UF BASEBALL

Owls steal home to slip past Gators


Florida reliever Aaron Rhodes (27) was saddled with his second loss of the season Tuesday against Florida Atlantic, despite UF pitchers striking out 18 total Owls batters.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer/FILE
Published: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 11:51 p.m.

A steal of home with two outs in the top of the 11th inning by Florida Atlantic's Cain Spangler proved to be the difference Tuesday night as the Owls ended a four-game winning streak for No. 13 Florida with a come-from-behind, 5-4 win at McKethan Stadium.

With runners on first and third and two outs, FAU's Tyler Rocklein broke for second and got in an intentional rundown, and first baseman Braden Mattson's throw home was too late to get Spangler as the Owls (16-12, 4-8 C-USA) pulled off the win despite Florida pitchers striking out a season-high 18 batters.

“We practice that play all the time,” coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “They executed it right and we didn't. It's as simple as that.”

UF (19-10, 6-3 SEC) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in its first at-bat, as the first two hitters, Casey Turgeon and Richie Martin, each drew walks from FAU starter Brandon Rhodes, and Harrison Bader followed with a line-drive single to left to load the bases with nobody out.

Taylor Gushue plated Turgeon with the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly to left, his team-leading seventh of the season, and Mattson delivered an RBI single to score Martin, with Bader taking third and Mattson second on an FAU throwing error on the center fielder.

Bader scored the third and final run of the inning on a ground out by Justin Shafer.

The Owls began chipping away with a single run in the second, then added single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh to force extra innings with UF, which after its first-inning, three-run outburst, only scored one more time on a one-out, sac fly by freshman third baseman John Sternagel, his fourth RBI in the last two games, in the bottom of the sixth that gave the Gators a short-lived 4-3 lead.

Aaron Rhodes (3-2), the last of six UF pitchers, was tagged with the loss while FAU's Kevin Alexander (3-0), the last of five Owl hurlers, earned the win.

“That was the plan going into the game because we needed to get some guys some work,” O'Sullivan said. “There were just a couple of key situations when we didn't make very good two-strike pitches.

“The bottom line is we scored three in the first, but we only scored one run over the next 10. We threw away a lot of at-bats. I didn't think they were ready to play.”

Designated hitter Esteban Puerta went 4-for-5 to lead a 14-hit FAU attack, while Mattson was 3-for-5 for the Gators.

UF returns to SEC play this weekend with a three-game series at No. 22 Kentucky (I9-9, 4-5). First pitch for Friday's opener is set for 6:30 p.m.

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