Gators Drop SEC Opener

Sixth-seeded Vanderbilt dealt third-seeded Florida a 7-3 setback on the first day of the 2008 SEC Tournament Wednesday afternoon at Regions Park.

The victory avenged a three-game sweep the Commodores suffered at McKethan Stadium last weekend to end the regular season.

The Gators will next face No. 7 seed South Carolina (37-20) on Thursday at 11 a.m. in an elimination contest that will air live in Gainesville on The CW, while VU will face No. 2 seed LSU (40-16-1) in a winner's bracket game at 6 p.m. The Gamecocks dropped a 5-4 decision in 10 innings to the Western Division champion Tigers, who have now won 17 consecutive games. USC took two of three games from the Gators in Columbia over the weekend of May 2-4.

Vanderbilt sophomore southpaw Mike Minor (6-3) went five innings for the win, while freshman Russell Brewer collected his sixth save by registering the final out with a pair of Gators on base. The Commodores totaled 14 hits, all singles, as sophomore Andrew Giobbi and freshman Steven Liddle were each 3-for-5. Seniors Brandon McArthur and Jon Townsend had two hits apiece for UF, which left 14 runners on base and had its four-game winning streak halted.

Vanderbilt used a two-out RBI single by junior Ryan Flaherty off junior Patrick Keating (8-1) in the first inning to open the scoring. Senior Dominic de la Osa (2-for-4, two runs) was hit by a pitch with one down and moved over on his team-leading 24th stolen base with two out. Soon after, Flaherty sliced a single into left to put the Commodores on the board.

The Gators answered in the home part of the inning on an RBI single by sophomore Cole Figueroa to even the game. Junior Avery Barnes led off with an infield hit off Minor and moved into scoring position with his team-leading 26th theft. Figueroa laced a one-out base-hit into left field for a 1-1 stalemate.

Helped by a UF error, the Commodores plated three runs on three hits in the second to build a 4-1 lead. Liddle and Giobbi opened with consecutive singles before senior Alex Feinberg hit a potential double-play grounder. However, Townsend committed an error at second base that allowed Liddle to score and Feinberg to reach. Junior Jonathan White moved both runners over with a sacrifice bunt and senior David Macias singled through the left side for a two-run Vandy advantage. de la Osa followed with an RBI grounder for a three-run Gator deficit.

Florida squandered an opportunity to edge closer in the third after having two men aboard with one out. Barnes drew a one-out walk and McArthur reached on an error by Flaherty at short. Minor caught Figueroa looking on strikes and had a grounder by freshman Josh Adams force McArthur at second to end the frame.

Vanderbilt loaded the bases with none out in the fourth and tacked on another run. White started things off with a single, stole second and Macias earned a free pass. A single by de la Osa filled the sacks and junior Pedro Alvarez grounded into a 4-6-3 double play that scored White. Keating prevented further trouble by having Flaherty fly out to center.

The Gators also packed the bases with two down in the bottom of the inning but came away empty-handed. Townsend walked and freshman Riley Cooper was plunked with two down before sophomore Hampton Tignor reached on a fielding error by Alvarez. Minor worked out of the jam by striking out Barnes.

Macias lofted a sacrifice fly in the sixth to put Vanderbilt in front by a 6-1 score. Feinberg led off with a walk and raced to third on a flare into right by White. Although Macias was robbed off a hit by sophomore center fielder Matt den Dekker, the ball was deep enough to score the ‘Dores sixth run.

The Gators closed to within 6-3 in the sixth but left the bases full. Townsend stroked a single up the middle and sophomore Buddy Munroe walked to end the afternoon for Minor (5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R). Sophomore Drew Hayes (3.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R) came in and fanned Cooper before Tignor punched a base-knock to score Townsend. Barnes grounded out to advance both teammates into scoring position and McArthur's second hit of the day brought in Munroe with Florida's third run. A walk to Figueroa loaded the bags and Hayes jammed Adams on a pop-up to increase the home team's total to 10 runners left on base.

Keating departed after six innings in which he allowed nine hits and a career-high six runs (five earned) to endure his first loss since May 25 of last season against South Carolina. Sophomore Tony Davis threw 1.1 scoreless innings and was replaced by sophomore Kyle Mullaney in the eighth.

Mullaney recorded the final two outs of that inning and was lifted for junior J.K. LaCoste after allowing a single to de la Osa to start the ninth. Alvarez advanced his teammate to third with a single into right field and Flaherty grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to score de la Osa with Vanderbilt's final run. Sophomore Clint Franklin recorded the final out in the ninth after LaCoste gave up two hits in two-thirds of an inning.

The Commodores ended a five-game losing streak with the triumph, while UF fell on the first day of the SEC Tourney for the second-straight year after falling to South Carolina, 4-3, in 12 innings last year. den Dekker's 13-game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-4 performance.

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