Kent State outlasts No. 1 Florida baseball 5-4, eliminates Gators from 2012 College World Series

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (47-20) was swept out of the College World Series for the third time in team history after falling 5-4 to the Kent State Golden Flashes (47-19) on Monday in an elimination game at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE.

After losing 7-3 to No. 8 South Carolina on Saturday, Florida fell to Kent State by giving up four unearned runs, committing two errors and missing numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall started on the hill for the Gators but did not last long due to a health scare. Sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford replaced him and picked up the loss despite not being expected to see the mound on Monday.

After suffering some bad luck in the top of the first, things got worse for Florida in the bottom portion of the inning. A throwing error by junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (1/4, R, BB) allowed Kent State to get a runner on base; he soon came around to score unearned after Randall gave up consecutive singles. There was then a delay in action as Randall (1.0 IP, 2 H, R, K) was spotted breathing heavily on the mound. He was treated for dehydration but remained on the hill to get the final two outs before calling it quits for the day with heat-related symptoms.

A fielding error by Gators freshman third baseman Josh Tobias gave the Golden Flashes life again in the second. Kent State plated their second run of the game three batters later after Tobias was unable to field an infield single and added two more immediately afterward thanks to a pair of singles up the middle. KSU registered four unearned runs on six hits with two errors committed by UF in the first two innings alone.

Florida got one back in the third as junior catcher Mike Zunino plated Tobias from second with a single up the middle, reducing their deficit to 4-1. Tobias (0/3, R) was on base after being hit by a pitch to lead off the inning.

The Gators gave the four-run lead back to the Golden Flashes one inning later, however, after Crawford (3.0 IP, 8 H, 4 R [1 ER], 3 K) threw a pair of wild pitches to allow a runner to score all the way from second.

Despite hitting numerous balls hard early in the contest, Florida had plenty of bad luck go their way as most found the gloves of Kent State defenders. UF was able to cut KSU’s lead down to three runs again in the sixth after a two-out RBI double by freshman left fielder Justin Shafer scored senior centerfielder Daniel Pigott (1/4, R), who reached base earlier in the frame on a single to left.

The Gators loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh courtesy of a base on balls and a pair of singles. Zunino hit an RBI single to score one run, and junior designated hitter Brian Johnson helped one cross the plate by hitting into a 4-6-3 double play that cut Florida’s deficit to just one run.

Senior left-hander Greg Larson (2.2 IP, 2 H, BB, K) filled in nicely for the Gators but was pulled for junior RHP Austin Maddox (1.1 IP) after placing runners on first and second with two outs in the seventh. Maddox went the rest of the way.

Florida freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon began the eighth with a single, but the Gators ended the frame by stranding two on base after Fontana lofted a ball to short, putting elimination three outs away.

UF began the ninth in similar fashion with senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/3, 2 BB) walking on four-straight pitches, the sixth time that a lead-off runner got on base for Florida in the contest. Zunino (2/4, 2 RBI, BB) followed by also getting on board via four-straight balls (split over two pitchers), and sophomore Cody Dent (0/0) was called upon to pinch hit for Johnson and advance the runners. With one out, the game-tying run 90 feet away and go-ahead run on second, Turgeon (1/5) struck out on two questionable pitches and Shafer (2/5, RBI) hit his first pitch into right to end the game with a fly out.

Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan falls to 3-6 in his three-straight CWS appearances with Florida being swept both in 2010 and 2012; UF’s only two losses in 2011 came in the Championship Series to eventual national champion South Carolina.

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South Carolina downs Florida 7-3 in CWS opener

An explosive five-run fifth inning for the No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks‘ offense erased an early lead by No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (47-19) and allowed South Carolina (46-17) to top Florida 7-3 on Saturday night in both teams’ first game of the 2012 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE.

With the loss, UF fell to 27-6 when scoring first and move on to the loser’s portion of the double-elimination tournament where they will have to win four-straight games in order to advance to the Championship Series for the second-straight season, something that has happened only six times dating back to 1988.

Gamecocks left-handed pitcher Michael Roth (6.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) earned the victory despite giving up the most earned runs of any of his CWS appearances. Gators LHP Brian Johnson (4.0 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) got out of jams in the first four innings but came apart at the seams in the fifth.

