April 18, 2007
Tallahassee, Fla. – Florida (21-19) handed top ranked Florida State (35-5) its first loss at home this season as the Gators won the season series from the Seminoles with a 5-4 victory Wednesday night at Dick Howser Stadium. The Seminoles left 13 runners on base as they couldn’t comeback after spotting the Gators five runs through the first three innings. Buster Posey led Florida State with a three hit effort on the night, while the Seminole bullpen shut out the Gators for 6.1 innings allowing just five hits and striking out eight.
The Seminoles had no problems getting runners on, they just couldn’t get them across the plate as they left the bases loaded in the third and had four innings where they had at least two runners stranded on base. Florida center fielder Matt den Dekker played a major role in that spot as he made a tremendous catch on the run in the bottom of the fourth on a ball hit by Jack Rye. den Dekker leaped into the air and hung on to the ball as he crashed into the wall in right center.
“den Dekker really stole the ball game from us tonight,” said head coach Mike Martin. “He made two exceptional plays that were as good as you can find. It probably saved three runs with the two catches that he made. On top of that he got two outs in which we hit the ball extremely well. You really got to credit their whole ball club for getting it done. Florida has an excellent club. I’m obviously disappointed, but yet proud of the way that we fought and kept ourselves in the ball game. But Florida got it done. Florida made some real good pitches which led to us leaving 13 runners on base. You have to credit them for getting it done.”
Luke Tucker and Danny Rosen each came up with some huge strikeouts in relief of the Seminoles to keep them in the game. Tucker came on in the seventh with the bases loaded and got Florida DH Jared Kubin looking on strikes to end the inning. Rosen replaced Brian Chambers with no outs and runners on first and second in the top of the ninth. The junior right hander struck out pinch hitter Jonathan Pigott before intentionally walking den Dekker to load the bases. Rosen would fire right back as he got Cody Neer swinging and Kubin looking once again.
The top of the first looked to go smoothly for the Seminoles after Florida State starter Bo O’Dell (3-1) got the first two outs via a pop out and a strike out. But after a walk to Gator home run leader Matt LaPorta, Brian Leclerc connected on a 2-2 offering over the fence in right center for a 2-0 Gator lead.
Florida State countered with a run in the bottom half of the first to cut the deficit to 2-1. Tony Thomas, Jr. got things started with a double to the wall in right center. He would move to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mark Hallberg, his team leading eighth sacrifice bunt of the season, and would later score on a wild pitch by Florida starter Stephen Locke. With two outs in the inning, Jack Rye and Travis Anderson registered back-to-back singles. Jason Stidham looked to have given the Seminoles a two run lead on his fourth home run of the season but the ball sent the Florida right fielder all the way to the wall for the third out of the inning.
Mark Gildea tied the game for the Seminoles with one swing of the bat as he crushed reliever Kris Gawriluk’s (1-0) pitch to deep right center for his first home run of the season.
“It was a 3-1 count and I was looking for a real good pitch to put a swing on,” said Gildea. “I was able to hit my first home run of the year; it felt real nice. I was just trying to hit a hard line drive and it ended up going out.”
Florida regained the lead in the top of the third with three runs off O’Dell. LaPorta broke the 2-2 tie with a double down the line in left scoring Jon Townsend, who led off the inning with a single to center. Leclerc registered his third RBI of the game lacing a single to center scoring Cole Figueroa and LaPorta, who raced around third on a fielding error by Gildea. With runs at second and third, Matt Fairel came on in relief and closed out the inning getting Kubin out on a fly ball to Rye in right field.
FSU cut into the Florida lead with a run in the fourth to make the score 5-3. D’Vontrey Richardson, making his first start in left field, was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. He moved to second as he tagged and advanced on a deep fly to center by Thomas. Hallberg then connected on a two-out RBI as he singled to right center scoring Richardson from second. After Buster Posey walked, Rye looked to add to the Seminole scoring as he scorched a line drive to the gap in right center. But den Dekker made an incredible catch as he slammed into the wall closing the door on the Garnet and Gold in the fourth.
The Gators made some noise in the fifth as they placed runners on first and second with two outs, but an incredible play by Hallberg at short ended the threat. Neer hit a ball in the hole between short and third which looked as though would go in for a hit. But Hallberg made a back handed snare and threw a dart across his body to Brandon Reichert at first for the final out of the inning.
Fairel pitched well in relief as he threw a career-high 2.1 innings allowing no runs on two hits. He struck out one and did not walk a batter. It is the second straight game that the freshman southpaw as not issued a walk to the opposition.
Thomas got the Seminoles within a run as he scored his second run of the evening in the sixth. The junior second baseman laid down a bunt single towards first and safely slid head first just beating out the Gator throw to the bag. With Hallberg at the plate, Thomas successfully stole second and third and scored on his steal of third as Neer’s throw got away from Townsend at third. It was Thomas’ 20th and 21st steal of the season surpassing last year’s total of 19 stolen bases as a sophomore.
Jimmy Marshall pitched the fifth and sixth innings for the Seminoles and after a scoreless fifth, the sophomore right hander got into some trouble as he walked the bases loaded with two outs. Martin went to the pen and brought on Luke Tucker to face Kubin. After getting behind in the count, Tucker fought back and threw a nasty 3-2 curveball getting Kubin looking on strikes to end the inning.
“I really like those situations coming in with runners on,” said Tucker. “It gets you pumped up, it makes you stay focused. I love that stuff that’s why I pitched.”
Travis Burge pitched a perfect eighth as he faced just three batters. Brian Chambers started the ninth and gave up two hits to back-to-back Florida hitters before giving way to Rosen. The Miami, Fla., native got the Seminoles out of the jam striking out three of the four batters that he faced to keep the score at 5-4.
But the Seminoles couldn’t muster anything off Florida closer David Hurst, who pitched the final two innings to earn his fourth save of the season. Hurst allowed two hits in the eighth, but got out the inning with groundball double play. He pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to halt FSU’s 30-game winning streak at home.
A season-high crowd of 6,574 fans were on hand Wednesday evening. The last two games of the season between the Gators and the Seminoles featured the two largest crowds that Florida State has played in front of all season long. The two played in front of 12,280 fans at the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville on Tuesday, April 3 setting the record for a collegiate baseball game in the state of Florida.
Florida State will return to the diamond for a three-game set against second-ranked North Carolina beginning Friday, April 20. First pitch is slated for 7:00 pm and right hander Bryan Henry will get the start, while the Tar Heels will throw Robert Woodard. Fans can watch live action over the internet on ACC Select, while gametracker will be available for the contest along with live radio broadcast courtesy of 1270 the TEAM.