No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (47-18) advanced to the College World Series for the third-straight season after completing a 9-8 victory in an extra-inning affair on Sunday against the No. 16 N.C. State Wolfpack (43-20) in the second game of Super Regional action at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.
Florida swept the Super Regional from N.C. State after picking up a 7-1 victory on Saturday but needed seven pitchers, three clutch home runs and 10 full innings to register the come-from-behind win on Sunday.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford started on the hill for UF and threw 17 pitches in his first two innings of work before a weather delay forced the teams off the field. He wound up returning following a 2:23 delay though his opponent, ace Carlos Rodon, ended his day with three strikeouts over three no-hit innings.
Upon returning to the mound, Crawford gave up a lead-off double to end a streak of 14.2 innings without allowing a hit dating back to May 22. He was then hit for an RBI double two batters later as the Wolfpack took a 1-0 lead through three innings.
The Gators did not waste time taking back control of the game as senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/4, HR, RBI, R, BB, SB) led off the top of the fourth by turning on the first pitch he saw and sending it out of the park to tie the contest. The onslaught continued against N.C. State reliever Anthony Tzamtzis as Florida juniors catcher Mike Zunino and designated hitter Brian Johnson hit back-to-back doubles to put runners on second and third with no outs.
Freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon followed two batters later with an RBI single to right to score Zunino, giving UF a 2-1 lead and sending Tzamtzis to the showers. The Gators added two more runs to increase their advantage to 4-1 with freshman left fielder Justin Shafer hitting a sacrifice fly to center that scored Johnson, and Turgegon coming around to score after stealing a base and being knocked in via an RBI single to left by junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1/5, RBI).
The Wolfpack similarly responded by tagging Crawford (3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, BB, 5 K) for three-straight two-out hits in the bottom of the fourth. With runners on first and second, RF Brian Austin smacked a two-RBI double to deep center that reduced his team’s deficit to 4-3 and brought senior RHP Greg Larson out of the bullpen.
Read the rest of the Florida-N.C. State game story…after the break!
Larson (2.0 IP, H, ER, K) got Florida out of the fourth but gave up his first home run of the season on a solo shot by N.C. State shortstop Nick Diaz during the fifth that tied the ballgame back up at 4-4. Left-handed reliever Steven Rodriguez (1.0 IP, 3 H, ER, K) did not fare much better for the Gators as he got the final out of the sixth but gave up the go-ahead run in the seventh after allowing the Wolfpack to register three hits.
Florida once again negated N.C. State’s one-run lead with a home run as Johnson (2/5, HR, RBI, 2 R) powered a solo shot of his own to right field with one out in the eighth. The Gators did not stop there, however, keeping the pressure on with consecutive singles by senior centerfielder Daniel Pigott and Turgeon to place runners on second and third after Turgeon stole a base. Shafer singled through the left side scoring Pigott from third, but Turgeon followed him home and was thrown out at the plate giving UF a 6-5 lead.
The Wolfpack answered the Gators immediately in the bottom of the eighth with CF Jake Fincher tying the game at 6-6 after smacking the first homer of his career to left off of Florida RHP Austin Maddox.
UF would not be denied though and retook the lead in the top of the ninth. Freshman third baseman Josh Tobias led off the inning with a double to right-center, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by junior SS Nolan Fontana (0/4) and was plated two batters later after Zunino (2/4, RBI, R) muscled a sacrifice fly to right-center.
N.C. State answered right back in the bottom frame. Maddox walked 3B Trea Turner on five pitches to lead-off the inning, allowed him to steal second and gave up a single down the right field line two batters later to C Danny Canela that tied the game at 7-7.
The Gators replaced Maddox (1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, BB, HBP, 2 K) with sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson, who surrounded a four-pitch walk with a pair of strikeouts that sent game into extra innings.
Pigott (2/5, HR, RBI, 2 R) came through yet again for Florida as the lead-off hitter in the top of the 10th, giving UF an 8-7 lead by smacking the ball just over the right field wall for the Gators’ third homer of the game. Turgeon (3/5, RBI, 2 R, 2 SB) followed by singling through the right side and advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt by Shafer (2/3, 2 RBI). Tobias (2/5, RBI, R) then drove him home with a RBI single to right but caught in a run-down between first and second to end the frame.
Whitson (4-0, 0.2 IP, ER, 2 BB, 2 K) returned in the bottom of the 10th but despite being ahead in the count against the first batter he faced was pulled after throwing five-straight balls and replaced with freshman LHP Bobby Poyner. After hitting the first batter he faced and allowing the potential game-tying run to advance to second on a sacrifice bunt, Poyner (0.1 IP, HBP) was replaced by sophomore RHP Keenan Kish.
Kish (0.2 IP, K) allowed his first batter to hit a sacrifice fly and reduce Florida’s lead to 9-8 but threw three-straight strikes (including a somewhat questionable called strike three framed perfectly by Zunino) to end the game and send the Gators to Omaha, NE.