Things sure started well enough. True freshman Billy Bullock’s first three pitches were strikes which sent Alabama leadoff hitter Emeel Salem back to the Crimson Tide dugout. Shortstop Cole Figueroa wrapped it u as he turned a hot shot into a 6-4-3 inning ending double play. But Alabama put the finishing touches on the Gators and their rally with a 7-5 victory in 10 innings.
Alabama scored the game’s first run in the fourth inning. With one out, second baseman Brandon May drew a walk from Florida starter Billy Bullock. Two batters later, first baseman Matt Bentley ripped a double that scored May.
The Crimson Tide picked up two more runs in the fifth via the long ball. Catcher Kyle Moore led off the inning with a solo shot over that just cleared the left field fence. Two batters later, Emeel Salem powered a 2-2 pitch over the wall in right-center to give ‘Bama a 3-0 lead.
Florida head coach Pat McMahon went to the pen and brought in fellow freshman Kevin Chapman after Salem’s home run. The southpaw was outstanding in recording the final two outs with a pair of consecutive strikeouts.
Bullock pitched about as well as possibly expected in the first three innings of the game. He allowed just one hit and one walk, while fanning three. He gave up a hard hit double and a pair of walks in the fourth, but still managed to get out with just one run. He seemingly lost his focus in the fifth though.
It was unusual to see a pitcher’s dual during a Sunday contest in the SEC.
Alabama starter Will Stroup did a very good job of keeping the Gators offense in check until the seventh. It was a Florida lineup without the services of their top two hitters- Matt LaPorta and Brian Leclerc.
LaPorta continues to battle a quadricep problem, while Leclerc was scratched from today’s lineup with a back injury that he suffered yesterday during the rain delay.
“He mixed his stuff up pretty well,” Townsend said of Stroup. He was all over the strike zone. He busted me inside once and was really working his slider and change-up. His change-up he wasn’t throwing for strikes a lot, but it was very deceptive. It looks like a strike and then it’s not a strike. He did a really god job keeping everybody off balance, righties and lefties.”
Cole Figueroa drilled a one out single up the gut with one out in the bottom of the fifth. He moved to second on Townsend’s single to third base. First baseman Austin Pride then ripped a single to left-center that scored Figueroa.
McMahon called on David Hurst in the sixth after Chapman had allowed a pair of runners on with consecutive walks. Hurst worked out of the jam without allowing a run.
Shortstop Greg Paiml led off the seventh for ‘Bama with a bunt. Salem was hit by a pitch. Brandon Belcher then laid down a bunt to load the bases. May reached on a fielding error by Figueroa, which allowed Paiml to score. Two batters later, Salem scored when Hurst sent an 0-2 pitch into the dirt. The Crimson Tide led 5-1.
Cody Neer stepped in substituting for starting catcher Hampton Tignor. Neer drew a walk to lead off the bottom half of the seventh. Figueroa then made up for his uncharacteristic error when he took Alabama starter Will Stroup’s 1-1 offering deep for a two-run home run. To close the gap to 5-3.
Avery Barnes put the Gators in position to tie or win in the ninth when he pounded his first career home run over the right field wall to pull Florida within one at 5-4. Townsend followed with a single to third base and advanced to second on a throwing error by Alex Avila. Townsend pulled into second base limping. After being checked by the Florida trainer, he was allowed to remain in the game. Pride delivered game tying double to the gap in right-center. Townsend limped into home. Alabama skipper Jim Wells went to the bullpen and brought on Austin Hyatt, who recorded the next two outs.
You know, I’m not sure what it was,” Barnes said of the pitch he drilled to the scoreboard. “I just tried to hit the ball hard. I’m not used to seeing that. It was neat and I enjoyed it.”
Bentley led of the ‘Bama 10th with a ground rule double. McMahon went to the pen and called on Josh Edmondson, who struck out Elvin Vargas. That brought up Tyler Odle,
who was hitting .077 when he came up to the plate. Edmondson was up 1-2 in the count and tossed Odle a fastball down the middle that was promptly deposited over the right field fence for his first career home run. It also gave ‘Bama a 7-5 lead.
McMahon had LaPorta and Leclerc in the on the top step with bats at the ready in the ninth. LaPorta had a bat in the circle in the bottom of the tenth inning.
“Matt can swing, but can’t run,” McMahon said. “So, you’d better pick your time as evidenced the first night where they opted to walk him some. I’m trying to pick a spot. Leclerc, one swing of the bat is a risk. But, again, his presence against their lineup and certain pitchers was something that we’d try to get one at bat from him. In a twenty-five man roster when you have two guys that can’t play positionally. We have 15 positional players. We used every one of our positional players, we had no moves. That’s the scenario that isn’t ideal, but you try to manage through it. So, a lot of those things that ideally I’d like to have done during the course of that game to get some match-ups- I didn’t have that flexibility to do. And you’ve got to manage with what you have.”
Designated hitter Bryson Barber led off with the single to right field. Matt den Dekker reached on a fielder’s choice. But, Neer struck out swinging and Figueroa grounded out to short to end the game.
Stroup pitched seven innings, allowing eight hits and three earned runs, to of those as he tired in the seventh. Austin Hyatt (5-1) picked up the win for ‘Bama. He threw 1.2 innings of one-hit relief.
Hurst got the loss for the Gators.
Florida (25-24, 12-12) will return to action against North Florida this Tuesday at McKethan Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 pm.