Florida baseball falls to losers' bracket in Omaha

Florida's Matt den Dekker strikes out with runners on second and third to end the second inning on Saturday against UCLA at the College World Series.

Matt Miller/Omaha World-Herald
Published: Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 20, 2010 at 12:38 a.m.

OMAHA, Neb. - Pitching and defense carried Florida to its first College World Series appearance since 2005.

But the same two ingredients that were so effective during UF's undefeated postseason run betrayed the Gators on Saturday night. Before 23,271 at Rosenblatt Stadium, third-seed Florida suffered a humbling 11-3 loss to six-seed UCLA that put a huge dent in its national title hopes.

"We just could never really get into the pace of the game," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "It seemed like we couldn't gain any ground. We would give up a run here, battle back a little back and then give up some more. We couldn't find any kind of flow."

With its five-game postseason winning streak snapped, Florida (47-16) will face rival Florida State in the loser's bracket at 4:30 p.m. on Monday. FSU lost to TCU 8-1 on Saturday afternoon.

The loser goes home. Florida lost three of four against the Seminoles during the regular season.

Not even a spectacular catch from center fielder Matt den Dekker could save the Gators. Den Dekker robbed UCLA right fielder Brett Krull of extra bases in the fourth inning with an over-the-shoulder, Willie Mays-style grab on a towering fly ball in front of the 408-foot sign.

"That's just what I'm supposed to do, run to the ball, track down the ball," den Dekker said. "It kinda stinks at this point, but we have to come back because we have one game to go."

Said O'Sullivan: "Matty is being a little modest, but that was one of the most spectacular catches that I've ever seen."

The catch was one of the few Florida highlights. The low-lights? Florida committed one error, hit three batters and allowed three runs on wild pitches.

Florida had made just two errors in its previous five postseason games.

Offensively, Florida couldn't solve UCLA righty starter Trevor Bauer. The sophomore (11-3) struck out 11 over seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits to earn the win.

Florida starter Alex Panteliodis, coming off a three-hit complete game against Miami, lasted just 3.1 innings against the Bruins. Panteliodis gave up five runs (four earned) on five hits.

"I made some bad pitches," Panteliodis said. "I just didn't have any command of my fastball. But you have to give them credit for the way they hit the ball."

UF's bullpen didn't fare much better. Four relievers combined to give up six runs the rest of the way.

Asked about Florida's pitching struggles, O'Sullivan said: "I wish I had the answer. The one thing we've been able to do all season is throw first-pitch strikes. We weren't as sharp in that area."

Panteliodis got off to a rocky start, hitting the first two batters he faced. UCLA designated hitter Blair Dunlap then sacrificed the runners to second and third.

With the infield in, Deon Espy delivered an RBI single that bounced over the head of freshman third baseman Austin Maddox to put UCLA up 1-0. UCLA had a chance to add to its lead, but Panteliodis came up with a big defensive play, throwing out Beau Amaral at the plate on a squeeze attempt. Freshman catcher Mike Zunino did a nice job blocking the plate on the play.

Florida responded with two runs in the bottom of the first. Freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana led off the game with a walk and moved to second on a den Dekker single.

Both runners moved to second and third on a Bauer balk. But first baseman Preston Tucker popped out to first, and Maddox struck out looking at a Bauer curve. Freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson, though, delivered a big two-out single to left. Fontana and den Dekker both scored to put the Gators ahead 2-1.

But Panteliodis, so effective in holding leads during the postseason, couldn't keep Florida ahead. Niko Gallego and Amaral hit back-to-back singles to start the third. Both moved to second and third on a double steal. Dunlap followed with a hard grounder that went through the legs of Maddox, tying the score at 2.

UCLA took a 3-2 lead when Amaral scored on a wild pitch. Cody Regis then delivered an RBI single up the middle, scoring Dunlap to extend the Bruins' lead to 4-2.

Gallego went 4-for-5.

"We just couldn't keep their leadoff guy off base," O'Sullivan said.

UCLA catcher Steve Rodriguez scored on a passed ball in the fourth to put the Bruins ahead 5-2. Florida second baseman Josh Adams belted a solo homer, his ninth of the season, to cut the UCLA lead to 5-3. But Rodriguez delivered a two-RBI single in the top of the fifth to put UCLA back comfortably up 7-3.

Bauer took care of the rest, settling down after a shaky start. After giving up the solo homer to Adams, Bauer retired 11 of the last 13 batters he faced.

"My curve ball didn't feel sharp early," Bauer said. "In the second inning, I made some mechanical adjustments and was able to get my curve over for strikes."

The Bruins tacked on single runs in each of their last four innings. Espy scored on a wild pitch in the sixth and Amaral delivered an RBI single in the seventh. Krill belted an RBI single in the eighth and Espy had RBI single in the ninth to put UCLA up 11-3.

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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