Amid the high drama, Florida comes up clutch vs. Vandy

Florida players erupt out of the dugout after defeating Vanderbilt 6-4 in an NCAA College World Series baseball game in Omaha, Neb., on Thursday. Florida advances to the championship series to play South Carolina. (AP Photo)

Published: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 8:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 8:34 p.m.

OMAHA, Neb. — It was late in the biggest game of the year, his bullpen was melting down and coach Kevin O'Sullivan thought his head might explode.

But one big pitch, one big play and one big hit later, Florida had advanced to the national championship series at the College World Series with a 6-4 win over Vanderbilt.

The Gators (53-17) will play South Carolina in a best-of-three series starting Monday.

"That thing could have spiraled out of control," O'Sullivan said. "This was a pressure-packed game, and I'm sure the players felt it, the fans felt it. "

Florida appeared to be in control of the game after Alex Panteliodis threw six innings only allowing one run — a solo home run by Aaron Westlake in the first. But Florida's 4-1 lead soon disappeared.

Vandy had cut it to 4-3 when Greg Larson threw one of the biggest pitches of the game in the seventh, a slider that induced Anthony Gomez to fly out with the bases loaded. With the game tied in the eighth, Nolan Fontana made a huge play, diving to his right to snag a line drive with the bases loaded.

And Preston Tucker knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth with a line drive off the left-field wall.

As a result, the Gators have a chance to play in the finals for the second time in school history.

"We're happy we're in the finals, but we're going to be just as disappointed as if we went 0-and-2 if we lose this series," Tucker said.

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