One of the keys to the Gators success the past two weeks has been their ability to score first and put the pressure on the opposing team, while their pitching staff throws knowing they're getting offensive production. They were able to do that again today against Alabama.
Florida scored two runs in the bottom of the second. Right fielder Brian LeClerc took Alabama starter Wade LeBlanc's 0-1 pitch over the right field wall, where it bounced off of the roof of the shed. Two batters later, catcher Brian Jeroloman ripped a LeBlanc fastball over the right field wall for yet another solo shot.
"My brother faced him (LeBlanc) last year and he told me to look for that pitch on top of the plate," Jeroloman said. "He left it over the inside half of the plate and I got the better half of it. I was pretty happy about it. He's a great pitcher, the National Freshman Player of the Year last year, so he's incredible."
Alabama scored their first run in the fourth, when Florida starter Alan Horne (3-2) got into a little trouble. Left fielder Gabe Scott doubled down the left field line. First baseman Zach Welch then singled to center, moving Scott to third. Marrow Thomley hit a deep fly ball to center, scoring Scott. However, Horne and the Gators damned the Tide and Florida led 2-1.
"Yeah, Coach McMahon and Coach Jones have really preached to us," Horne said. "You've got to bear down and continue to pitch. You really can't expect to just go and in there when you get in trouble and just strike everybody out. You've got to continue to pitch and hit your spots, and most of the time they're going to get themselves out and let your defense help you out."
The Gators answered with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. First baseman Matt LaPorta stroked a single to left and later scored on Jeroloman's RBI single to left field.
Horne pitched 5.2 innings giving up seven hits and only one earned run, while striking out four. He threw 92 pitches.
Florida ripped four hits and scored two runs in a marathon fifth inning. Gavin Dickey led off with a bunt single toward first base. He moved to third on LaPorta's second hit of the game. LeClerc then singled to right, scoring Dickey. Third baseman Brandon McArthur followed by laying one down for a run scoring single as LaPorta hurried home. Florida now led 5-1.
Relievers Mike Pete and Connor Falkenbach came on to combine for two innings of relief work. It marked the 10th time this season that Pete has come on with runners on board without surrendering a run.
LeClerc led off the seventh with his third hit of the game, a single to center. Alabama reliever Jordan Davis walked McArthur on a full count. The Crimson Tide were able to get the next two batters out, and hoped to get out of jam, which could put the game out of reach. However, pinch-hitter Stephen Barton singled to drive home LeClerc. Center fielder Jeff Corsaletti then bounced a single up the middle scoring McArthur and Florida stretched its' lead to 7-1.
The Crimson Tide scored four runs in the eighth, but O'Day came on in relief of Falkenbach and threw 1.1 no hit innings against Alabama, while picking up his fourth save of the year.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow at 12pm, where the Gators will go for the sweep. A pair of undefeated southpaws are expected to take to the hill. Alabama is scheduled to start sophomore Brandon Belcher (4-0, 3.79 ERA) while Florida will counter with freshman Stephen Locke (5-0, 1.77 ERA).