Top Ranked Gators Fall To Mercer, 3-2

Top-ranked Florida obviously didn't like story that played out in The Three Bears pitching rotation. The first one threw too soft, the second too rough, and the third perhaps too hard as the trio held the Gators to two hits though six innings. Offensively, Mercer scratched together three runs on six hits and dropped the Gators 3-2 at McKethan Stadium Wednesday night.

Josh Young, Hunter Abercrombie, and Andrew Urena came on in relief as the Bears trailed Florida, 2-1, after three innings and held the nation's top ranked team scoreless. Mercer starter Blake Quarles mixed up a decent fastball with a pretty good change-up. The Florida hitters took a lot of pitches in the contest and weren't very assertive at the plate. Young kept the Florida batters off balance with his breaking pitches. He struck out six Gators. Stat of the night: Florida batters fanned eleven times.

"We're not the best team in the nation," reliever Darren O'Day said afterward. "Just knowing our team on an intimate level --- we're not the second best team in the nation. That's not to say that we can't be. We can be the best team in the nation. We have a lot of things to work on as you can tell tonight."

Catcher Brian Jeroloman and Chipola Junior College transfer David Cash went 2-4 on the night. The only other Florida player to collect a hit was first baseman Matt LaPorta, who singled in a run in the third.

Mercer benefited from another tough outing from Florida starter Michael Branham, who again struggled to find the strike zone. Branham walked three of the seven batters that he faced in the game

The Bears scored a run in the top of the first after Branham walked two and Shawn Barrett reached on an error by Matt LaPorta, scoring Tyler McCarty.

"Michael and Coach (Ross) Jones have worked extremely hard on some delivery things," Head Coach Pat McMahon said. "He has a tendency to want to overthrow. When you overthrow, you're going to mislocate. Those are some things that hopefully Michael will work through with Coach Jones."

Branham was relieved by sophomore right hander Josh Edmondson, who shut the Bears down with two strong innings. Edmondson didn't allow a hit or walk, while striking out one. The Gators followed with redshirt freshman southpaw Matt Hightower and Daytona Beach Community College junior transfer Kris Gawriluk. Hightower (0-1) gave up five hits and two earned runs in two innings. Gawriluk was very effective in 1.2 innings of relief.

Darren O'Day closed things out for Florida. The senior from Jacksonville pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in which he struck out five.

The Gators travel to Coral Gables for a three game series against arch-rival Miami beginning Friday at 2 p.m. The Gators will throw senior right hander Bryan Ball (1-0) against sophomore right hander Carlos Gutierrez (3-0). The series continues with games on Saturday at 1p.m. and Sunday at noon.

It would appear that right hander Bryan Augenstein (1-0) will start the Saturday contest with southpaw J.K. LaCoste starting the Sunday game. Edmondson and Gawriluk should factor in the mix this weekend from the bullpen. It is also expected that Florida pitchers Stephen Porter, Jacksonville Bartram Trail freshman Jarrod Langlois and possibly Chas Spottswood will see action this weekend. Curiously, sophomore Tommy Wynn has yet to see action to date.


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