Right spin for UF

Gators cash in on 'Noles' errors


Florida's Jeff Corsaletti knocks the first base bag out of the ground after safely sliding back during Wednesday's game against Florida State at McKethan Stadium. The FSU first baseman is Daniel Wardell.

CHRISTINA STUART/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 1:16 a.m.
Florida State shortstop Bryan Zech knew it was a routine play. But in a game oozing with plot twists, the final one was the most shocking.
A routine bouncer off the bat of Florida's Stephen Barton with two outs in the 11th inning went off Zech's glove, allowing Ben Harrison to score the winning run in Florida's wild 7-6 extra-inning win Wednesday night.
"It was spinning pretty good," said Zech, who moved to shortstop from second base earlier this month to replace injured junior Stephen Drew. "I should have had it, though."
No. 16 Florida improved to 25-5 in front of a McKethan Stadium record crowd of 5,663. The Seminoles (21-8), meanwhile, appeared to have scripted a glorious ending for themselves when P.K. Yonge graduate Ryne Malone put the them ahead 6-5 with a lead-off home run in the 11th.
But FSU committed three errors in the bottom of the inning - two coming from Malone - to keep the Gators' improbable comeback hopes alive.
"My emotions are running wild right now," center fielder Jeff Corsaletti said several minutes after the Gators celebrated at home plate as most in the crowd of cheered on. "It was a war. We kept battling and battling. We showed a lot of heart hanging in there like this."
The Seminoles appeared on the verge of a blowout. FSU jumped on Florida freshman starter Steven Porter for four runs in the first. But junior right-hander Connor Falkenbach provided Florida with the same calming influence out of the bullpen he's had all season. Falkenbach kept FSU scoreless for 5 innings in relief of Porter, walking none and striking out three.
"I had to keep us in the game," Falkenbach said. "I just kept throwing strikes, but it seemed like every time I'd set them down, I'd be coming right back out there."
That's because FSU starter Rhett James was keeping Florida off balance for many of the early innings with his breaking pitches. But Florida eventually chased James with a five-run sixth.
The Gators plated five runs in the inning on just four hits, the biggest a two-run, pinch hit single by Barton. Freshman catcher Brian Jeroloman gave Florida a 5-4 lead two batters later with a two-run single.
The Gators looked to be in position to close out the game, taking the 5-4 lead into the ninth with closer Darren O'Day on the mound. But FSU's Shane Robinson singled to left field, scoring Matt Sauls from second with two outs to send the game into extra innings.
"We could have rolled over and died," said Harrison, who went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs despite coming down with a stomach virus earlier this week. "But we're going to battle everyone to the wire."
O'Day (3-1) got the win for Florida after blowing the save opportunity. Suwannee High graduate Tyler Chambliss (0-1) suffered the loss for the Seminoles, victimized by some sloppy defense in the 11th.
The Gators winning half of the inning started when freshman Adam Davis led off with an infield single and then advanced to third on Malone's throwing error. Harrison followed one out later with an RBI single, a hot smash to third baseman Dennis Anderson, which was originally ruled an error. Then, Austin Easley hit what appeared to be an inning-ending double play to second, but Malone botched the ball, allowing Harrison to advance to third. After Brian Leclerc grounded out, Barton sent the spinning chopper to Zech at short.
"We played good the whole game," said Zech, who led the game off with a home run. "But when it was crunch time, we didn't get it done."
You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com

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