May 29, 2009

A two-run, walk-off single by senior Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.) capped a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth as top-seeded Florida (40-20) edged fourth-seeded Bethune-Cookman (32-27), 8-7, at the NCAA Gainesville Regional on Friday night at McKethan Stadium. The Gators next face second-seeded Miami (Fla.) (37-20) at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday night in a winner's bracket game that will be carried live on Sun Sports. The Wildcats will meet third-seeded Jacksonville (36-21) in an elimination game at 1 p.m.

With Florida down to its final three outs and facing a 7-5 deficit, freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (3-for-5, two runs, two RBI) opened the final frame with a single through the left side off B-CU senior Eric Thomas (7-6). Sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) drew his second walk of the game and junior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) stroked an RBI single into right field to score Tucker for a 7-6 count. Junior Felix Machado was summoned to replace Thomas (0.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R) and had freshman Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) ground out, leaving Tucker on third and pushing den Dekker to second base. Freshman Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach , Fla.) was walked intentionally to load the bases with one out and Foster sliced a 3-1 offering into right to plate Adams and den Dekker with the tying and winning run, respectively. It was the Gators' 26th come-from-behind victory this season, eighth in their final at bat and fifth walk-off triumph. The win also enabled UF to reach the 40-win plateau for the 18th time in school history, first since the 2005 club went 48-23.

"Obviously, it was an exciting game," second-year head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "I tip my cap to Bethune-Cookman, they kept us on the edge of our seats all night. Every time we'd score a run, they'd counter with runs of their own. (Hiram) Burgos was outstanding tonight, I can't say enough about him. The one thing we've been doing all year is fight our way back into games and that's exactly what happened tonight. I can't say enough about the way our team fought back here tonight and equally the way that Bethune played, they played outstanding and it's a shame that somebody had to lose. Sometimes when you play at home and you get that last at bat, it makes a big difference."

"He started off with a couple off-speed pitches and got behind in the count a little bit," Foster said. "I finally got to a fastball count and got a pitch that I could handle. I didn't try to do too much with it, just serve it into right field and get a hit."

The Wildcats broke the ice with two runs on two hits in the second inning against freshman Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.). Sophomore Ryan Durrence (3-for-4, two RBI, two runs) drew a leadoff walk and sophomore Emmanuel Castro (2-for-5) followed with a double down the right-field line. The right-hander responded with a strikeout of junior Alejandro Jimenez and senior Chris Brown (3-for-4) delivered a single through the left side of the infield to drive in Durrence. With runners on the corners, freshman Peter O'Brien had an RBI grounder to second base that scored Castro for a 2-0 B-CU lead.

Bethune-Cookman tacked on two more runs in the third to build a 4-0 margin. Senior Mark Brooks (2-for-5) opened the inning with a single into right field and was sacrificed into scoring position by junior Justin Hoyte. Junior C.J. Lauriello walked on four pitches and Durrence ripped an RBI single up the middle for a three-run advantage to prompt a pitching change. Senior Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.) replaced DeSclafani (2.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 2 K) and a passed ball by junior catcher Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.) moved the runners into scoring position. An infield single by Castro brought home Lauriello and a fly ball to right field by Jimenez later pushed Durrence to third. Keating prevented further trouble by fanning Brown.

In the fourth, O'Brien reached on catcher's interference by junior Hampton Tignor (Sarasota, Fla.) and was sacrificed to second by freshman Alejandro Sanchez. Keating caught Brooks looking on strikes and had Hoyte ground out to hold the deficit at four runs.

The Gators had the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning with two outs courtesy of walks to Adams and senior Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) and a hit by pitch to freshman Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.). However, Burgos responded by having Tignor fly out to right field.

Florida got on the board with a couple of runs in the fifth to pull within 4-2. With one down, senior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) had an infield hit and junior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach , Fla.) roped his fourth double of the season down the left-field line. Tucker legged out an infield single to score Barnes and collect his team-leading 78th RBI, two shy of Florida's single-season record established by Ryan Shealy in 2002. Adams followed with another RBI single to trim the gap to two runs and extend his hitting streak to a career-high nine games. A fielder's choice by den Dekker forced Adams at second base but left runners on the corners before McArthur flew out to left to end the inning.

Brown and O'Brien had consecutive singles to begin the sixth, leaving the Wildcats in prime position with runners on first and third, before Keating whiffed Sanchez. Junior Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla.) replaced Keating, who threw three scoreless innings and allowed four hits, and had Brooks ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Tucker cranked his team-best 13th homer of the campaign with two down in the seventh for a 4-3 count. The rookie slugger bashed a 1-2 offering from Burgos deep to right center for his 22nd multi-RBI game of the season. His 79th RBI matched Matt LaPorta for the second-most in a season by a Gator.

A pinch-hit, two-run homer by senior Drew Clark expanded B-CU's lead to 6-3 in the eighth. Jimenez poked a leadoff single, ending Davis' (1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 K) tenure on the mound. Freshman Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) came in and Tignor gunned down the runner attempting to steal second base. Brown singled with one down and Clark launched his second homer of the season over the right-field fence to put the Wildcats ahead by three runs.

Burgos came out after seven full innings in which he gave up eight hits and three runs, with six strikeouts and two walks on 136 pitches. McArthur poked a one-out single off sophomore Joseph Munoz and was replaced by pinch runner Weitzel. Thomas came out of the bullpen and plunked pinch hitter Daniel Pigott. A grounder by pinch hitter Foster advanced both runners into scoring position and junior Mike Mooney (Loxahatchee, Fla.) delivered a clutch two-run single to narrow the gap to 6-5. Barnes was hit by a pitch for two runners aboard and Thomas had Jonathan Pigott ground out to close the frame.

Durrence put the Wildcats ahead, 7-5, with a solo shot off junior Billy Bullock (Balm, Fla.) with one down in the ninth. It was his 11th round-tripper. Thanks to the heroics of Foster, Bullock earned the win to improve to 3-2 on the season. Although the Gators were out-hit, 14-13, they raised their all-time record to 23-0 against the Wildcats with the one-run decision.