Tucker’s three-run blast powers Gators past Bulldogs 8-6 and into College World Series

By Adam Silverstein
June 12, 2011

It took a day longer than they may have liked, but No. 2 Florida Gators baseball (50-17) advanced to its second-straight College World Series on Sunday with a come-from-behind 8-6 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (38-25) in game three of the Super Regionals at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators will compete at the CWS in Omaha, NE in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history, using a three-run homer by junior right fielder Preston Tucker in the seventh to take back a lost lead and propel themselves to victory. UF hit five bombs Sunday, setting a season-high for home runs in a single game as part of their win.

Florida jumped on Mississippi State early, hitting three home runs in the first two innings and taking an early 4-0 lead. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino got things started by cranking a solo shot with two outs in the first. Junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott lined a two-run homer over the left field wall in the second and the very next batter, redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB), followed suit with the first dinger of his college career.

Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis got the start for the Gators and retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced through three innings. Things fell apart for him in the fourth after he allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning. With no outs, Bulldogs second baseman Nick Vickerson tagged Panteliodis for a three-run bomb to left-center, cutting Florida’s big lead to 4-3.

Pulled after allowing the tying run on in the fifth, Panteliodis (4.1 IP, 3 ER, 6 H) was substituted for with junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson, who let the runner advance to second on a wild pitch but got out of the inning unscathed. Larson was pulled just one inning later after getting Vickerson to ground out but allowing the game-tying and go-ahead runs on base via consecutive singles.

At that point Larson (IP, 2 H, K) was replaced by junior LHP Nick Maronde (1.1 IP, ER, H, K), who got out of the sixth but left in the seventh after giving up a two-out double. Junior RHP Tommy Toledo looked to save the day but struggled mightily at first, walking the first batter on four-straight pitches and allowing Vickerson to hit a liner to right to tie the game 4-4. He then gave up a bases loaded single to left fielder Brent Brownlee, who plated two more and put Mississippi State ahead 6-4 on six unanswered runs.

The Gators started the bottom of the inning with back-to-back walks before Bulldogs closer Caleb King was called upon to get Zunino out. Zunino (2-4, HR, RBI, R) instead threw down a sacrifice bunt to place the game-tying run on second with one out. Faced with a 3-1 count, Tucker (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, R, BB) powered the ball to deep center field, hitting a go-ahead three-run homer to give Florida a 7-6 lead.

Toledo sat down all three batters he faced in the top of the eighth, sending the game into the bottom of the inning where Pigott (3-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) hit his second homer of the afternoon to put the Gators ahead 8-6 with just three outs to go. Toledo (6-3) returned for the ninth and retired the side again, forcing Vickerson to fly out to center for the final out of the game. He finished the contest with 2.1 strong innings and threw the final seven outs of the game after giving up two earned runs on two hits with two walks.

Panteliodis set a school record with his sixth NCAA Tournament start, and senior second baseman Josh Adams set another for most games played in a Florida uniform (248). With his three-run homer, Tucker joined the school’s three-man 200 RBI club (Brad Wilkerson, Matt LaPorta) and proved how dangerous he is behind Zunino.

The 65th College World Series is set to begin on June 18 with the Gators holding the No. 2 overall seed as long as top-seed Virginia advances.

 

15 Comments

  1. Basshole says:

    What a game! I thought we were in big trouble after MSU took that late lead, but it was awesome to see them battle back so quickly.

  2. John S says:

    Great game, hard to handle the rollercoaster. Well done Gators.

    Glad Vickerson won’t be in Omaha, that guys clutch.

  3. wingtee says:

    Tucker bails out Sully…… Can’t take the ball out of Marande hands and let Toledo get nailed. It happened a lot. That being said…. I love it Tuck, that was a bomb

  4. Basshole says:

    Gators are going to Omaha and we got two comments? You gotta be kidding me. Give it up for our boys.

  5. Ken (CA) says:

    tough for those of us on the west coast to have the Gators be the early game all week. Awesome job guys. The only good thing about it, was by the time I got around to watching I didn’t have to stress over the late rally, they were celebrating. Good thing only 2 games / day next weekend so we can wake up and cheer!

  6. GatorRx says:

    I’m glad we won’t have to see Vickerson again this year. Awesome to be going to the CWS back to back! UC Irvine won game 2 against Virginia tonight, so we still may get the #1 seed…

    ESPN showed us playing Texas game 1. Will that hold true no matter what?

  7. alex says:

    Great game yesterday; Tucker really pulled through

    I hope Johnson and Maddox are available for the CWS so we are at full strength

  8. Jesse C says:

    I’m not a baseball fan but watch after watching the last two against MSU, I’m going to be watching a lot more of the CWS. Hopefully we can have a better game against UT than the last time we played them for the title. MSU had some timely hitting but the long ball got it done for us. GO Gators!

  9. GoRays! says:

    Wow, There were some very questionable moves by O’Sully all series.

    Especially taking Maronde out and bunting Zunino. Luckily Tucker bailed him out.

    Hopefully his decision making is better in the CWS.

    Great job by our guys. O’Sully has done an outstanding job recruiting top talent to Gville.

    • Intuition says:

      Calling for Zunino to bunt somewhat surprised me but I think the call makes perfect sense. Down 2 in the 7th, you put 2 runners in scoring position. Even sacrificing a baller like Zunino, I think the percentages are still in your favor.

Top