South Carolina threatened first by loading the bases in the opening frame thanks to an error, single and walk, but Johnson struck out the side to save Florida. The Gamecocks squandered another opportunity to score in the third but failed to score a runner from 90 feet away following a lead-off double and sacrifice fly.

It was the Gators that got on the board first with a rally in the third. Freshman left fielder Justin Shafer (2/4, R) and junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit singled to start the inning, but Florida found themselves with runners on the corners following a failed bunt and groundout. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker then stepped up and cleared the bases with a two-out, two-RBI double to deep left, giving UF an early 2-0 lead.

The Gators were in another tough situation in the fourth after Johnson allowed the first two batters on via a single and walk, but Florida’s deft defense registered three-straight outs to get out of the frame.

UF was not as lucky the next inning as Johnson started by loading the bases without recording an out. He then gave up a bases-clearing triple followed by double to deep right, allowing USC to take a 4-2 lead before being pulled. Senior LHP Greg Larson (1.0 IP, 2 H, K) replaced him and got the Gators out of the jam but not without giving up another run and allowing the Gamecocks to extend their lead to 5-2.

Florida cut into South Carolina’s three-run lead in the bottom of the fifth as a sacrifice fly by junior catcher Mike Zunino scored freshman third baseman Josh Tobias, who had moved over to third after getting on base with a lead-off single.

The Gators threatened again in the bottom of the seventh but came up empty after Ramjit (2/3) and Tobias (2/3, R) led off the frame with singles. The duo moved over to second and third on a sacrifice bunt but never made their way home. Florida ended the inning with Tucker (2/5, 2 RBI) flying out to shallow left and Johnson (0/4) hitting a hard line out to right after Zunino (0/2, RBI, 2 BB) was intentionally walked to load the bases.

UF sophomore right-hander Keenan Kish (3.0 IP, H, ER, BB, 3 K) kept USC at bay but walked the lead-off batter in the ninth, who eventually came around to score after advancing via a ground out and a pair of wild pitches, the second of which came from junior LHP Steven Rodriguez (0.1 IP, H, R, K). One out away from ending the frame, the Gators committed two fielding errors and gave up an infield single in between, allowing the Gamecocks to add another insurance run and increase their lead to 7-3.

Florida will face Kent State (46-19) on Monday at 5 p.m. in an elimination game that will air live on ESPN2. The winner will take on either Arkansas or South Carolina (Monday at 9 p.m.) in another elimination game on Wednesday.

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Field announced for 2012 College World Series

The 2012 College World Series field has officially been set after the final three teams qualified for the final segment of the 2012 NCAA Tournament by winning their respective Super Regionals on Monday.

Though the event will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE, the No. 1 Florida Gators will participate in the last “first round” game when they take on the No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday at 9 p.m. live on ESPN.

The CWS is split up in two four-team brackets, each of which is double elimination and can consist of up to seven games. The victors of each bracket will square off in a best-of-three Championship Series beginning on June 24.

Florida (47-18) has been placed in the second bracket along with South Carolina (45-17), No. 20 Arkansas (44-20) and Kent State (46-18). The Gators are 4-3 against that field and 3-0 against the first bracket after registering a season sweep of No. 3 Florida State (48-15). No. 4 UCLA (47-14), No. 11 Arizona (43-17) and Stony Brook (52-13) make up the remainder of the first bracket.

UF is making their third-straight appearance at the CWS for the first time in school history. Florida fell in consecutive contests to UCLA and FSU in 2010 but made it to the Championship Series before being swept by USC last season. South Carolina has won back-to-back national titles and is also making their third appearance in a row.

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Roth silences Gators as Gamecocks sweep College World Series with 5-2 victory Tuesday

After a pair of throwing errors cost them the opening game of the 2011 College World Series Championship Series on Monday, No. 2 Florida Gators baseball hoped to reverse their fortunes on Tuesday with a second crack at the defending champion No. 2 South Carolina Gamecocks. Instead, an error in the third propelled a three-run inning and played a large part in South Carolina (55-14) defeating Florida (53-19) 5-2 to win their second-straight NCAA National Championship.

