May 3, 2009

Courtesy of Florida Athletics

ATHENS, Ga. - Down three runs entering the ninth, No. 17 Florida (34-14/16-8 SEC) staged another remarkable comeback to complete a weekend sweep of No. 6 Georgia (33-15/14-10 SEC) with a 10-8 triumph on Sunday afternoon at Foley Field. Trailing 7-5 after a passed ball allowed junior Mike Mooney (Loxahatchee, Fla.) to score, freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) cranked a go-ahead, three-run homer off freshman Cecil Tanner (3-1) and freshman Jerico Weitzel (Ridgway, Pa.) later provided insurance with a two-run single.

Senior Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.) (3-3) kept the Bulldogs off the board for the final two outs in the eighth before junior Billy Bullock (Balm, Fla.) took the mound in the ninth. The righty surrendered a solo shot to sophomore Lyle Allen with one down for a two-run margin. Bullock then rebounded to have freshman pinch hitter Johnathan Taylor ground out before catching freshman Levi Hyams looking on a curve ball to end the game and pick up his second save in two days. His 10 saves are now tied for the fifth-most by a Gator in a single season with Jamie McAndrew (1988) and Paul Rigdon (1996), while the school record of 13 is shared by Josh Fogg (1998) and Danny Wheeler (1994). UF tallied six runs on five hits in the final stanza for its 21st come-from-behind victory this spring. The Gators overcome deficits of 8-0 and 9-7 to capture the series opener with an 11-inning victory that was completed on Saturday afternoon.

Florida’s eighth-straight win enabled head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s club to remain tied atop the SEC standings with No. 4 LSU (36-13/16-8 SEC) and No. 7 Ole Miss (36-13/16-8 SEC) and gave the Orange and Blue a two-game lead over UGA. The Gators travel to the Bayou next weekend for three games against the Tigers and will wrap up the league schedule at home against Kentucky from May 14-16.

With Florida down to its final three outs, Mooney singled with one down, bringing Tanner into the contest for junior Jeff Walters (1.1 IP, 2 H). Senior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single into left and senior Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.) drew a pinch-hit walk to fill the bags. A passed ball scored Mooney with the fifth run and Tucker (3-for-5) stepped up to the plate and jacked a three-run homer to straightaway center field to move UF in front. It was his team-leading 11th round-tripper of the season and boosted his team-leading total to 62 RBI. Sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-4) earned a free pass, chasing Tanner, and junior Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2-for-5) greeted junior Steve Esmonde with a double to the wall. Weitzel came through with a clutch two-run single up the middle to give the Gators a 10-7 lead before Allen finalized the margin with his fourth homer.

Georgia used a sacrifice fly by junior Rich Poythress (2-for-4, three RBI) off freshman Alex Panteliodis (Tampa, Fla.) in the opening frame to open the scoring. Junior Matt Cerione (3-for-4, three runs, two RBI) led off with a double into right center and freshman Colby May (2-for-5) followed with a single through the right side. Poythress then lofted a sac fly to center field to break the ice. 

Adams evened the score for Florida with his sixth homer to start the second inning. It came on sophomore Justin Grimm’s initial offering and cleared the wall in right field. Adams’ big fly was his first since a two-run blast at Florida State on April 14.

The Bulldogs reclaimed the lead in the home part of the stanza on a two-out triple by junior Michael Demperio (2-for-4) just inside the left-field line that brought across freshman Peter Verdin (2-for-3). Verdin had laced a one-out single into right field and moved to third on a base-hit by Hyams, who was gunned down trying to stretch his single into a double. Facing an 0-2 hole, Demperio collected his first three-bagger of the campaign to put the hosts on top.

UF tied the game in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Mooney that plated junior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (3-for-5). Pigott began the frame with a Texas Leaguer into left field and moved to third on a flare into right by junior Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.). After Mooney flew out, Barnes fouled out to left field. Munroe moved into scoring position by stealing second with two down but Grimm responded with his third strikeout of freshman Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.).

Georgia belted a pair of homers in the bottom of the inning to seize a 5-2 advantage. With one down, Cerione socked his sixth dinger into the shrubs overlooking left field to move the Bulldogs in front. After yielding a single to May, Paneteliodis (4.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 K) was replaced by junior Jeff Barfield (Perry, Ga.). The right-hander surrendered a towering two-run shot to left center by Poythress, the slugger’s 21st of the year, for a three-run Gator deficit.

Pigott delivered a two-out RBI single in the sixth to bring Florida within 5-3. Adams singled with one down but was erased at second base on a fielder’s choice by den Dekker. den Dekker advanced to second on a wild pitch and senior Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.) drew a walk before Pigott registered his third-consecutive single to drive in den Dekker. Grimm worked out of further trouble by having Munroe pop up to the catcher.

Junior Justin Earls took over for Grimm (6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 5 K, 1 BB) prior to seventh and Mooney reached on a leadoff error by third baseman May. Earls had Barnes ground into a 6-4-3 double play and then fanned freshman pinch hitter Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.).

Cerione connected on his second homer of the afternoon with a solo shot to start the home part of the seventh, giving UGA a 6-3 lead. Soon after, Barfield was replaced by freshman Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.). The righty had May ground out before permitting a single by Poythress. Larson whiffed senior Bryce Massanari for the second out and a passed ball by Munroe pushed Poythress into scoring position. Junior Joey Lewis earned a free pass for a pair of runners aboard and freshman Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.) was summoned from the bullpen. The southpaw induced a fly ball to left field that was dropped by Barnes, resulting in a 7-3 score and runners on second and third. After redshirt freshman Justin Poovey (Granite Falls, N.C.) entered the ballgame and walked Verdin to load the bases, junior Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla.) received the call to take the mound. The lefty did his job by having Hyams ground out to first to strand the runners. 

In the eighth, den Dekker poked an RBI single up the middle off Walters to score Tucker and narrow the gap to 7-4. Tucker had opened the frame with a single to end the stint for Earls, who gave up one hit in two-thirds of an inning. Adams moved Tucker over with a grounder and den Dekker poked a run-scoring base-knock into center.

Demperio led off the home part of the eighth with a single up the middle and was sacrificed to second by Cerione. Keating replaced Davis and had May reach on a fielder’s choice. den Dekker robbed Poythress of a potential homer with a leaping grab at the center field fence, advancing Demperio to third. Keating caught Massanari looking on strikes to keep the Gators down by three runs before the dramatic ninth. 

Each team finished with 14 hits and committed one error. The Gators return to McKethan Stadium to face Florida Gulf Coast (29-16/19-5 Atlantic Sun) on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. UF defeated the Eagles, 12-3, on April 21 in Fort Myers.