SUPER REGIONAL: Boss, Gators Blast FSU, 8-1

Sixth-ranked Florida (44-20) blasted four home runs while righthander Tommy Boss tossed a complete game gem for an 8-1 victory over arch-rival Florida State (53-19) in the NCAA Super Regional in Gainesville Friday night.

The Gators abused the Seminoles in so many ways one hardly knows where to begin. Let's start with back-to-back-to-back home runs off Florida State starter Bryan Henry (9-3) in the fifth inning.

With two outs in the inning catcher Brian Jeroloman deposited a 2-2 pitch over the right field fence. Florida State right fielder Jack Rye hit the fence hard, causing trainers to come onto the field. Three pitches later, third baseman Brandon McArthur launched a ball into the left field bleachers. Down 0-2, right fielder Brian LeClerc ripped a pitch over the right field fence which caused Rye to hit the fence yet again. Rye apparently didn't know that he was that close to the wall. Otherwise, to the naked eye it looked as though an inanimate object just beat him to a pulp twice.

"I know that my first two swings I was thinking about following them (Jeroloman and McArthur) up," LeClerc admitted afterward. "And on my third one, I'm behind 0-2 and I have to try and play defense and I just ran into one."

It was the first time that Florida had gone back-to-back-to-back since 1998. It also marked the first time that Florida State had allowed such a catastrophe in many years as well.

"I guess the last time that back-to-back-to-back happened to us was in a Regional tournament against Arkansas," Florida State Coach Mike Martin recalled. "It was 1985, before the screen, that's how I know it. The next year we put the dadgum screen up."

Florida scored first courtesy of senior Jeff Corsaletti's solo home run to right center in the third inning, the Gators first hit of the night.

The Gators scored three more in the fourth. With one out, Jeroloman walked and McArthur followed with a double to left. LeClerc fouled out on a 2-2 pitch and the Gators needed to make something happen. Shortstop Justin Tordi lofted a single that seemingly had wings. The ball floated just over the mound and into no man's land between three FSU players. Jeroloman scored on the play to give the Gators a 2-0 lead. Designated hitter Stephen Barton was then hit by a pitch followed by Gavin Dickey, who stroked a 1-2 offering into left field scoring McArthur and Tordi for a 4-0 Florida lead.

"That was a very important swing of the bat," Coach Pat McMahon said. "Gavin Dickey stepped forward with two outs and obviously it was run-producing. That's part of what makes this club so very special is that so many different guys contribute. All of them like to step into that moment, step into that arena, and that's got to continue because we've got a lot of hard work ahead of us. We very much know that."

While the Gators generating offensive production, senior Tommy Boss was shutting down the Seminoles attack. Boss (8-4) pitched a complete game seven-hitter in which he allowed only one earned run. There is no question that Boss got stronger as the game went along, just as he did against North Carolina a week ago.

"I think really you just have to look at it as the Tommy Boss Show," Martin said. "Boy that was just a beautiful job of pitching. He spotted his fastball on both sides of the plate. He just totally dominated us. Sometimes you have to take your hat off to the guy."

The Gators scored their final run of the evening in the seventh on a rather bizarre play. Matt LaPorta led off the inning with a single. Jeroloman followed with a walk. McArthur then reached on a fielder's choice which caught Jeroloman at second. LeClerc then reached on a fielder's choice which caught McArthur as LaPorta scored. However, first base umpire Dave Buck ruled that LeClerc had rounded toward second and Florida State pitcher tagged him out. Replays clearly showed that LeClerc did not step beyond the foul line though.

Losing to a state rival hurts in itself, but when the opponent scores all of their runs with two outs, that's suicide watch time. The Gators did just that.

"Offenses understand the fact that quality at bats continue to be effective because an inning is not over until the third out," McMahon said. "Our guys were very opportunistic with two outs."

The Gators roughed up Bryan Henry to say the least. It was the first time that Henry had given up more than three runs in a game all season. Interestingly, each of the Florida State pitchers struggled with Jeroloman. The Florida catcher stayed ahead in the count during each at bat. The righthander had been simply outstanding.

"I went out there and did the same thing that I've been doing all year," Henry stated. "They got a couple of breaks out there and were able to keep four balls out of all of our players reach, and that didn't help any.

"Talk about being on an island," he said in disbelief. "You feel like you're out there by yourself and there's nothing you can do. The pitch that McArthur hit was an inside fastball that I thought was in a good spot. The 0-2 pitch (curveball) to LeClerc was just a bad, bad pitch on my part."

It certainly sounds cliché, but this was indeed a complete team victory. Each and every member of the Florida team produced either offensively or defensively. Second baseman Adam Davis didn't record a hit, but he made the most of his five defensive chances in the first three innings. Jeroloman also set the stage on the base paths when he threw out Ryne Malone in the first inning.

Boss held National Player of the Year Shane Robinson (.434) hitless. It marked only the ninth time that Robinson has been held without a hit in 71 games.

"I wanted to get ahead of the count with him (Robinson) and I was able to do that I think almost every time," Boss said. "I was able to get strike one on him. I think even the first couple of times, he swung at the first pitch and I was lucky enough to get him to hit a ground ball right at McArthur. I know he hit a line drive right at AD (Adam Davis) .If he was playing two steps to the left or right, it would have gone through. He's an outstanding ball player and he has no holes in his swing. I was lucky tonight to be able to get him out."

The Gators will send Alan Horne (8-2) to the mound tomorrow night to face Florida State starter Mark Sauls (6-1). First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

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