The Gamecocks captured the final national title played at Rosenblatt Stadium in 2010 and earned the first contested at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE as the Gators moved to 0-4 in the CWS Championship Series in school history (0-2 vs. Texas in 2005).

South Carolina also won their 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament game dating back to 2010 and improved to 4-1 against Florida in 2011.

Junior right-handed pitcher Michael Roth (14-3) earned the start for USC and was absolutely stellar in his outing, allowing only two earned runs in 7.2 innings while giving up five hits and two walks, hitting a pair of batters, and striking out six.

UF countered with freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (8-1), who hoped to match Roth pitch-for-pitch and succeeded through the first two innings before struggling mightily with his command in the third.

Whitson started the inning by giving up a stand-up double down the left field line to South Carolina shortstop Peter Mooney, who advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. He was then plated when second baseman Scott Wingo hit a sacrifice fly to right.

With two outs and runners on first and second, first baseman Christian Walker smacked a chopper to the left side that Florida sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana flubbed, scoring another for the Gamecocks. South Carolina added one more in the inning as an infield single by designated hitter Brady Thomas plated the second unearned run of the inning, putting the Gamecocks ahead 3-0.

Having retired eight-straight batters, Roth was tagged for a solo homer cranked to left by Gators sophomore catcher Mike Zunino in the fourth, reducing Florida’s deficit to 3-1.

UF looked to even things up in the fifth after getting runners on first and second with nobody out. Freshman third baseman Cody Dent was sent to bunt the runners over but fouled out into a strikeout on a 1-2 count; senior center fielder Bryson Smith followed by hitting into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning without the Gators plating a run.

USC hoped to increase their lead in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases after Whitson (4.2 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 HBP, 4 K) allowed a pair of two-out singles and hit a batter. He was then pulled for junior RHP Tommy Toledo, who struck out the next batter to save the inning and leave the bases full.

Florida tried to get things going in the sixth, once again getting their first two batters on board. However, a strikeout and consecutive ground outs stranded the runners on second and third in scoring position to conclude the frame.

South Carolina added to their lead in the latter portion of the frame, as Mooney hit a solo homer off Toledo by sending a rocket to right.

The Gators had one more chance in the top of the eighth when Zunino hit a one-out double to right-center and advanced to third on a ground out. Senior second baseman Josh Adams singled to right to score Zunino and reduce the Gamecocks’ lead to 4-2. Unfortunately for UF, junior pinch hitter Tyler Thompson struck out looking to end the frame, stranding Adams on first.

USC tacked on one more run in their final frame, sending a lead-off single from first-to-third on an infield grounder and wild pitch before plating him with a single to right. Head coach Ray Tanner then brought on closer Matt Price, who earned his 20th save of the season and second in as many days.

Florida concluded the 2011 season with a school single-season record 53 wins while also reaching the CWS Championship Series for just the second time in school history. The Gators also won the Southeastern Conference regular season championship and tournament title while boasting the league’s Player of the Year in Zunino.

2011 CWS All-Tournament Team
Third baseman Cody Dent
Center fielder Bryson Smith

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2011 College World Series Championship Series: No. 2 Florida vs. No. 4 South Carolina – Game 2

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – College World Series
Location: TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 24,505]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN / ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (4) SO. CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Ray Tanner
Record: 53-18 Record: 54-14
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida: Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.43 ERA)
South Carolina: Junior RHP Michael Roth (13-3, 0.98 ERA)

