The Gators pre-game senior recognition was very well-received by the Friday night crowd gathered at McKethan Stadium. Once the umpire shouted, “Play Ball”- an “Avery Barnes Day” celebration broke out and didn’t end until Florida had pounded arch-rival Tennessee 20-2.
Barnes tied a Southeastern Conference record with 10 RBI’s in a single game. He now shares the mark with eight other players since the record was first established in 1947 by Charley Conerly of Ole Miss.
The Gators (28-27, 15-14) also clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament next week in Hoover, Alabama. A Florida win tomorrow, coupled with an Ole Miss loss would make the Gators the #5 seed in the tournament and would probably have them facing Mississippi State. A loss would probably have the Gators matching up with South Carolina.
The Volunteers must be developing a complex. The RBI record was last tied was just two years ago when former Florida second baseman Adam Davis pounded the Volunteers for 10 RBI’s. It too occurred in the second game of the series.
Pssssst!! Tennessee- Barnes will be in his senior year on your next visit to Gainesville.
The High Springs, Florida native stepped up to the plate and blasted a Grand Slam to turn a 2-0 Florida deficit into a 4-2 lead. He was walked with the bases loaded in the third and picked up his fifth RBI. In the seventh, the belted a two-run single. He capped off his night with a three-run home run in the eighth inning equaling the conference record.
Barnes also recorded a couple of stellar defensive plays for the Gators. Most impressive was his double play in the fifth inning. Tennessee right fielder Julio Borbon ripped a ball to second. Barnes stepped up, fielded the ball and applied the tag on Andy Simunic as he ran to second base. Barnes then quickly fired to first just getting the ball to Matt LaPorta before Borbon could step on the bag.
Tennessee scored two runs in the first off Florida starter Bryan Augenstein (7-5). The Gators had recorded two ground outs to Barnes at second base. The Vols then ripped off four consecutive singles, scoring twice. Augenstein allowed a double in the second, but got out of the inning without surrendering a run. He did not allow a base runner to get beyond first base. He was aided by a pair of double plays in the fifth and sixth innings.
Augenstein gave up nine hits and two earned runs in eight innings of work. He struck out nine and did not allow a walk. He located his pitches and kept the Volunteers hitters off balance.
The Gators added six more runs in the bottom of the third. Shortstop Cole Figueroa took his turn in the batters box with the bases loaded and he too launched a ball over the wall for a Florida Grand Slam. Barnes and Hampton Tignor recorded the other RBI’s and the Gators led 10-2.
Florida added single runs in the fourth and sixth. Figueroa blasted a solo shot in that sixth to extend the Gators lead to 12-2.
Florida pieced together four hits in the seventh to further extend their lead. Barnes lifted two runs with a two-RBI single. He followed that up an inning later with the three-run shot.
Barnes, a sophomore, has risen to the occasion as the season winds down. He has worked to raise his average to .293. He entered the series batting .277- steadily increasing it as the season has progressed.
He is not the only one. Jonathan Pigott has also seen his average climb upward. The freshman was struggling at .217 a few games ago, but has raised his average to a current .261. It appears as if the young Gators are growing up.
In fact, of the Gators 14 hits, only three were by seniors. Brian Leclerc went two for three in the game.
Florida will play at 11:30am tomorrow at McKethan Stadium. The Gators will throw Billy Bullock.