BASEBALL: LaPorta leads Gators past Stetson 6-4

Sophomore Matt LaPorta went three for four, belted his league leading 21st home run, and turned a pair of double plays as fifteenth ranked Florida (35-18) dusted off the Stetson Hatters 6-4 Wednesday night at The Mac.

LaPorta seemingly decapitated the Hatters with his play in the eighth inning. In the top of the inning, the Florida first baseman took a hard hit grounder by Stetson third baseman Braedyn Pruitt, stepped out and fired the ball to shortstop Justin Tordi for the force. Tordi returned the ball quickly to LaPorta who had moved back over for the 3-6-3 twin killing.

The play was instrumental as the Gators trailed 4-3 and were in need of a spark.

"Yeah, that's a big boost when you get a double play like that late in the inning" LaPorta said afterwards.

Senior Jeff Corsaletti led off the bottom half of the inning by ripping a double down the right field line. Gavin Dickey then hit into a fielders choice that saw Stetson first baseman Chris Johnson catch Corsaletti move off of the bag at second just a little too far. Rather than try to get Dickey, Johnson wheeled with a throw to Pruitt, who then tossed the ball to shortstop Brian Brock who applied the tag.

However, Corsaletti kept the rundown off second allowing Dickey time to advance to the bag. Adam Davis followed with a fly ball to center field that moved Dickey to third. Two pitches later, LaPorta put the finishing touches on this one with a shot over the wall in right center, giving Florida the 6-4 advantage.

"We had a guy on (base), so I just figured a base was open and I wouldn't get a pitch to really hit" LaPorta said. "I was ready for it, if he did throw it over the plate. I thought that it was going to be off of the wall and we'd get the run in time. Today coming out in BP, I was real sluggish it seemed like. I was just asking God to help me through this one, because I was lethargic."

The Gators got on the boards first in the bottom of the second. LaPorta singled to center and moved to second on Brian Jeroloman's single to center. Third baseman Brandon McAthur then slapped a single just inside the baseline down the right field line scoring LaPorta from second.

The Hatters scored two runs in the top of the third inning courtesy of a pair of doubles by Jon Still and Shane Jordan, and a single by Brandon Paritz. The Gators got out of the inning with LaPorta's first double play of the game. Pruitt lined a rope toward LaPorta, who hauled in the ball and ran to first to step on the bag as Parita had jumped off of the base, not believing that LaPorta would be able to make the play.

Florida scored again in the fourth as McArthur led off with a double down the left field line. Two batters later Justin Tordi hit a single down the left field line as well, allowing McArthur to race home.

Stetson scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. McArthur began a 5-4-3 double play to end the Hatter threat in the fourth. In all the Gators turned four double plays tonight.

Senior Mike Pete picked up his third win of the season. Pete came on in relief of junior Darren O'Day in the seventh inning. Pete pitched 1.2 innings and allowed one hit while facing six batters.

O'Day pitched 3.2 innings allowing four hits and one earned run while striking out three Hatters. Freshman Stephen Locke started the game. Locke pitched 3.1 innings in which he gave up six hits and three earned runs.

Senior Connor Falkenbach continues to add to his career best 113th appearance. He picked up the save recording the final out tonight as Jon Still quietly grounded out to Adam Davis.

The Gators also received a big lift from Corsaletti, who has been mirrored in an 0-15 slump. Corso was hitless in his first three at bats, but laced a single over the bag at first in the sixth and followed with the leadoff double in the eighth that helped pace the Gators to the victory. His double was the 51st of his career tying him with David Eckstein for third on the Gators All-Time list.

"Finally." Corsaletti stated. "I think that I was 0-14 or something like that. I was hitting balls hard at people, and that's the worst. When you hit balls at people, because you have to remind yourself that I'm taking good swings. So, finally I was able to put it together."

"To tell you the truth, when we travel I left this belt at my house two weeks ago, and I forgot to bring it with me to the field this past weekend" the ever amusing Corsaletti said. "It was at home, and I was like, I have to bring my lucky belt. It's the belt that I've been using all year. I bring the belt and get two knocks and get a win late in the game, so it was nice."

Florida will travel to Nashville to play Vanderbilt in the final regular season series. The Gators will send right hander Alan Horne (6-2, 3.94 ERA, .288 OBA) to the mound to face Vanderbilt ace Jensen Lewis (8-2, 2.27 ERA, .211 OBA) in what should make for a terrific pitcher's duel.

"It's a real big win, especially going into such a big weekend that we've got" LaPorta said. "We're going to play for the SEC Championship this weekend and I think that it's a jump start for us."

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