BASEBALL: Gators beat Rebels 5-4 in SEC Opener

Florida pitcher Bryan Ball and a potent Florida hitting attack led the sixth ranked Gators to a 5-4 victory over #14 Ole Miss in the SEC opener Friday night in Oxford, Mississippi. For weeks we've been telling you that this Florida team has an "in your face" edge about them. They perfectly demonstrated that point as they rallied every time Ole Miss took the lead. The final Florida rally secured the victory.

Ball (4-1) gave up a few big hits, but the Rebels were unable to piece together enough hits to generate a big inning. Ball gave up just seven hits and two earned runs in 7-1/3 innings.

It was one of those bizarre sink or swim evenings for the Florida hitters. The Gators pounded out 13 hits on pre-season All-SEC pitcher Mark Holliman and ace reliever Matt Maloney (1-1). However, the duo also struck out a dozen Florida hitters.

Ole Miss got on the scoreboard first when leadoff hitter Cooper Osteen greeted Ball with a double to left center. Osteen advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a ground out to second baseman Adam Davis.

Florida answered with one out in the top of the second as Brian LeClerc singled to right and shortstop Justin Tordi followed with a single to centerfield. Both advanced into scoring position on Holliman's wild pitch. LeClerc scored on Brian Jeroloman's ground out tying the score at 1-1.

The Rebels regained the lead in their turn in the second. Designated hitter Mark Wright reached on third baseman Stephen Barton's throwing error. He later scored on shortstop Zack Cozart's single.

The Gators mounted a rally of their own when they took their turn at the plate. Left fielder Gavin Dickey singled to start the inning. Center fielder Jeff Corsaletti then singled to same area, moving the speedy Dickey to third. Dickey scored on Adam Davis' single to right field. Holliman then walked Barton to load the bases. Corso scored on first baseman Matt LaPorta's fielder's choice. Despite just one out Florida was unable to score again, as Holliman struck out a pair of Florida hitters. Florida led 3-2.

With one out in bottom of the inning, Ball gave up back-to-back home runs in the third to take a 4-3 lead. To his credit, Ball didn't get rattled and seemingly answered the Rebels charge by aggressively bearing down them. Ole Miss wouldn't score again. Ball struck out five and walked none, as he eventually took total control of the bottom half of the zone.

Corsaletti led off the Florida fifth with a single up the middle. Two batters later Barton walked. LaPorta singled through the left side of the infield scoring Corsaletti to tie the game at 4-4.

LaPorta picked up the game winning hit with a home run down the left field line off of Maloney to leadoff the seventh.

The Rebels tried to rally in the eighth. Ole Miss' first baseman Stephen Head gave a Ball pitch a ride high on the centerfield wall in the eighth which was snagged by Jeff Corsaletti. Coach Pat McMahon made the call to the bullpen for closer Connor Falkenbach.

Falkenbach got slugger Brian Pettway to ground out shortstop Justin Tordi, and after giving up a single retired four of the next five batters to pick up the save. Jeroloman cut down Ole Miss' Justin Henry to end the eighth inning. Henry was trying to steal second.

The Gators were led at the plate by second baseman Adam Davis, who had been mirrored a deep slump. Davis' came through in the SEC opener with a three for five performance. Right fielder Brian LeClerc also went three for five. LaPorta ripped three RBI's on a pair of hits.

Unfortunately, Florida committed three errors, two by third baseman Stephen Barton. Left fielder gavin Dickey committed the other error.

This win got the Gators off on the right foot. Arkansas drilled South Carolina 9-1, LSU took the series opener over Georgia 8-2, and Kentucky dropped a 5-3 decision to Alabama in other conference action. Vanderbilt was the only other Eastern Division team to win their opener. The ‘Dores beat Mississippi State 10-3 in Starkville.

Florida is expected to throw former Ole Miss pitcher Alan Horne (1-1) tomorrow. Ole Miss will pitch lefthander and All-American candidate Stephen Head (3-0). First pitch is scheduled for 2:30pm EST.


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