BASEBALL: Gators win 10-3, Sweep Auburn

Florida (14-13/4-2 SEC) completed a three-game sweep of No. 21 Auburn (18-9/0-6 SEC) with a 10-3 triumph on Sunday afternoon at Plainsman Park. Senior Matt LaPorta (Port Charlotte, Fla.) went 4-for-4, drove in four runs and launched a pair of homers for his fifth career multi-HR game. The slugger was 7-for-13 (.538) in the series with three doubles, three dingers and totaled seven RBI.

Senior David Hurst (Jacksonville, Fla.) (1-0) had a five-inning relief stint, scattering three hits and permitting one run, to collect his first victory of the campaign. At 4-2 in league play, the Gators find themselves in a log-jam atop the SEC standings.

LaPorta provided the Gators with a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning with a towering homer to left center off sophomore Evan Crawford (3-2). Freshman Cole Figueroa (Tallahassee, Fla.) had extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a one-out double and LaPorta took over the team lead with his seventh round-tripper, second in as many games.

On the strength of three hits, UF grabbed a 4-0 lead in the third. Sophomore Cody Neer (Orlando, Fla.) opened with a single into left and moved into scoring position courtesy of his third stolen base. Senior Brian Leclerc (Clearwater, Fla.), the league’s top hitter in conference games, bashed an RBI double to straightaway center field and freshman Jake Hicks (Molino, Fla.) was hit by a pitch with one down. Freshman Clayton Pisani (Naples, Fla.) executed a hit and run to drive in Leclerc and left the Gators with runners on the corners. Crawford induced an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play on a grounder by junior Jon Townsend (London, Ky.) to hold his club’s deficit at four runs.

In the bottom of the frame, Auburn used a two-out rally to narrow the gap to 4-2 on a two-run single by freshman Joseph Sanders. Freshman Billy Bullock (Valrico, Fla.) retired the first two batters before issuing a walk to freshman Dustin Spruill. Rookie Robert Brooks’ base-hit was followed by a free pass to freshman Ross Smith to load the sacks and Sanders put the hosts on the board by slicing a single just under the grasp of Townsend at third.

A sacrifice fly by Neer in the fourth resulted in a 5-2 lead for Florida. LaPorta smacked a double high off the Green Monster in left and senior Austin Pride (Longwood, Fla.) earned a walk before Crawford uncorked a wild pitch to advance both runners. Neer’s second sac fly was deep enough in center to plate LaPorta. After yielding a leadoff walk to sophomore Luke Greinke in the home part of the stanza, Bullock was replaced by Hurst. Over four innings, the rookie right-hander allowed four hits and a pair of runs, with four walks and two strikeouts.

The Gators broke the game wide open with four runs on three hits and two AU errors in the sixth for a 9-2 bulge. Freshman Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) led off with a single and moved to third when Hicks’ grounder was thrown away by the shortstop. Senior Johnny Thompson took over for Crawford (5.0 IP, 9 H, 7 R) and had Pisani ground to second base. A fielding error on the play allowed Pigott to score and left UF with two runners aboard. A walk to Townsend filled the bases and Figueroa blooped a single into center for a 7-2 lead. LaPorta connected on a RBI single and Leclerc later drew a two-out, bases-full walk for a seven-run cushion.

Sanders drove in his third run of the afternoon with a two-out double in the sixth off the wall in left to pull Auburn within 9-3. LaPorta went deep over the Monster in the eighth to finalize the 10-3 margin. UF out-hit the Tigers, 14-7, and was flawless in the field. Figueroa finished 2-for-6, while Neer (2-for-4) and Pisani (2-for-5) chipped in multiple-hit outings. Sanders went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs for Auburn.

Florida returns to McKethan Stadium on Tuesday night for a mid-week matchup with Bethune-Cookman. The Gators’ next SEC action will be at Eastern Division rival Georgia (9-14/3-3 SEC). The Bulldogs swept Auburn last week but then dropped all three games at Tennessee this weekend.