OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – When Tennessee made a late switch, Florida was more than ready in the opening game of the College World Series.

Surprises are hard to come by between these Southeastern Conference rivals.

The Gators got homers from Matt LaPorta and Brian Jeroloman off unannounced starter Luke Hochevar and held on Friday to beat Tennessee 6-4.

“Coaches will make decisions on who to pitch based on a lot of information they have,” said Florida coach Pat McMahon, who was told by Tennessee on Friday morning that Hochevar, the Vols’ ace, would go instead of projected starter James Adkins.

“That’s their ball club and they knew who they wanted to pitch. We were prepared. … When you play teams throughout the course of the league you see both of their pitchers and all of their pitchers. They’re all very good and it’s a decision they made.”

Hochevar (15-3), who’d beaten Florida in the regular season, lasted six-plus innings, allowing eight hits and a season-high six runs – four earned – with five walks and three strikeouts.

“I prepared like I would start. I was not off guard at all,” Hochevar said. “I just didn’t have it. I didn’t execute pitches.” LaPorta extended the Gators’ single-season record with his 25th homer in the third, a deep shot into the left-field bleachers that gave Florida a 2-0 lead.

Jeroloman hit a solo shot in the sixth for a 6-1 lead and the Gators held on. “I just thought, “There he goes again, the 25th time this year,”‘ winning pitcher Alan Horne said of LaPorta. “Any time you put up runs against a guy where runs are at a premium, it’s a confidence boost.”

Horne (10-2) won his ninth straight decision for Florida (46-20). The 6-foot-4 right-hander went six-plus innings and left with a 6-1 lead after walking the leadoff batter in the seventh. He allowed two runs on four hits with six walks and eight strikeouts.

Chase Headley had a two-run shot for Tennessee off Gators reliever Connor Falkenbach in the seventh.

Adkins, who’d won three straight, was the scheduled starter for Tennessee (46-20), but the Vols reconsidered and went with Hochevar, who was a first-round supplemental pick of the Dodgers.

“Hochevar has been our warrior all year, the Friday night guy,” Tennessee coach Rod Delmonico said. “It’s one of those things we went back and forth on.”

Hochevar’s outing could have been a lot worse if not for two stellar defensive plays in the fifth from right fielder Eli Iorg, who stole a grand slam from Adam Davis by leaping high above the fence to pull the ball back.

“I’m not used to getting balls out there when Luke is on the mound,” said Iorg, who just recovered from a stress fracture in his foot, an injury that had limited him to DH duties in previous tournament games.

“I made a couple of big plays, but offensively I felt like I let the team down big-time.”

The Gators pushed across an unearned run in the bottom of the first, thanks to a throwing error on Tennessee catcher J.P. Arencibia.

After Jeff Corsaletti coaxed a leadoff walk, he strayed too far off the bag and Arencibia fired to first. But the throw was errant, allowing Corsaletti to advance, and Florida later took a 1-0 lead on Jeroloman’s fielder’s choice grounder.

Florida loaded the bases in the fourth on a hit batter, single and walk, leading to two more runs. Vols’ first baseman Alex Suarez misplayed Davis’ grounder for an error to make it 3-0 and LaPorta followed with a sacrifice fly.

Tennessee loaded the bases in the fifth after Gavin Dickey, a backup quarterback on the Gator football team, dropped a fly ball to left for an error. The Vols then broke the shutout bid on Iorg’s sacrifice fly.

After a walk and bloop single in the fifth, Florida loaded the bases when Justin Tordi bunted and no one covered first base for the Vols. Stephen Barton then hit a long drive to right center that turned into a sacrifice fly when Iorg raced to the warning track and made a great catch.

Two batters later, Iorg – the son of former major leaguer Garth Iorg – made a spectacular catch to deny Davis a grand slam.

After Headley’s homer in the seventh, Rob Fitzgerald singled and Tordi committed an error at shortstop to put runners at first and third with no outs, chasing Falkenbach. Mike Pete came on and gave up an RBI groundout to Kelly Edmunson.

Eric King had four hits for Tennessee, which won two of three from the Gators on Florida’s home field in the regular season.

AP-ES-06-17-05 2003EDT

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