The rivalry may have been taken to another level Saturday as No. 2 Florida Gators baseball and the Miami Hurricanes squared off at McKethan Stadium in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Florida (47-16) came back from a two-run deficit and eventually took a 5-4 victory on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to advance to the regional finals and send Miami (37-22) to an elimination game.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the start for the Gators but was pulled after six innings of solid work. Junior RHP Tommy Toledo (5-3) pitched a strong ninth inning and came away with the victory.
Scoreless for two innings, Miami got on board first in the third to take an early 1-0 lead. The Hurricanes started the inning with a double and sacrificed a bunt and fly to bring the runner home. UM added a second run in the fourth, scoring a lead-off single with a one-out stand-up double.
Feeling the pressure, Florida succeeded in tying the game in the bottom of the inning. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) got things going with a double, and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino followed suit to send him home and reduce the Gators’ deficit. Junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (2-4, RBI) kept the double parade going, smacking a ball to deep right to score Zunino (2-4, RBI, R) and knot the game up at 2-2.
UF kept the scoring run going in the fifth as sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana connected on a single to score redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit, who led off the inning with a double. Fontana would advance to second on a bad throw and move over to third when senior center fielder Bryson Smith (2-3) singled. Continuing his hard-hitting afternoon, Tucker stepped into the box and doubled off the right field wall to plate Fontana and give Florida a 4-2 lead.
Miami looked to be going down in the top of the sixth but salvaged the frame to get on the board and draw the game closer. RF Dale Carey hit a clutch two-out double down the left field line to get on base and was singled home by third baseman Brad Fieger to put the Canes just one run behind the Gators. UM capitalized again in the seventh as second baseman Zeke DeVoss began the inning with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and came around to tie the game on a single by LF Rony Rodriguez.
The visitors threatened in the top of the eighth and ninth, but great pitching from Toledo (1.0 IP, K, H) negated a lead-off double in the latter inning to get Florida out of a jam. Gators junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott started the bottom of the inning by getting on base because of an error by the shortstop, advanced to second on a balk and was joined on base by Ramjit (1-3, R, BB), who was walked. The duo moved to second and third after a wild pitch and were joined on the bags when P Daniel Miranda walked his second batter of the inning, sophomore 3B Cody Dent (0-3, BB).
With all the pressure on him, Fontana (2-5, RBI, R) stepped up to the plate and hit a game-winning single to left, scoring Pigott (0-4, R) and sending Florida into the Gainesville Regional championship game on Sunday.
The Hurricanes have now lost seven-straight games to the Gators and 10 of the last 11. Four of Florida’s runs were scored due to opportunities provided by UM errors.
Miami will face Jacksonville at noon with the winner taking on UF in the finals at 4 p.m., live on ESPNU. The Gators only need one more victory to advance to the Super Regional, while either Miami or Jacksonville would have to defeat Florida twice.