BASEBALL: Gators slip past Ole Miss, 10-7

HOOVER, AL -- Top-seeded Florida (40-18) used late-inning heroics for the second-consecutive game on Thursday night to remain in the winner's bracket of the 2005 Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. After fourth-seeded Ole Miss (41-17) overcame a 5-0 deficit with four runs in the sixth and three more scores in the seventh to seize a 7-5 lead, the Gators responded with three runs in the seventh and two more tallies in the eighth to notch a 10-7 triumph.

With the win, Florida advances to Saturday's semifinal at 1:30 p.m. CT. Meanwhile, the Rebels will face fifth-seeded Alabama (38-20) in an elimination game tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. CT. UM handled the Crimson Tide, 3-1, in Wednesday's opening round.

Early on, the game was a pitching duel between UF junior Alan Horne (Marianna, Fla.) and Ole Miss junior Matt Maloney. However, the Orange and Blue erupted for five runs on six hits in the fifth to break the ice. Sophomore Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.) dragged a bunt to start the inning and sophomore Gavin Dickey (Tallahassee, Fla.) roped a shot to first that junior Stephen Head could not contain, resulting in a hit. A sacrifice bunt by junior Justin Tordi (Orlando, Fla.) put the runners on second and third and freshman Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) lofted a Texas Leaguer to center to score Leclerc and move Dickey to third. Senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) ripped Maloney's 1-2 pitch into left to bring home the second run before sophomore Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) made the second out with a fly ball to left. The SEC's Player of the Year, sophomore Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.), then delivered a two-run double to left center just beyond the reach of senior Miles Franklin for a 4-0 advantage. The hit brought the slugger's team-best RBI total to 69. Soon after, sophomore Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) rifled a double down the left-field line to bring across LaPorta.

The Rebels roared back with four runs on four hits in the sixth to narrow the gap to 5-4. Junior Brian Pettway started things off in the inning with his 18th homer of the campaign, a shot that cleared the wall in left field. It was his fourth round-tripper against the Gators this season. Horne issued a walk to Head and sophomore Mark Wright bashed a double to left to give UM runners on second and third. Senior Cooper Osteen punched a single into left to score Head and a sacrifice fly by freshman Zack Cozart brought across Wright. Senior Barry Gunther scratched out a hit near the mound and wound up on second on a throwing error by Horne, while Osteen occupied third. Senior Mike Pete (Brandon, Fla.) was called on to replace Horne, who scattered eight hits and permitted four runs over 5.1 innings against his former squad. A groundout by sophomore pinch hitter C.J. Ketchum trimmed UF's lead to 5-4 and Pete prevented further problems with a key strikeout of freshman Justin Henry.

Ole Miss kept up its offensive production in the seventh and capitalized on a Gator fielding mistake to move in front for the first time. Sophomore Chris Coghlan began the frame with a single and took second on a grounder by Pettway. After Pete induced an infield fly by Head, senior Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.) took over the pitching duties. The righty was greeted by a game-tying triple into the right-field corner by Wright to tie the score at 5-5 and then walked Osteen. A fielding error by Davis on Cozart's grounder allowed Wright to provide the Rebels with a 6-5 lead. Gunter then roped a base-hit up the middle for a two-run UM lead that chased Falkenbach (0.0 IP, two hits, two runs) from the game. Sophomore Steven Porter (Ocoee, Fla.) had sophomore Alex Presley ground out to end the stanza.

Helped by a Rebel error, the Gators re-claimed the lead with three runs in the bottom of the seventh to go up 8-7. Davis drew a leadoff walk and LaPorta launched his second double of the game to end Maloney's tenure. The lefty gave up 11 hits and seven runs (six earned) with nine strikeouts and one walk. Head came over from first base onto the hill and Jeroloman stroked a RBI single up the middle to pull the Gators within a run. Freshman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) grounded to third, but the throw from Coghlan to the plate went awry, letting LaPorta score. With Jeroloman positioned on third and McArthur now aboard at second, a grounder by Leclerc put Florida ahead by a one-run margin.

