BASEBALL: UNC Asheville rallies past Florida 8-5

It looked as though Florida reliever Darren O'Day (3-2) was about to deliver the Gators from the clutches of a Bulldog upset. The junior with a sparkling .061 ERA entered the game in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out. He quickly forced centerfielder Tony Campana to hit into a 4-6-3 double play keeping the Gators within a run.

The Gators knotted things up in their half of the sixth inning courtesy of a Gavin Dickey RBI single. O'Day then went to the mound where he retired the side in both the seventh and eighth innings, which included three strikeouts. However, after retiring left fielder Kevin Mattison on a routine grounder to first base, O'Day's masterful performance took a southward turn, as UNC Asheville's pair of fours topped Florida's hand.

Campana hustled down the line for a single on a ball hit deep to short, beating Adam Davis' throw by a step. Shortstop Josh Coyle then ripped the first pitch under the glove of third baseman Brandon McArthur. The error was Florida's second of the game. Coyle took second on the throw, as Campana moved safely into third. First baseman Elliott Arrington was intentionally walked to load the bases. O'Day then struck out right fielder Nick Durham on three nasty pitches. Unfortunately, the Jacksonville native sent his next offering into pinch hitter Charles Pippitt giving the Bulldogs a 5-4 lead. Second baseman Evan Dawson punched the next pitch into the right-center gap. Florida centerfielder Jeff Corsaletti raced over and cut off the ball sliding across the wet outfield, but not before Dawson had cleared the bases with a stand-up double. UNC Asheville plated four unearned runs in the inning.

O'Day was two pitches, possibly two inches of McArthur's glove from a Florida victory. His curveball and slider sent four Bulldogs back to the dugout eager for another opportunity to face the righthander. Only Dawson made good on the effort, amking up for his error in the bottom of the first inning.

Florida jumped out to an early lead in the first inning on Matt LaPorta's two-out single, scoring Adam Davis. LaPorta took second on a throwing error by Dawson.

UNC Asheville scored four earned runs in the fourth inning. Starter Brian Augenstein, who had cruised through the first three innings, gave up four consecutive singles which scored two Bulldog runs. Coach Pat McMahon called on reliever Connor Falkenbach to send them back to the pound, but not before he uncharacteristically gave up a pair of singles, which also scored two runs. The Bulldogs took a commanding 4-1 lead.

The Gators closed the gap in the fifth. Stephen Barton walked and moved to third on Jeff Corsaletti's single to right field. However, Durham threw the ball away, allowing Barton to score on the play. After stealing third Corsaletti took home when catcher Justin Wilkins misfired on his return to the pitcher.

Dickey, Corsaletti, and right fielder Gavin Dickey each collected two hits in three trips to the plate. Dickey looked especially comfortable in the box. "I've been working really hard". He said. "During spring break I took extra batting practice. I worked before and after practice."

The Bulldog pitching staff did a good job of keeping the Florida bats at bay. Using four different pitchers, UNC Asheville struck out 11. Eight different Florida hitters struck out at least once. The Bulldogs deserve high praise for their fight, but this was one that could just as easily have been in the win column for Florida. For those wearing the Orange and Blue this will be hard to stomach for the next 24 hours.

Florida rallied, but wasn't able to capitalize on four UNC Asheville errors. And despite a few bright moments by the Florida pitching staff, the lack of consistency was evident, as eight of the Bulldogs 10 hits were in the pair of four run innings. Throw a costly error into the mix and it's easy to see how this was a total team loss. The conditions were miserable, and on this day so was the outcome.

The Gators will be back in action against Michigan State for a three game series this weekend at The Mac.

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