Baseball rallies to defeat Florida, 6-5, in the ninth

March 6, 2007

Box Score

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Despite a home run barrage by the Gators to take a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth, the JU baseball team rallied for six unanswered runs in the final four innings to defeat Florida, 6-5, Tuesday evening at McKethan Stadium.

JU (8-10), which has now won three consecutive games, got a big lift from the bullpen as freshman Glenn Witkowski, junior David Yates and junior Matt Gardner combined for 4.2 scoreless innings.

Florida (9-7), which committed a season-high six errors (including two in the ninth), has now dropped two consecutive games to the Dolphins dating back to a 7-2 loss at Alexander Brest Field on April 3, 2002.

"Our coaching staff did a great job preparing our guys for what was in store tonight and they executed," said JU head coach Terry Alexander. "The pitching staff kept them frustrated most of the night and even when Tim Brown got tired, the bullpen came in and kept us in the game.

"The biggest key for us was when we answered with two runs in the next inning after they took a 5-2 lead. It was a big confidence boost for us and it gave us the confidence to come back and win this game."

Gardner (2-2) earned the win after hurling two innings of scoreless relief, including retiring all six batters he faced. Junior center fielder Kevin Ferreira and freshman designated hitter Chuck Opachich each finished with two hits and senior left fielder Pete Clifford extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

Josh Edmondson (0-1) was tagged with the loss after allowing one unearned run in two innings of relief. Hampton Tignor led the Gators with two hits in the contest.

With the score tied at 5-5 in the top of the ninth, JU took the lead for good when Clifford scored from third on an RBI grounder to second by McArdle.

Clifford drew a walk to lead off the inning and then moved to third on an errant throw by LaPorta at first on a bunt by McCallister. McArdle followed with a sharp grounder to second which was misplayed by Figueroa in an attempt to start a double play to end the inning.

Trailing, 5-4 in the seventh, the Dolphins evened the contest when Clifford hit a solo shot over the right-center wall on a 3-1 pitch. For Clifford, it was his team-tying third home run of the year.

"I had a feeling Clifford was going to tie things up when the count went 3-1 count on him," Alexander said. "I looked over at Logan James and said `It's tied up' and on the next pitch, he hit it over the wall."

JU took an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first when senior first baseman Ryan McArdle hit a sacrifice fly to right and Opachich scored from third on a throwing error.

Junior center fielder Kevin Ferreira led off the inning with a high-chop single in front of the mound and Opachich followed with a single through the right side.

After both runners advanced on a groundout, senior right fielder Mike McCallister walked to load the bases. McArdle followed with a foul fly to right, which was caught by Brian LeClerc, to drive in Ferriera from third.

Opachich would score from third when he and McCallister completed a double steal and Gator catcher Hampton Tinor's throw went into center field.

The Gators evened the score in the bottom of the third when Jon Towsend knocked an RBI base hit up the middle and Bryson Barber hit a sacrifice fly to center.

Florida used the long ball to take a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth when Cole Figueroa clobbered a two-run shot over the scoreboard in right field and Matt LaPorta followed with a solo shot to left. It was the first time the Gators hit back-to-back home runs this season.

JU cut the deficit to 5-4 in the top of the sixth when senior second baseman Logan James drew a bases-loaded walk and junior shortstop Matt Lopez hit a sacrifice fly to center.

McCallister drew a walk and McArdle smoked a ball over third baseman Clayton Pasani to lead off the inning. Junior third baseman Ben Kerr followed with a fielder's choice bunt to load the bases before James walked on four pitches. With one out, Lopez hit the first pitch to deep center to drive in McArdle.

JU will next host Connecticut on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Alexander Brest Field.