Florida wins baseball regional


Published: Monday, June 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 1, 2009 at 12:06 a.m.

Before Florida played Miami in its NCAA regional playoff game Sunday night, freshman first baseman Preston Tucker watched rival Florida State score more than half of its 37 runs in its regional clincher against Ohio State.

"Right before the game started they were at 20 runs and I thought, ‘Why can't we do something like that?'," Tucker said.

Florida didn't quite reach that gaudy sum, even though the hits came all night against the Hurricanes. Pounding out 22 hits, the most in two seasons under coach Kevin O'Sullivan, Florida cruised to an NCAA regional title with a 16-5 win over Miami before 2,351 at McKethan Stadium.

"We came into tonight with a really good approach at the plate," O'Sullivan said. "We didn't chase anything out of the zone."

Florida (42-20) moves on to next weekend's super regionals, where the Gators will host the winner of tonight's game between Georgia Tech and Southern Mississippi in the Georgia Tech regional. The Gators are two wins away from reaching the College World Series for the first time since 2005.

Tucker sparked the Florida offensive onslaught, going 4-for-5 with a homer and 3 RBIs. Overall, Tucker went 9-for-13 with two homers in the regional to earn most outstanding player honors for the tournament.

"It's really just a tribute to everyone on this team swinging the bat," Tucker said. "When we have players on base, it puts more pressure on the pitcher than me. Everyone swung the bat really well today and just gave our pitchers the confidence to throw strikes."

Miami coach Jim Morris wasn't around to see the Hurricanes get eliminated. Home place umpire David Wiley ejected Morris at the end of the first inning, after Morris engaged with a chest-to-chest argument over whether UM left fielder Chris Hermann was hit by a pitch that Wiley called a ball. Morris had some more choice words for Wiley after Herrmann struck out to end the inning, resulting in the ejection.

"The ball hit him in the elbow and they said that Herrmann stuck out his elbow in the zone," Morris. "I'll leave it up to you to watch on TV and decide."

After advancing following 4-0 win over Jacksonville earlier in the afternoon, Miami couldn't get another big pitching performance Sunday night. Miami starter Iden Nazario lasted just 1/3 inning, allowing five runs on four hits.

Florida batted around during its five-run first inning. Avery Barnes led off the game with a walk and moved to third on a Jonathan Pigott double.

Tucker then drove his 81st run of the season on an RBI single, breaking the previous school record of 80 set by Ryan Shealy in 2002.

Matt denDekker put the Gators ahead 2-0 on a sacrifice fly. Brandon McArthur followed with an RBI single and Teddy Foster belted an RBI double, knocking Nazio out of the game. Buddy Munroe put Florida ahead 5-0 on an RBI groundout.

"Avery had a great at bat to start the game and it just rolled from there," den Dekker said. "It was a great job by our hitters."

After tacking on runs in the second and third inning, Florida broke the game open with a seven-run fifth. Six of the runs scored with two outs. Barnes started the rally with an RBI single and Pigott followed with a two-RBI double. Tucker and Adams then belted back-to-back homers, putting Florida ahead 13-1. Foster's RBI single capped the scoring, giving the Gators a 14-1 lead.

"Guys were seeing the ball well," Adams said. "One guy comes back to the dugout and says the ball looks like the size of a beach ball. We have great hitters and can be dangerous when we get on that kind of a roll."

Miami first baseman Jason Hagerty belted a three-run homer during a four-run fifth that cut the Florida lead to 14-5. But Florida answered with two runs in the top of the fifth on an Adams bases loaded walk and a den Dekker sacrifice fly.

Patrick Keating (4-3) earned the win for Florida in relief of starter Alex Panteliodis. Florida, which came into the regional 3-12 against the Hurricanes in the postseason, swept Miami in two games by a combined score of 24-7.

"We are not the same team we were in the second week of the season," said O'Sullivan, referring to Miami's sweep of Florida in early February. "Preston wasn't even in the lineup consistently at that point. We've worked awfully hard and the past is the past."

EXTRA BASES: Joining Tucker on the all-tournament team was Adams, McArthur, Pigott, den Dekker, Mike Mooney and Stephen Locke.

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