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Baseball swamps Gators, ending weekend series 1-2

The baseball team stunned the University of Florida with an 11-2 win on Saturday afternoon, but the Bears dropped the next two games of the series, 8-7 later on Saturday and 13-2 on Sunday. Fielding errors and bullpen trouble continued to plague Brown over the weekend, and the Bears now have a record of 3-4.

In the first game, pitcher Will Weidig '10 turned in a strong start, allowing just two runs in eight innings and striking out seven batters. This performance came as a relief to the team, since Weidig, whom catcher Matt Colantonio '11 labeled the "ace" of the pitching staff, had been shaky in his first start, when he allowed six runs in seven innings to the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

"I think in my first start, I was really excited, and I wasn't focusing on every pitch I threw, so I was getting in a groove and then out of the groove," Weidig said. "Against Florida, I was able to focus on every pitch I was throwing more than usual."

The Gators managed just five hits and two walks off of Weidig, who overpowered their hitters with a combination of fastballs and hard sliders.

"My slider was a little bit softer against UAB," Weidig said. "This week, (Head) Coach (Marek) Drabinski worked with me on throwing the slider harder, and that was my out pitch against Florida."

The game remained in a scoreless tie through the first three innings, but an RBI single off the bat of designated hitter Conor Reardon '08 put the Bears ahead 1-0, and they never looked back. First baseman J.J. Eno '08 hit a double to drive home Colantonio in the fifth, and right fielder Nick Punal '10increased the lead to 5-0 with a three-run homer in the sixth.

In the bottom of the sixth, Florida finally ended Weidig's shutout bid with a two-run inning, but the Bears came back to score four runs in the eighth inning and another two in the ninth. Weidig held the Gators scoreless in the seventh and eighth, and closer Anthony Vita '08 finished the game with a scoreless ninth inning, giving Bruno the 11-2 win.

In the second game on Saturday, Colantonio led Brown's offensive effort with a 3-for-4 day at the plate, driving in one run and scoring another. Though the Bears led 7-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Gators came away with the win.

Bruno took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third, and in the fourth inning, Eno and center fielder Steve Daniels '09 hit back-to-back RBI singles to score first Punal and then Colantonio.

Florida began to chip away at Brown's lead, though, as a combination of wild pitches from Alex Silverman '08, an error by shortstop Matt Nuzzo '09 and a few timely hits resulted in two runs over the next two innings for the Gators, cutting the lead to 3-2 after five innings.

In the top of the sixth, Nuzzo redeemed himself with an RBI single, and tri-captain third baseman Rob Papenhause '09 also came through with a two-run single. Nuzzo later came around to score on a Colantonio single, and the Bears took a 7-2 lead.

Colantonio, a freshman, is currently second on the team with a .350 batting average and .480 on-base percentage and has four RBI and four runs scored.

"I've seen myself make a lot of improvement, but a lot of credit goes to the coaches," Colantonio said. "They worked with us a lot ... on taking different approaches to different pitchers. You're going to see a lot of good pitchers when you face a team like Florida, so you can't go up there trying to hit home runs. You have to hit singles and line drives ... and trust the guy behind you."

The Gators continued to fight and cut the lead to 7-4 in the bottom of the sixth. Florida left fielder Josh Adams led off the bottom of the seventh with a home run off of Matt Boylan '10, sparking a three-run inning to tie the game at seven.

Tri-captain relief pitcher Rob Hallberg '08 took the mound with two outs in the eighth and got the Bears out of a jam. But in the ninth, Hallberg loaded the bases with nobody out, and pinch hitter Avery Barnes drove home the winning run for Florida with a walk-off single.

The final game of the series was disastrous for Brown, who committed five errors in the game, accounting for seven unearned runs. The Gators scored four runs in the first inning and expanded the lead to 9-0 in the second. Bruno managed just four hits in the whole game, and Florida dealt a decisive blow to Brown in the rubber match of the series, 13-2.

"Our game was just off - our hitting, our pitching and our fielding," Colantonio said. "We couldn't put up any runs. They put up five runs in the first inning and four runs in the second, and instead of coming back, we kind of just fell over."

The players remain optimistic, however, especially considering that this is the first time in any of the players' collegiate careers that Brown has won more than one of its first seven games.

"Early on, a lot of guys are adjusting to new roles, but after this long spring break, everyone will ... shake the rust off," Weidig said.

Brown returns to the field on March 22, when it will travel to Asheville, N.C., to face Hartford.



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