Gators walk off in ninth to beat Auburn
Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 11:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 11:21 p.m.
There weren't a lot of people around at the end to see it, but those who did were rewarded with one of Florida's most important — and improbable — wins of the season.
Who: Auburn at Florida
When: 1 p.m. (103.7 FM)
Where: McKethan Stadium
The Gators were one out away from their sixth straight SEC loss, down 4-1 to Auburn in the ninth when Josh Tobias belted a two-out, three-run homer to tie the game.
Zack Powers, benched to start the game, delivered a looping double that scored speedy Harrison Bader all the way from first to give the Gators a 5-4 win. Auburn's outfielders were playing extraordinarily deep on the play, and second baseman Jordan Ebert raced into the outfield but couldn't make the play.
“I knew they were playing back,” Powers said. “I thought the ball had a chance to drop. It did, fortunately.
“After sitting on the bench all game, you want to contribute.”
UF is now 28-24 and 13-13 in league play. The Gators clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., with the win.
Auburn starter Michael O'Neal, an eight-game winner this season, was on the verge of pitching a gem going into the ninth with a four-hitter working. He retired nine straight batters before hitting Casey Turgeon with a pitch to start the ninth. Then, Vickash Ramjit singled with two out to bring the tying run to the plate.
Tobias delivered on the first pitch — a fastball from O'Neal — with his third homer of the year, a no-doubter to left field.
“I knew (it was out), but I don't like to pimp or anything because you never know,” Tobias said. “It's big.”
The start of the game was delayed an hour and 42 minutes by rain.
After the rain delay, starting pitcher Johnny Magliozzi took the mound for the Gators. Magliozzi is usually Florida's closer, but UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan was in desperate need of a quality start.
Magliozzi struck out four of the first eight batters he faced. But a Patrick Savage double and an Ebert single brought home a run in the second inning for Auburn. Savage also singled home a run in the third inning. He went 4-for-4 in the game.
Florida managed only one hit through the first four innings off O'Neal. But in the fifth, Bader reached on a two-out infield single. He was caught off first on a pickoff throw but made it to second safely on a throwing error by Auburn's Garrett Cooper.
Brady Roberson, inserted into the lineup at designated hitter for a slumping Powers, delivered a double to right field to score Bader from second and make it 2-1.
Magliozzi pitched into the eighth inning, throwing 104 pitches. He left after a leadoff homer by Hunter Kelley, only his second of the year.
“I was trying to get ahead of him and just threw it down the middle,” Magliozzi said. “I'd probably be mad coming over here to talk to you guys if we had lost.
“They ran into some balls (to score the first two runs). I just started to use three pitches for strikes.”
Center fielder Richie Martin prevented another run from scoring in the eighth inning when he threw out Cooper at the plate.
Blake Austin hit a monstrous solo homer to left in the ninth off reliever Mike Vinson. It was the second straight night Auburn has hit a solo homer in the ninth. The Tigers came into the weekend with only 24 homers in 48 games, but have hit four in two games off UF pitching.
Auburn is 30-20, 10-16 in SEC play.
The two teams meet in the finale of the series today at 1 p.m.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.