BASEBALL: Gators swept by Ole Miss, Await NCAAs

Fourth-seeded Ole Miss (44-17) advanced to the championship game of the 2005 Southeastern Conference Tournament with a 4-2 win over top-seeded Florida (40-20) on Saturday afternoon at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The Rebels knocked off the Gators twice today to set up an all-Mississippi showdown tomorrow at 4 p.m. versus seventh-seeded Mississippi State (39-20). In notching the two victories, UM's offense totaled 18 runs and 25 hits and its pitching staff yielded just three runs.

Florida will now await the NCAA Regional selection show tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 p.m. to see if McKethan Stadium will be one of the 16 host sites for the 64-team tournament. The complete NCAA bracket will be announced live on ESPN at 11:30 a.m. on Monday.

For the second-straight game, the Rebels opened the scoring in the first inning. Senior Tommy Boss (Dunnellon, Fla.) retired the first two hitters before junior Brian Pettway launched a double off the wall in right. Junior All-American Stephen Head punched a single into left and Pettway narrowly beat sophomore Gavin Dickey's (Tallahassee, Fla.) throw to the plate for the first run. A wild pitch pushed Head to third and the right-hander walked sophomore Mark Wright before Boss had senior Cooper Osteen fly out to left. Sophomore Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) poked a two-out ground-rule double in the bottom of the frame but was stranded when junior Tommy Baumgardner (2-1) caught sophomore Brian Jeroloman (Wellington, Fla.) looking on strikes.

Freshman Zack Cozart started the second with a base-hit into left, stole second and raced to third on Jeroloman's errant throw that wound up in the outfield. Boss fanned senior Barry Gunther and senior Miles Franklin delivered a sacrifice fly to right to put the Rebels ahead, 2-0. Freshman Justin Henry bashed a double to right center and Boss rebounded with a punchout of sophomore Chris Coghlan.

Head cranked his 18th homer of the campaign with one down in the third for a three-run cushion for the Rebels. The round-tripper high over the wall in right matched Pettway for UM's team lead.

Despite back-to-back singles by Jeroloman and freshman Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) in the bottom of the fourth, the Gators came away empty-handed against Baumgardner. Sophomore Brian Leclerc's (Clearwater, Fla.) fielder's choice forced McArthur at second and the Rebel southpaw retired Dickey (strikeout) and junior Justin Tordi (Orlando, Fla.) (line drive to short).

In the fifth, UM tacked on another run to take a 4-0 lead. Henry led off with a single through the right side and wound up on third courtesy of Pettway's fielder's choice. Pettway had grounded to McArthur, who threw to sophomore Adam Davis (Fort Myers, Fla.) at second base. Henry was a safe at second and the relay throw over to first eluded LaPorta, allowing the Rebels to occupy second and third. An intentional walk to Head loaded the bases with one down and Wright's bunt brought in a run and left everyone safe. Boss prevented further trouble by having Osteen and Cozart fly out.

Florida strung together three-straight hits but managed only one run in the bottom of the frame to narrow the gap to 4-1. Freshman Jared Kubin (Oakton, Va.) doubled down the left-field line and senior Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.) moved his teammate to third with a single into right field. Davis lashed an RBI single to right for the Gators' lone run of the game before LaPorta flew out to left and Davis was nailed trying to take second on the play. Jeroloman popped out to center to complete the inning.

The following inning, McArthur started things off with a single to right and Baumgardner caught Leclerc looking on strikes. Consecutive hits by Dickey and Tordi loaded the bases, only to have Kubin ground into an inning-ending 5-3 double play to hold the Gators' deficit at three runs.

Junior Stoney Stone replaced Baumgardner (1 R, 10 H, 5 K, 0 BB) prior to the bottom of the seventh and Davis reached with a one-out single. The right-hander whiffed LaPorta as Davis stole second base for his team-leading 22nd theft. After walking Jeroloman on four pitches, Stone had freshman pinch hitter Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.) ground out. Florida left 10 runners on base in the contest.

Boss (6-4) departed after a season-high 7.2 innings in which he gave up eight hits and four runs, with seven strikeouts. The K matched his career high, set April 8 at Georgia. After sophomore Steven Porter (Ocoee, Fla.) walked Franklin on four pitches, giving the Rebels runners on first and second, senior Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.) entered the game for his SEC-leading 45th appearance and retired freshman Jon-Jon Hancock on a tapper back to the mound.

Corsaletti belted his eighth homer of the year with one out in the ninth to complete the scoring at 4-2. Head and Pettway had two hits each for Ole Miss, which was out-hit by UF, 12-9. The quartet of Corsaletti, Davis, Dickey and McArthur chipped in two hits apiece. Stone surrendered two hits in three innings for his first save.

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