Porter struck out Henry to begin the eighth and Coghlan and Pettway laced back-to-back singles. A fielder's choice by Head pushed Coghlan to third and forced Pettway at second, prompting a Gator pitching change. Junior Darren O'Day (Jacksonville, Fla.) came out of the bullpen and struck out Wright to preserve the slim lead.

The Gators tacked on a pair of insurance runs on a two-out single into right center by McArthur, who ended a 0-for-21 drought with the clutch hit. Corsaletti had sliced a one-out single to left and was erased on Davis' fielder's choice. LaPorta's third hit of the evening advanced Davis to third and a Rebel fielding error on the play permitted LaPorta to take second. Following a walk to Jeroloman that loaded the bases, McArthur drove Head's next pitch into the gap for a 10-7 cushion.

Porter (2-1) earned the win after giving up two hits in an inning of work, while O'Day registered his sixth save. Corsaletti and LaPorta totaled three hits apiece for Florida, which was boosted by a 15-hit offensive attack. Dickey, Leclerc and Jeroloman also contributed multiple-hit outings for Pat McMahon's club. All-American Pettway went 4-for-5 to lead the Rebels, with Head (7-3) on the hook for the defeat after allowing four hits and three runs (one earned) over two innings.


Ole Miss Head Coach Mike Bianco
"This game was a pitching dual between two good ball teams tonight. Matt dominated for us at the beginning of the game, but we could not buy a break. We knew coming into tonight that we had to play perfect and we did not offensively. It was a great job by our guys and a tough one to lose."

Matt Maloney, Pitcher
"I felt great out there on the mound for us tonight. I had a good zip on my fastball and good movement on my slider, as well as, other pitches. I just felt all around good out there. However, they caught some breaks by us dropping balls in the field. They got the bats rolling and did not stop. I also made some costly mistakes that helped them. We just have to come in tomorrow ready to play."

Florida Head Coach Pat McMahon
"I want to give Ole Miss a lot of credit for a great ball game tonight. They're an extremely talented club, and we're happy to get out of here with a win. The two teams played their hearts out tonight, and it was a great college baseball game to be a part of. We continued to battle even when we were up by five runs because we knew Ole Miss would do the same. We knew they would come back on us. Our guys did a great job of taking care of things and getting the W."

Matt LaPorta, First Baseman
"I knew I had to do a better job of taking pitches than I did in my first at-bat (when I came up in the fifth inning). I took a better approach. Their pitcher (Maloney) was a great pitcher, and it was hard to get a good read on him early on. I was looking for a base hit to get the runs in, and I was able to produce when my teammates needed me."


  • Florida first baseman Matt LaPorta is now tied with David Ross for ninth on UF's single-season RBI list with 69

  • Ole Miss right fielder Brian Pettway hit his team-leading 18th homerun of the season in the sixth inning

  • Florida third baseman Brandon McArthur's 2-RBI single in the 8th inning broke a personal 0-21 streak

  • Ole Miss first baseman Stephen Head has reached base safely in 46 of 58 games this season

  • Florida's first two wins in the SEC tournament evened its season series against both Alabama and Ole Miss at 2 wins apiece

  • Head's blown save in the 8th inning was only the second blown save in 26 career appearances, with his other blown save coming last year at the SEC tournament in a 7-6 loss to South Carolina

  • Florida's victory improves its season record to 40-18, marking the 17th time in school history the Gators have recorded 40 victories in a season

  • Ole Miss pitcher Matt Maloney recorded his 100th strikeout, making him and teammate Mark Holliman the only two pitchers in school history to record 100 strikeouts in the same season

  • Tonight's win marks only the second time this season the Gators have come back from a seventh inning deficit, with the first time coming versus Stetson on May 18

  • Florida improves its SEC tournament record to 45-42, while Ole Miss falls to 13-20

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