May 18, 2007
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida smacked a pair of grand slams Friday and benefited from a generous Tennessee pitching staff while downing the Volunteers baseball team 20-2 on Senior Night at McKethan Stadium. Four UT pitchers combined to issue a season-high 11 walks, and five hit batsmen also marked a season-high. The Vols fell to 32-23 (12-15 SEC) with the loss and will look to earn a much-needed win in Saturday's deciding game, with first pitch set for 11:30 a.m.
Florida (28-27, 15-14 SEC) secured its spot in next week's SEC Tournament behind a strong start by pitcher Bryan Augenstein. The right-hander improved to 7-5 by allowing two runs on 10 hits with no walks and nine strikeouts through eight innings.
The Vols used four consecutive two-out basehits to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, and that proved to be all the offense the Big Orange could muster. After singles by catcher J.P. Arencibia and Yan Gomes, designated hitter Jeff Lockwood got an RBI basehit to drop into right field. Second baseman Tony Delmonico followed that with his team-leading 45th RBI of the year.
Tennessee starting pitcher Nick Hernandez struck out the side in the first inning, but UF used a walk and a basehit to put runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom of the second. Gators designated hitter Cody Neer then drew a walk to load the base for Avery Barnes, who delivered a grand slam over the right-field wall to put Florida on top 4-2. Hernandez gave way to Wiltz later in the frame with two outs and runners on first and third. Wiltz quickly induced a popout, keeping it a two-run ballgame.
The Vols went down in order in the top of the third, and Wiltz got off to a rough start in the home half of the inning. The Gators loaded the bases with their first three batters in the frame courtesy of a walk and back-to-back hit batsmen. Barnes and Hampton Tignor then drew consecutive RBI walks, prompting UT to make its second call to the bullpen. Sophomore Lance McClain entered the game facing a precarious, bases-loaded, no-outs situation and the top of the Gators lineup set to dig in.
McClain's first offering to Gators shortstop and leadoff hitter Cole Figueroa was smacked out of the stadium for Florida's second grand slam in as many innings. To that point, Florida had taken a 10-2 lead on just three hits. The Gators' cause was helped tremendously by seven walks and three hit batsmen.
The fourth inning marked the third straight inning in which Florida loaded the bases, and first baseman Matt LaPorta was the Gator who dug in with two outs and the bases full. He drew UF's third RBI walk of the game, extending his club's lead to 11-2.
Following a scoreless fifth inning, Figueroa put the Gators up by 10 with his second homer of the game - a solo shot to right field.
Four UF hits in the seventh led to three runs, helping the Gators build a commanding 15-2 lead. Barnes and Tignor combined to provide Florida's seventh-inning offense. The Gators continued to pile it on in the eighth as a bevy of subs and pinch-hitters helped to tack on five runs and push the score to 20-2. The UF eighth was highlighted by a three-run homer by Barnes, which gave him an unbelievable 10 RBIs in the game.
Hernandez fell to 4-3 on the year after allowing four runs on two hits with four walks - two of which were issued intentionally to LaPorta - and three strikeouts through 1 2/3 innings. In addition to Wiltz and McClain, freshman Ryan Butner also saw action on the mound for UT, throwing the final two frames in his first career SEC outing.
Tennessee has not announced its starting pitcher for Saturday's regular-season finale, but Florida will send right-hander Billy Bullock (2-6, 5.64 ERA) to the hill.