Bama rallies past Gators, 8-7

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama (30-23/14-13 SEC) used a game-winning sacrifice fly by senior Matt Bentley in the bottom of the ninth to complete a stunning comeback and defeat No. 22 Florida (30-20/14-13 SEC), 8-7, on Mother’s Day at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Bentley sent a drive to deep right field that freshman Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) made an incredible catch on to prevent a three-run homer. However, junior pinch runner Jeff Texada tagged up from second base and slid home with the winning run.

The Crimson Tide rallied from a 7-2 deficit with five runs in the eighth and the teams were in danger of finishing in a 7-7 tie due to the SEC travel policy before the hosts notched their second walk-off win of the weekend to take the rubber game of the series. Sophomore Austin Graham (5-1) allowed one run over 3.2 innings in relief for the victory, while sophomore Clint Franklin (Orlando, Fla.) (3-3) suffered the defeat after pitching the ninth. UF endured its seventh one-run loss of the campaign in league action.

With Alabama trailing by five runs in the eighth, junior Alex Avila drew a walk and sophomore Brandon May (4-for-5) singled to end the afternoon for junior Patrick Keating (Harrisburg, Ill.). Over 7.1 innings, the righty permitted seven hits and four runs, with five strikeouts and two walks. Sophomore Tony Davis (Cooper City, Fla.) induced a grounder by Bentley that forced May at second and pushed Avila to third. Freshman Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) came in and surrendered a three-run homer to junior Kent Matthes to close the gap to 7-5. Sophomores Del Howell and Jake Smith connected on consecutive singles and junior Tyler Odle tied the game with a two-run triple to chase Toledo. Sophomore Kyle Mullaney (Jacksonville, Fla.) had freshman Josh Rutledge ground out to preserve the stalemate.

Franklin struck out freshman Ross Wilson to begin the home part of the ninth but then plunked Avila. May stroked a single into center field to advance Texada to second, setting the stage for Bentley’s heroics. The batter was down in the count, 0-2, and the drive to right looked to be gone before Cooper jumped at the wall and hauled it back. Texada raced around the bases and eluded the tag from junior Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.).

For the second-straight day, the Gators opened the scoring in the first inning. Junior Avery Barnes (High Springs, Fla.) (2-for-5) began the game with his ninth double and sophomore Matt den Dekker (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) (2-for-5) singled up the middle off junior Robert Phares.

Cooper roped an RBI double down the left-field line in the second for a 2-0 lead. Freshman Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) led off with a base-hit and moved over on a wild pitch. Sophomore Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.) drew a one-out walk and Cooper followed with his second two-bagger of the year. Although the Gators had runners on second and third, Phares rebounded with consecutive strikeouts to end the frame.

UF tacked on another run in the third on an RBI grounder by senior Brandon McArthur (Seffner, Fla.). Sophomore Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) (3-for-5, three runs) had registered his first triple of the year off the base of the wall in center field and scored on McArthur’s grounder to second. After issuing a two-out walk to Adams, Phares (2.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R) was pulled in favor of senior Will Stroup.

The Tide squandered a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the inning, as Howell struck out and wound up on third because of a throwing error by sophomore catcher Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.). Keating buckled down to retire Smith (strikeout), Odle (infield fly) and Rutledge (ground out).

Alabama tallied two runs on four hits in the fourth for a 3-2 deficit. Wilson opened with a leadoff single and May and Bentley produced one-out hitsthe Tide on the board and a passed ball by Munroe with two down allowed May to come across.

McArthur jacked his first homer since Feb. 9, 2007, on opening night against VMI, to give Florida a 5-2 lead in the fifth. Figueroa had reached on a fielder’s choice and McArthur unloaded on a 1-0 pitch from Stroup (1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 3 K) for the three-run advantage. Senior Josh Copeland relieved Stroup and surrendered a towering solo blast by senior Bryson Barber (Pensacola, Fla.), his fourth, to put UA down, 6-2.

Figueroa opened the seventh with a home run deep to right field off Graham to give the visitors a 7-2 cushion. It was his seventh dinger to match Adams and den Dekker for the club lead. UF held a slim 13-12 edge in hits this afternoon.

The Gators will host USF (26-24/11-13 Big East) on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in their final non-conference contest of the regular season. Florida wraps up the SEC schedule against Vanderbilt (37-15/15-11 SEC) in a three-game series that starts Thursday night at McKethan Stadium.