BASEBALL: Auburn takes 5-4 win and series

The Gators baseball team continues to find out that when it rains it pours, even on the sunniest of days. Florida (24-20, 6-12) couldn't get a break and dropped a 5-4 contest to lowly Auburn (20-23, 8-10), further cutting into their SEC Tourney hopes. Meanwhile, the Tigers picked up a much needed series victory in the process.

"You know this game becomes a game of inches," Coach Pat McMahon said. "We drive a ball down the right field line and it's half a foot foul. Bryson Barber hits the ball as hard as you can to first base and it's a double play. Matt LaPorta smokes the ball and it's a double play instead of going through the gap. We had the bases loaded and a 2-0 count and had an elevated ball. Those are little things that are big things. Our guys work so hard to understand that and that's what makes it so much more frustrating."

True freshman starter Chas Spottswood got the ground balls early, but his defense failed him. Auburn leadoff hitter Tyler Johnstone bounced a ball to third that David Cash threw away from first baseman Matt LaPorta. Three pitches later, Jeff Boutwell hit one to shortstop that got by Adam Davis and the Tigers were set to take an early lead. The errors couldn't have come at a worse time, as the Southeastern Conference's second leading hitter Mike Bianucci (.383) stepped into the box.

Bianucci ripped a double to right field scoring Johnstone and giving the Tigers two men in scoring position with none out. Clean-up hitter Andy Bennett hit a slow bouncer to first baseman Matt LaPorta, who opted to try and get Boutwell at home rather than the runner at first. Boutwell easily beat out the fielders' choice and Auburn led 2-0.

Catcher Josh Donaldson popped out to short for the first out of the inning. Designated hitter Luke Greinke grounded out to Cash at third, scoring Bianucci for Auburn's third and final run of the inning.

Spottswood began working ahead in the count once the Gators recorded that first out. However, he began to miss his spots in the second inning, often throwing the ball up in the zone. He walked center fielder Bruce Edwards, a .195 hitter on four straight pitches. Edwards scored on Johnstone's double down the left field line giving the Tigers a 4-0 lead. After throwing a wild pitch to Boutwell that moved Edwards over, Spottswood retired the next two batters. However, his loss of concentration was enough to warrant a change to start the third inning.

Southpaw David Hurst came on and pitched his best outing since donning the Orange and Blue. The junior from Jacksonville threw 5.1 scoreless innings of relief, in which he allowed only four hits, while striking out three.

Auburn starter Chris Dennis, who had held the Gators in check in the bottom of the first, gave up back-to-back singles to outfielder Brian Leclerc and second baseman Brandon McArthur with one out in the second. Unfortunately, designated hitter Bryson Barber blasted Dennis' 1-0 offering just inside the vertical of first baseman Andy Bennett, who stepped on the bag for the double play.

With two outs and Adam Davis standing on first, LaPorta turned on a pitch that sailed just a few feet on the wrong side of the foul pole. A game of inches had kept the Gators from cutting the Tigers lead in half. LaPorta was hit by the next pitch. Chris Petrie flew out to left to end the inning and the Gators threat.

Florida had nothing to offer offensively until the sixth. LaPorta led off the inning with a solo shot to deep left-center for the Gators first run. The Tigers had been working him outside, but Dennis' left that one too far inside and LaPorta just crushed it.

Petrie then recorded the first out of the inning. Cash then walked. Leclerc collected his second hit and the Gators had runners at first and second. The Tigers went to the pen, where right hander Paul Burnside, whop sports a spotless ERA in SEC play, came on in relief. McArthur flew out to left and Barber walked on a 3-2 pitch to load them up for the Gators. Barber had punched a ball inches foul from the right field line that would have scored two runs. Again, it's a game of inches. However, pinch hitter Stephen Barton popped a 2-0 pitch a few feet from the plate to end the inning.

Davis led off the Florida seventh with a single. Jeroloman took first base on a 3-2 walk. LaPorta then ripped a 3-2 pitch that was a half step from Auburn shortstop Justin Bristow, who brought it into his glove and tossed the ball to second baseman Johnstone for the double play. It was the second double play that robbed the Gators of a run scoring opportunity. The ball obviously had eyes for the Tigers.

McMahon went to closer Darren O'Day in the top of the eighth. He left his second offering up and Donaldson took it out of the park for what would eventually be the game winner.

Trailing 5-1, Florida rallied for three runs in the eighth. Cash led off with a single followed by Leclerc, who picked up his third single of the day. McArthur then lifted s single to left that scored Cash. Two batters later, Barton rocketed a triple down the right field line that scored Leclerc and McArthur with Barton, the tying run on third.

Davis, who was two for four already on the day stood in with only one out. Sadly, he got under a ball that popped up to the shortstop. Jeroloman was also unable to score the tying run, as he too popped up- his foul ball was hauled in by third baseman Bianucci.

LaPorta led off the ninth by getting drilled by closer Luke Greinke' first pitch. It was the second time LaPorta had been hit by a pitch today. Petrie tried to move him over with a horrible bunt that popped up to the second baseman. Cash flew out to left and Leclerc struck out to end the game.

The old adage, "Hit ‘em where they ain't" just didn't happen once the Gators had runners on board. Florida left 11 men on base today, one shy of the twelve they left on base in the first two games of this series.

"Obviously, we had opportunities today," McMahon said. "We kept battling to put ourselves in that position and I'm proud of that and yet we have got to complete those plays offensively, defensively, on the mound, and in all aspects of the game."

Florida will host arch-rival Georgia (24-15, 7-11) for a three game series next weekend at the Mac.

Fightin Gators Top Stories