had several good things to say about Villanova.

"Villanova has an outstanding ball club," McMahon said. "They pitched the entire series as well as today, very well. That is a great credit to their coaching staff as well as their players that they are competing. They made all the plays. It was an exciting series for our ball club."

McMahon likes the schedule he has put together and thinks that the Gators tough schedule will pay dividends down the road. "I decided we wanted to bring the very best ball clubs to play and help us continue to get better," he said.

The hard nosed Villanova team was a great test and could be similar to what the Gators see come SEC schedule time.

"I'll tell you, Friday night they were as good as anyone in the league (SEC)," he said. "So often in this game (the opponent may) have a quality club, they defend well, and they pressure you on offense. That is the thing about college baseball. As well as they pitched this weekend, they matched up exactly like that. I am prejudiced about what makes the SEC so special. From top to bottom, everybody in the league has an outstanding club."

Florida's early season schedule has provided several key tests for the Gators and McMahon is quite happy with the way his team has responded. "Our guys continue to battle our hearts out and find a way," McMahon said. "When you can do that, you put yourself in a position to be successful at the end of the game. We are a scrappy bunch of guys that are batting their hearts out. That's what type of club you'll see if you come out to the ball park. We want to play the best schedule in the country and everybody doesn't have that philosophy. You look at a lot of teams and there are a lot of schedules that might not be as difficult. Obviously, scheduling is an issue because you have to play within parameters. That is how you get better. You look at how many one run games we have played this year and again another one run game (today). I am really proud of our guys and how we hung in there. There were a couple of momentum shifts, the two out base hits and the three run homer. Those are things that you can over come."

The pitching is coming along and McMahon is fnding spots for each guy to get in.

"We pitched very well," he said. "Tommy Boss continues to get better. Stephen Porter matched up pretty well. Connor Faulkenbach is our guy, He is going to stay in the game (most of the time). He left the ball up in the middle of the plate in disadvantaged counts. Darren O'Day, what a wonderful job he did for the ball club. We defended the field pretty well also

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