HOME TEAMS

Game 1: Florida | Game 2: South Carolina | Game 3: South Carolina

HISTORY and STREAKS

» South Carolina is 3-1 against Florida in 2011 and 39-29 all-time. USC is also 5-1 all-time against UF in games played at neutral sites.
» The Gamecocks are the defending CWS champions after capturing the title in 2010. The Gators have never won a national title in baseball and are participating in the final series for the second time in school history (2005).
» With a series victory, Florida would be the first team in SEC history to win national championships in football, basketball and baseball. Only two other FBS schools have done so, both in the Big Ten (Michigan, Ohio State).
» South Carolina has won 15-straight NCAA Tournament games dating back to 2010.
» The Gators recently set the school’s single-season wins record (53).
» Florida is 8-2 in NCAA action this year.
» The Gators have won 13 of 15 weekend series played this season with one of their two losses coming to the Gamecocks. Florida has captured 27 consecutive series when winning the opening game.
» UF is 39-8 this year when scoring first and 43-4 when outhitting their opponent. The Gators are also 35-6 when hitting a home run and 22-5 when playing error-free.
» The Gators have scored 208 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Florida is 28-1 when holding opponents to two or fewer runs and 37-2 when allowing three runs or less. The Gators are 8-16 when scoring less than three runs and 2-13 when trailing after seven innings.
» UF is 45-2 when scoring 4+ runs and 46-1 when leading after seven innings.
» Florida and South Carolina are the only two teams to play in the final CWS held at Rosenblatt Stadium and compete in the first one at TD Ameritrade Park.
» The Gators are in the CWS in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
» Florida and South Carolina boast different strengths. The Gators lead the Gamecocks in batting average (.309-.295), runs scored (452-412), hits (741-664), home runs (68-45), RBI (418-375), slugging percentage (.465-.430), stolen bases (56-40) and fielding percentage (.975-.974). However, USC holds advantages over UF in walks (283-241), ERA (2.49-2.97) and batting average against (.227-.243).

LAST TIME OUT…

Florida was leading a pitchers duel 1-0 through the first 7.2 innings of the opening game of the CWS Championship Series on Monday. South Carolina came back with a run in the top of the eighth and scored a game-winning run in the top of the 11th due to consecutive throwing errors by UF. The Gators failed to convert a number of scoring opportunities, often negated by stellar defense from the Gamecocks.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.364), hits (95), homers (18), runs (73), slugging (.655)…and strikeouts (52). He also has 66 RBI on the season.
» Junior first baseman/right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 74 RBI. Tucker is hitting .312 with 55 runs, 15 homers and 28 walks.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…the team’s strongest fielder who recently overcame an 0/17 slump. Fontana, as the leadoff hitter, is hitting .291 with 57 runs, 49 RBI and a team-high 52 walks. He had at one point hit safely in 21-straight games.
» Sophomore closer Austin Maddox…who has made 21 relief appearances (27.0 innings) and has compiled a 0.67 ERA with 21 Ks and only three walks. He is also the team’s starting first baseman when healthy and is hitting .280 with six HR and 35 RBI.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde (0-1, 2.09 ERA)…who has made a team-high 36 appearances this season and earned two saves in 43 innings pitched. He has amassed 55 strikeouts against only nine walks this season. Just seven of the 26 hits he has allowed over the course of the year have gone for extra bases.
» Senior center fielder Bryson Smith…who leads the Gators with a .475 (19-for-40) average in NCAA play and is currently riding a career-high 14-game hitting streak. Smith is batting .329 with 40 runs, two homers, 22 RBI and 17 walks this season.
» Junior outfielder Daniel Pigott…who was hitting .412 with 10 RBI, 10 runs and a pair of walks in NCAA competition going into Monday’s game. Pigott is batting nearly 70 points higher than his season average when it matters the most.
» South Carolina 1B Christian Walker…who is hitting .356 with 10 homers and 62 RBI this season. He has been the team’s best hitter all season.
» Gamecocks catcher Brady Thomas…who had a stellar 2010 CWS and is batting .314 with 70 hits, 42 RBI and 23 walks this year.
» South Carolina closer Matt Price…who has 19 saves on the season with a 1.87 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 57.2 innings. Price threw during an incredibly long outing on Friday, tossing 95 pitches in 5.2 innings.

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Errors doom Gators as Gamecocks win 2-1 in 11

The No. 2 Florida Gators maintained a one-run lead for most of the game but a combination of clutching hitting and excellent defense from the No. 4 South Carolina Gamecocks, along with a pair of throwing errors from Florida, propelled South Carolina to a 2-1 victory in 11 innings on Monday in game one of the 2011 College World Series Championship Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, NE.

