It may have taken two days to complete, but No. 2 Florida Gators baseball returned after a 14-hour weather delay to run through the No. 6 Vanderbilt Commodores 3-1 in the winner’s bracket of the 2011 College World Series on Tuesday.
Restarting the contest in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE, Florida (52-17) and Vanderbilt (53-11) combined to retire 19 of the 20 batters who stepped to the plate. Each team walked one but did not allow a single hit in the final 3.1 innings of the contest.
The Gators now hold a 4-1 record against the Commodores this season and are 2-0 when taking on their Southeastern Conference East division rivals in postseason play.
Vanderbilt squandered two opportunities early in the game, stranding a runner 90 feet from home plate in both the first and third inning.
Florida, on the other hand, took advantage of their first real chance to score. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (0-3, R, BB) earned a one-out walk in the top of the fourth and moved over to third after sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-4, R) legged out an infield single and Commodores starter Grayson Garvin committed a throwing error.
Working his way to a 2-1 count, junior right fielder/first baseman Preston Tucker (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) powered a three-run bomb to right to give the Gators a 3-0 lead.
VU would not make the same mistake a third time and finally got the best of Florida freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson. After allowing only two hits through the first four innings of the game, Whitson gave up pair of singles and a walk in the bottom of the fifth, letting Vanderbilt plate their first runner of the game. The Commodores would not continue the rally, however, as Whitson (4.2 IP, ER, 4 H, BB, 5 K) was pulled for sophomore left-hander Steven Rodriguez, who struck out 1B Aaron Westlake to end the inning.
Rodriguez kept on rolling in the sixth, but high wind warnings and severe weather delayed the game for nearly three hours with the Gators looking to get the final out of the inning. Action would never resume Monday evening as the NCAA called the contest for the night around 11:30 p.m., but Rodriguez returned to the mound Tuesday at 11:06 a.m. and struck out the final batter to move the game into the seventh.
Vanderbilt replaced Garvin (13-2, 6 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, BB, 9 K) with Will Clinard when play resumed Tuesday, and he followed the game’s trend by also being dominant on the hill and holding Florida scoreless for the duration.
However, it was Rodriguez (4-2) who stole the show, retiring 13 of the 14 batters he faced with a career-high seven strikeouts in 4.1 innings.
Tucker’s 23rd double of the year in the sixth set a new single-season UF record, and Rodriguez’s 4.1 innings pitched was a career-high. The Gators also set a new single-season wins record with their 52nd victory of the year on Tuesday.
Florida will move on in the winner’s bracket and play their next game Friday at 2 p.m. against either Vanderbilt or North Carolina; those two teams will square-off Wednesday at 7 p.m. in an elimination game. The Gators need one more victory to advance to the CWS Championship Series for the first time since 2005.
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Courtesy of Heath Cline (@heathradio)