Up 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning just one out away from sending the Gainesville Super Regional to a third and deciding game, Miami shortstop Stephen Perez snagged a routine grounder by Florida’s Josh Adams and fired over to first.
His throw hit first baseman Scott Lawson on the bounce and Lawson couldn’t handle it, allowing Preston Tucker to score the game-tying run.
One inning later, in the bottom of the 10th, Miami right fielder Chris Pelaez misplayed a routine fly ball, allowing Nolan Fontana to reach second for the eventual game-winning run.
Perez and Pelaez watched as the Gators stormed the mound and dog-piled on top of each other, celebrating wildly with a trip to Omaha and the College World Series secured.
And when the two come to Gainesville this weekend to renew the rivalry, revenge will be on the line.
But Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan doesn’t believe revenge will give Miami an edge this weekend. For him, it’s just another series in a great rivalry.
“I don’t know if last year has anything more to do with it than any other year,” he said. “It’ll be a great test for us this weekend. Miami’s got a great program, they’ve got a good team and we’re looking forward to playing them this weekend.”
Both Florida (7-1) and Miami (4-4) fell to their in-state opponents Tuesday night in the Florida Four Tourney in Tampa, with the Gators dropping a 5-3 game against Florida State and Miami losing a 4-2 contest against South Florida.
The Gators, ranked No. 1 in the country this week by Collegiate Baseball, dropped their first game of the season to the Seminoles after Tommy Toledo and Alex Panteliodis were hit hard in the third inning.
Some base-running mistakes cost Florida a chance to get back in the game in the later innings.
O’Sullivan and his players are looking to put the poor performance in the past and focus on beating a Miami team they took four of five games from last year.
“It’s Florida – Miami. It’s an in-state rival,” he said. “Win or lose on Tuesday night, we’ve got to come out and be ready to have a good practice today and be ready to go on Friday.”
Both teams will throw quality starters on Friday night to start the series.
For the Gators, lefty Brian Johnson (2-0) will start on the mound. In two outings, he has yet to give up a run for a perfect 0.00 ERA. He’s struck out 11 batters in 12 innings and given up just three hits and one walk.
Johnson will face Miami freshman Bryan Radziewski (1-0), who has struck out 15 batters in 11 innings and boasts a 0.82 ERA.
With most of Miami’s pitching staff the Gators faced a year ago no longer on the team, Florida will be facing a few new arms on the mound.
That’s something the Gators said won’t faze them thanks to Nolan Fontana’s ability to work through a lot of pitches early in the game.
“We’ll see more (of Radziewski) toward game time, a couple at bats,” second baseman Josh Adams said. “Nolan is good at that. He sees a lot of pitches and helps us out early in the game. We’ve just got to battle him the first time around and see what he has.”
If Florida can get past Radziewski on Friday night, it will extend its school-record home wining streak to 22 games, dating back to last April.
Florida’s bats have been hot at home, racking up at least four runs and eight hits in each of its six home games. Right fielder Daniel Pigott will look to extend a team-best seven-game hitting streak.
As a team, the Gators are batting .336 with four homeruns and 20 extra-base hits. Florida is led by Pigott and Tucker at the plate, batting .538 and .455 respectively.
Meanwhile, Miami comes into the weekend series batting just .241 as a team with three homeruns and 19 extra-base hits. The Hurricanes are led by freshman Brad Fieger, who’s batting .333.
Saturday’s pitching matchup will pit Florida’s Hudson Randall (1-0, 1.64) against Miami’s E.J. Encinosa (0-1, 6.00). On Sunday, Florida’s Karsten Whitson (2-0, 0.87) will face Miami’s Eric Whaley (2-0, 2.13).
But for the Gators, it’s one game at a time, starting with Johnson’s duel with Radziewski.
“As long as we stay one game at a time, I think we’ll be fine,” Johnson said. “You can’t get too far ahead to where we’re thinking about bigger goals than just winning the weekend series.”
All game times are listed below.
|March 5||3:00||Miami||Sun Sports|
|March 6||12:30||Miami||Sun Sports|