May 22, 2004
Knoxville, Tenn. - Rob Fitzgerald's three-run home run capped a six-run eighth as the Tennessee Volunteers rallied from a 5-0 deficit to post a 9-7 win and series victory over the 13th-ranked Florida Gators at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. With the win, the Volunteers clinched a berth in the Southeastern Conference tournament for the first time since 2001. Sunday's regular season finale is slated for 1 p.m. ET.
After being held to just four hits over the first five innings by Gator starter Tommy Boss, the Volunteers (36-19, 14-15 SEC) chipped away with a single run in the sixth and two unearned runs in the seventh before exploding for six runs off three Gator pitchers in the decisive eighth.
Trailing 5-3, the Vols sent nine men to the plate while rapping out three hits in the inning. Alex Suarez started by getting hit by a Darren O'Day pitch to start in the frame and took second on Kyle Norrid's hit. Connor Falkenbach (7-6), who suffered his third straight loss, entered and threw the ball away on a sacrifice bunt by Brian Cleveland that loaded the bases. Pinch hitter Chase Headley then tied the game with a two-run double. After an infield fly, Cleveland tied the game on a sacrifice fly by Chris Kemp off Steven Porter, the third Gator pitcher. Todd Martin drew a walk before Fitzgerald hit his first career home run to right capping the second straight last at-bat win.
Florida (37-18, 16-13 SEC) scored five of its seven runs on home runs. Matt LaPorta had two -- a two-run blast as part of a four-run second and a solo shot in the eighth. Brian Leclerc added solo homer in the second as well, while Ben Harrison connected with his 15th round tripper in the ninth.
Patrick Hicklen (4-2) pitched a season 7 1/3 innings in relief of starter Sean Watson for the win. Hicklen struck out 10 while yielding three runs on five hits.
Florida used a pair of home runs and an RBI triple to grab a 4-0 lead in the second. Harrison started by drawing a lead off walk and scoring on Adam Davis' one-out triple to left. LaPorta followed by slugging his second home run in as many days to put the Gators up 3-0. After Watson struck out Justin Tordi, Brian Leclerc hit his fifth home run to center. Watson would yield to more hits before giving way to Patrick Hicklen.
The Gators added another run in the third as they parlayed three walks around a double for a 5-0 lead.
The Volunteers got on the board in the sixth as Fitzgerald led off with a double to right and scored on a sacrifice fly. They got two hits from Kelly Edmundson and pinch hitter Kemp in the seventh while taking advantage of two Gator errors in scoring a pair of unearned runs to cut the gap to 5-3.