BASEBALL: Gators fall to Vandy, 6-0

Vanderbilt sophomore lefty David Price has been the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week in two of the three weeks since conference play began.

Price's handling of the No.15-ranked Gators on Friday night at McKethan Stadium might have been more impressive than his complete-game one-hit shutout against Auburn last Friday.

No.17-ranked Vanderbilt (18-8/ 6-1 SEC) defeated the UF baseball team 6-0 in front of 1,822 fans who continue to wait for the team to break out of an offensive funk. UF starting pitcher Bryan Ball (4-4) did not receive any run support, one week after the Gator's 4-1 loss at South Carolina.

"We're struggling right now, that's all I have to say," Ball said. "We'll get it together."

"We just have to come together, we have to play as one. We have to start playing together. We're not doing that right now."

Florida coach Pat McMahon said that his team is hurting right now, but looked to find positives in the loss.

"I'm really proud of Bryan for a lot of reasons," McMahon said. "It was a tough outing, yet he held us in the game. In the long run, that's something that will win out in the long haul."

Ball walked Macias on four pitches to open the game. True to the baseball idiom, the walked leadoff hitter would ultimately score. Pedro Alvarez singled up the middle, then both runners advanced on UF catcher Brian Jeroloman's second passed ball of the season.

Vanderbilt first baseman Ryan Flaherty drove in both runners, giving David Price more offensive support than he needed.

"It makes it easy when you get two runs in the first inning," Price said. "It takes the pressure off of you. I think I only threw one change-up. I spotted my fastball and got my slider working."

UF first baseman Matt LaPorta, shortstop Adam Davis and catcher Brian Jeroloman were teammates with Price on Team USA's 16-4 tour last summer. Price greeted his former teammates by striking out the side, including LaPorta and David, in the bottom of the first inning in what would serve as a harbinger of what would follow.

The first four batters in the Florida lineup each struck out twice, combing for an 0-for-17 night.

"Confidence is always a factor in this game," McMahon said. "It's an important part of being successful, but so is hard work. Out guys have worked extremely hard. On the positive side, they hurt, and that's good. If they didn't or didn't care, that's a different story. We'll continue to work through these things together. We'll persevere through this."

Sophomore Brandon McArthur batted fifth in the lineup as the designated hitter. McArthur turned in the best offensive performance, batting 2-for-4 with a double, the only extra-base hit by a Gator. McArthur's second-inning double was the first hit of the game for UF, and he was the only batter that Price did not strike out.

"Everything (Pride) was throwing was effective," McArthur said. "He was hitting his spots pretty well. Obviously, he has good velocity on his fastball and he's going to be a good pitcher."

"He's up there in the rankings, he was the best pitcher in the country last week because he has a lot of talent," McArthur said. "He pitched his butt off tonight"

Junior transfer Austin Pride hit the first pitch of the third inning to left field then easily stole second base, but was left stranded after Price struck out the next three batters.

Pride started in left field for the first time this season, part of another lineup variation exhibited by the Gators. Flaherty belted a line drive directly at Pride, who backpedaled and was unable to make the catch, for a double.

Defensive hesitation allowed the next Commodore batter to reach base. Vanderbilt shortstop Dominic de la Osa hit a slow-rolling ball down the first-base line to cause UF first baseman Matt LaPorta to briefly head towards the ball before backing off in favor of covering the base.

Ball reached down to pick up the ball and attempted to flip it to LaPorta in the same motion, rolling on his side, but was unable to record the out. De la Osa stole record base after getting a good jump on Ball.

Both runners would score on RBI groundouts. Flaherty scored on an RBI groundout to shortstop by Shea Robin. Vanderbilt second baseman Alex Feinburg delivered on a hit-and-run play by tapping a lightly-hit grounder to Ball to plate de la Osa.

Many of Vanderbilt's twelve hits were lightly hit, clearly frustrating the UF defense and McMahon.

"I think you have to give Vanderbilt a lot of credit," McMahon said. "David Price is one of the outstanding pitchers, not only in our league, but in the country. I thought Vanderbilt did a good job of manufacturing runs. They really did a good job of getting the game going by putting up a two-spot. We did a good job of giving ourselves a couple opportunities, but we just have to find a way to get it done."

Macias hit his second of three bloop hits to left field to lead off the fifth inning. With the wind blowing in from center field, the Texas-leaguers dropped in front of the Gator outfielders.

Fortunately for UF, Macias was quickly erased on the latter two. Ball picked off Macias in the fifth, and Macias was doubled-up after LaPorta snared a line drive by Alvarez in the seventh inning.

Alvarez had hit a line drive to shortstop Adam Davis for an unusual play in the fifth. Davis stepped to his left, but the ball sliced towards left field. Davis reached back to his right to get his glove in front of the ball, but the line drive ripped the glove off of his hand. Davis picked up the ball and missed Alvarez at first by one step.

Alvarez stole second, becoming the 14th player to steal a base against Jeroloman in 24 attempts, then scored on an RBI single by de la Osa.

With the runners on the corners, Ball faked towards Alvarez at third, then twirled to de la Osa at first to catch the runner wandering too far from the base. Ball made a throwing error to LaPorta, who was unable to snare the ball off of the ground, allowing Alvarez to score and de la Osa to take third base.

The Gators benefited from defensive confusion in the bottom of the sixth inning when Florida second baseman Matt Gaski hit a check-swing dribbler down the first base line. Price and Flaherty both went for the ball, leaving nobody to cover first base. UF center fielder Gavin Dickey followed with a bunt that mimicked Gaski's hit. Price fielded the ball and had to tag Dickey after seeing that nobody covered first base.

Dickey braced for a collision with the 6-foot-6-inch tall pitcher, sparking memories of the Alex Rodriguez ball-swatting incident with Boston Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo in the sixth game of the 2004 American League Championship Series. Feinburg yelled "this isn't football" as Dickey returned to the dugout and demonstrated the play for first base umpire Ken Couch.

Price struck out LaPorta looking to end the sixth, then struck out Cash and Jeroloman looking to begin the seventh. McArthur singled to center field to become the only Gator with multiple hits. Leclerc, who has struggled against left-handed pitching all season, hit a ball towards second, but Feinburg's throw pulled Flaherty off of the base and went into the UF dugout. Pride ended the rally by hitting the first pitch for a fly out to center.

UF freshman Patrick Keating made his collegiate debut with one out and two runners on base in the eighth inning. Keating couldn't find the strike zone with his first three pitches, but he worked back for a full count and struck out Vanderbilt left fielder Ryan Davis on a botched hit-and-run play that became a strike-‘em-out throw-em-out double play when Jeroloman gunned down Flaherty at third.

Avery Barnes became Price's 13th strikeout victim in a pinch-hit appearance. Keating retired the first two batters in the ninth with groundouts to shortstop before Macias hit his final bloop single to left field. Jeroloman got even by gunning down Macias at second to end the ninth inning.

Nick Christiani relieved Price in the ninth inning, loosening the stranglehold on the UF offense. Cash benefited from another throwing error by Feinburg to lead off the ninth, then advanced to third on a line drive by Jeroloman, who was thrown out at second when he attempted to stretch a single into a double. McArthur struck out on three pitches to become the ninth player in the Gator's starting lineup to strike out.

Sophomore Bryan Augenstein (5-2, 3.76 ERA) will start for the Gators against Vanderbilt right-hander Matt Buschmann (2-0, 3.92) at 2pm, two hours than the game was originally scheduled for.

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