The Gamecocks (54-14) trailed for the first 7.2 innings of the game but scored a run in the eighth and another in the 11th to hand the Gators (53-18) their second loss of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. South Carolina thwarted multiple opportunities Florida had to score, getting out of a bases loaded, no-outs jam and completing a play at the plate to maintain a tie and ultimately earn the victory.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall got the call for the Gators and was nearly flawless in his outing, tossing 7.2 shutout innings before giving up a run in the top of the eighth. He struck out six (in the first six innings), gave up three hits and walked one; at one point, Randall retired 18 of 19 batters (including 10 in a row).

The Gamecocks rolled out freshman Forrest Koumas, who was impressive striking out four in 5.2 strong while allowing three hits and a walk. He was replaced by Tyler Webb and John Taylor (8-1), who combined to pitch 4.1 shutout innings in his stead.

Florida got on the board first, manufacturing a run in the bottom of the third. Junior left fielder Tyler Thompson led off with a walk to start the inning, advanced over to third base on a ground out and wild pitch, and scored when freshman third baseman Cody Dent flied out to left on a sacrifice.

It took South Carolina five innings to respond, but the Gamecocks created a similar scoring opportunity of their own. Randall walked shortstop Peter Mooney, the first batter he faced in the eighth, and found him on third after a sacrifice bunt and fly out to right-center. Second baseman Scott Wingo followed with a hard single up the middle to tie the game 1-1 and send Randall to the showers.

The Gators found themselves with a prime opportunity to win the game in the final frame of regulation. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino got on with a walk to start the ninth, and Florida loaded the bases on a single and intentional walk with no outs. However, the Gators hit consecutive groundouts to Wingo to end the inning without plating a single run. Thompson’s grounder resulted in a force out at home plate, and junior right fielder Daniel Pigott hit into a 4-2-3 game-saving double play to end the ninth.

Both teams had a chance to put things away in the 10th but ultimately failed. South Carolina got a pair of runners on base via two singles, but junior left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde recorded the final two outs of the inning. Dent singled for Florida in the bottom of the inning but was ultimately thrown out at home on a hard hit single by Zunino to left.

After a line out to start the 11th, Maronde (0-1) gave up a single to first baseman Christian Walker. When he was replaced by junior RHP Greg Larson, Walker attempted to steal second and succeeded after Zunino threw the ball into the outfield. Trying to get Walker out at third, senior center fielder Bryson Smith committed the second throwing error of the play, allowing the batter to score and the Gamecocks to take a 2-1 lead.

South Carolina called on closer Matt Price and, just two days after throwing 95 pitchers over 5.2 innings, Price (S 19) retired three of the four batters he faced.

The Gators and Gamecocks will go head-to-head in game two of the CWS Championship Series on Tuesday at 8 p.m. (ESPN). Projected Starters: Florida – Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.43 ERA), South Carolina – Michael Roth (13-3, 0.98 ERA)

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2011 College World Series Championship Series: No. 2 Florida vs. No. 4 South Carolina – Game 1

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – College World Series
Location: TD Ameritrade Park – Omaha, NE [Capacity: 24,505]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN / ESPNHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (4) SO. CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Head Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan Head Coach: Ray Tanner
Record: 53-17 Record: 53-14
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

PROJECTED STARTERS

Florida: Sophomore RHP Hudson Randall (11-3, 2.24 ERA)
South Carolina: Freshman RHP Forrest Koumas (6-1, 3.07 ERA)

