BASEBALL: Gators drop first game to Auburn

Slugger Matt LaPorta stood in the box with two out, two men on base, and the Gators trailing Auburn 9-6. LaPorta turned on an 0-2 pitch and hit it high in the night air where Tigers left fielder Jeff Boutwell jogged in and recorded the final out of the game.

That in itself is a microcosm of the Gators 2006 season.

For a variety of reasons, they've just been unable to put it all together and piece together the wins. Pick your poison. Injuries, offensive woes, pitching woes, injuries, defensive woes, and now, more injuries. It keeps piling on for Florida Coach Pat McMahon and his Gators.

A few days ago, the Gators lost Adam Davis, who McMahon said is day-to-day. Tonight, Gavin Dickey pulled a hamstring. These Gators are probably wishing they had a completed new clubhouse in which to return.

Things started badly once again for the Gators. Starter Bryan Ball, who attended his Grandmother's funeral yesterday, struggled to locate his pitches, particularly his fastball. Auburn sent nine batters from the box to the bag off Ball in the 1.1 innings pitched. He left the game after having allowed six runs and two men on base. Reliever Josh Edmondson recorded the second out of the inning, but was unable to avoid giving up back-to-back singles, which plated two more runs. By the time the top of the second was over, the Tigers had grabbed an 8-0 lead.

Florida (23-19, 5-11) answered with one of their own in the second, when second baseman Brandon McArthur ripped a single to right, scoring David Cash.

The Gators scored three more in the third. Catcher Brian Jeroloman hit a one out single to right, but was thrown out on LaPorta's fielders choice. Right fielder Brian Leclerc followed with a single to back up the middle. Chris Petrie reached courtesy of a throwing error by the Auburn shortstop, which scored Leclerc and LaPorta. Cash then singled, scoring Petrie. Cash was thrown out attempting to stretch it into a double. The Auburn lead was trimmed to 8-4.

Dickey brought the Gators even closer with a two-run shot to right-center in the bottom of the fourth. The Tigers lead dwindled to 8-6. However, right fielder Richard Dixon cushioned the Tigers advantage by one with a solo shot in the top of the fifth.

Edmondson and Kris Gawriluk were able to keep the Tigers scoreless from that point on. Au burn relievers Paul Burnside and Luke Greinke also held the Gators in check. Florida left four runners on base the remainder of the game.

Bryan Augenstein (7-3) will face Auburn lefty Evan Crawford (4-4) tomorrow at 4pm at McKethan Stadium.


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