HOME TEAMS

Game 1: Florida | Game 2: South Carolina | Game 3: South Carolina

HISTORY and STREAKS

» South Carolina is 2-1 against Florida in 2011 and 38-29 all-time. USC is also 4-1 all-time against UF in games played at neutral sites.
» The Gamecocks are the defending CWS champions after capturing the title in 2010. The Gators have never won a national title in baseball and are participating in the final series for the second time in school history (2005).
» With a series victory, Florida would be the first team in SEC history to win national championships in football, basketball and baseball. Only two other FBS schools have done so, both in the Big Ten (Michigan, Ohio State).
» South Carolina has won 14-straight NCAA Tournament games dating back to 2010.
» UF and USC are both 3-0 in the CWS thus far.
» The Gators recently set the school’s single-season wins record (53).
» Florida is 8-1 in NCAA action this year with their sole loss coming on a walk-off by Mississippi State in the Super Regionals.
» The Gators have won 13 of 15 weekend series played this season with one of their two losses coming to the Gamecocks. Florida has captured 27 consecutive series when winning the opening game.
» UF is 39-7 this year when scoring first and 43-3 when outhitting their opponent. The Gators are also 35-6 when hitting a home run and 22-5 when playing error-free.
» The Gators have scored 209 more runs than their opponents this year.
» Florida is 28-0 when holding opponents to two or fewer runs and 37-1 when allowing three runs or less. The Gators are 8-15 when scoring less than three runs and 2-13 when trailing after seven innings.
» UF is 45-2 when scoring 4+ runs and 46-0 when leading after seven innings.
» Florida and South Carolina are the only two teams to play in the final CWS held at Rosenblatt Stadium and compete in the first one at TD Ameritrade Park.
» The Gators are in the CWS in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
» Florida and South Carolina boast different strengths. The Gators lead the Gamecocks in batting average (.309-.295), runs scored (452-412), hits (741-664), home runs (68-45), RBI (418-375), slugging percentage (.465-.430), stolen bases (56-40) and fielding percentage (.975-.974). However, USC holds advantages over UF in walks (283-241), ERA (2.49-2.97) and batting average against (.227-.243).

INJURY REPORT

Sophomore 1B/RHP Austin Maddox (foot) – Able to pitch; hitting to be determined
Sophomore DH/LHP Brian Johnson (head) – Able to hit; pitching to be determined
South Carolina 1B Christian Walker (wrist) – Questionable

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino…a powerhouse at the plate who leads the team in batting average (.366), hits (94), homers (18), runs (73), slugging (.661)…and strikeouts (51). He also has 66 RBI on the season.
» Junior first baseman/right fielder Preston Tucker…who is the Gators’ best run producer with 74 RBI on the season. Tucker is hitting .313 with 55 runs, 15 homers and 27 walks.
» Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana…the strongest fielder on the team who recently overcame an 0/17 slump. Fontana, as the team’s leadoff hitter, is hitting .296 with 57 runs, 49 RBI and a team-high 52 walks. He had at one point hit safely in 21-straight games.
» Maddox…who has made 20 relief appearances (26.0 innings) and has compiled a 0.69 ERA with 21 strikeouts and only three walks. He is also the team’s starting first baseman when healthy and is hitting .280 with six homers and 35 RBI.
» Junior reliever Nick Maronde (0-0, 1.93 ERA)…who has made a team-high 35 appearances this season and earned two saves in 42 innings pitched. He has amassed 54 strikeouts against only nine walks this season. Just seven of the 26 hits he has allowed over the course of the year have gone for extra bases.
» Senior center fielder Bryson Smith…who leads the Gators with a .472 (17-for-36) average in NCAA play and is currently riding a career-high 13-game hitting streak. Smith is batting .325 with 40 runs, two homers, 22 RBI and 16 walks this season.
» Junior outfielder Daniel Pigott…who is hitting .412 with 10 RBI, 10 runs and a pair of walks in NCAA competition. Pigott is batting nearly 70 points higher than his season average when it matters the most.
» Walker…who is hitting .355 with 10 homers and 62 RBI this season for South Carolina. He has been the team’s best hitter all season.
» Gamecocks catcher Brady Thomas…who had a stellar 2010 CWS and is batting .314 with 70 hits, 42 RBI and 23 walks this year.
» South Carolina closer Matt Price…who has 18 saves on the season with a 1.91 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 56.2 innings. Price threw during an incredibly long outing on Friday, tossing 95 pitches in 5.2 innings.
 

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Gators fight to top Commodores 6-4, advance to College World Series Championship Series

The No. 2 Florida Gators and No. 6 Vanderbilt Commodores were evenly matched all season long. Though Florida held the head-to-head wins advantage, Vanderbilt made them fight for each of them and did the same on Friday, turning a 4-1 deficit into a 4-4 tie before the Gators (53-17) pulled away from the Commodores (54-12) and advanced to the 2011 College World Series Championship Series with a 6-4 victory after more than three hours at TD Ameritrade Park.

Florida beat Vanderbilt five of the six times that the two (of three) Southeastern Conference champions squared off in 2011 including twice in the CWS and thrice overall during the postseason. The Gators advanced to the school’s second-ever championship series, having last played for the national title in 2005.

After getting the first two outs of the game, Florida junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis allowed Vanderbilt first baseman Aaron Westlake to power a homer to right to put the Commodores ahead a run early in the game.

The Gators stranded two in the bottom of the second, and VU did the same in the top of the third, helping Panteliodis get out of a jam. UF freshman third baseman Cody Dent helped take some weight off his shoulders in the bottom of the inning, smacking a lead-off, stand-up triple to right-center.

Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana walked to put runners on the corners, and junior 1B Preston Tucker dribbled a ball down the first base line to score Dent from third even though he was tagged out.

Florida took the lead in the bottom of the fourth with a small rally. Senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-3, R, BB) and junior left fielder Tyler Thompson (1-4, R) hit one-out singles to left, and Dent was walked to load the bases. Fontana, stuck in a 0-17 hitting slide, hopped the ball up the middle to score two, giving the Gators a 3-1 lead.

Sophomore right fielder Daniel Pigott kept the momentum going in the sixth, starting the inning off for Florida with a double. The bases were then loaded with no outs after Dent was walked and Fontana had a bunt bobbled; a subsequent 6-4-3 double play scored Pigott from third and put the Gators up 4-1 through six.

Before the seventh could begin, Panteliodis (6.0 IP, ER, 3 H, HBP, 3 K) was replaced by junior right-handed pitcher Tommy Toledo. Panteliodis concluded his outing by retiring the last eight batters he faced and 11 of the final 12 Commodores who stepped to the plate. He also had three 1-2-3 innings on the afternoon including the fifth and sixth.

Toledo (0.2 IP, 2 ER, 3 H) stepped in and allowed one-out and two-out singles to put runners on the corners before a single to left reduced Vanderbilt’s deficit to 4-2. With two down and runners on first and second, he was replaced by junior LHP Nick Maronde, who walked consecutive batters to load the bases and let another run cross the plate. Stuck in a pickle with the bases loaded, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan went to the bullpen again and brought out junior RHP Greg Larson, who immediately forced a fly out to right to end the inning.

Florida went down in order in the bottom of the inning, and O’Sullivan went to the bullpen again, bringing in sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez. After striking out Westlake, Rodriguez gave up a single to center and a chopper up the middle to put the tying run on second and the potential winning run on first.

Trying to stop the bleeding, O’Sullivan made yet another pitching change and called upon sophomore RHP Austin Maddox, who had not pitched since May 29 after injuring his foot. Commodores third baseman Jason Esposito legged out an infield single to short to load the bases, and Maddox hit the following batter on the foot to keep the bases loaded and tie the game up 4-4.

Fontana saved more runs from scoring by diving to his left to grab a liner for the second out of the inning, and a ground out just one batter later stopped the bleeding.

The Gators got things going again in the eighth. Pigott (2-4, 2 R) led off with a single, and Florida loaded the bases on picture perfect bunts from Dent and Fontana (2-3, 2 RBI, BB) – both down the third-base line. At that point, Vanderbilt decided to pull starter Sonny Gray (12-4, 7.0 IP, 5 ER, 12 H, 5 BB, 8 K) and dip into their bullpen.

Senior center fielder Bryson Smith (1-5) popped out, but Tucker (1-5, 2 RBI) followed by hitting a floater to deep left, scoring one and keeping the bases loaded. The next batter, sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-5), went down on strikes, but a wild pitch strike three allowed Dent (2-2, 2 R, 2 BB) to steal home, giving the Gators a 6-4 lead and continuing the inning.

Maddox returned for the final three outs of the ballgame and got the first two batters out before allowing Westlake to double to right-center, putting the game-tying run at the plate. However, just a few pitches and a fly out later, Maddox (3-0, 1.2 IP, 2 H) clinched the championship series berth for Florida.

UF will face either No. 1 Virginia or No. 4 South Carolina in the College World Series Championship Series beginning Monday at 8 p.m. Game two is set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. and game three (if necessary) for Wednesday at 8 p.m. All three contests will air live on ESPN and ESPN3.com with full coverage here on OGGOA.

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