UF must go through 'Dores for CWS title shot
Published: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 12:18 a.m.
OMAHA, Neb. — There's an old saying that it's hard to beat a team three times in one season.
How about five times?
That's what Florida will have to do to keep its dream of a national title alive at the College World Series — beat Vanderbilt for a fifth time.
The Gators face the Commodores for the sixth time today at 2 p.m. If Florida wins, it advances to the title series Monday. If Vandy wins, the two teams will play Saturday for the berth in the finals.
“There are two ways to look at it,” said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. “It's a very difficult challenge. I thought (Vanderbilt coach) Tim (Corbin) hit it right on the head when he said both teams are evenly matched.
“But the way I look at it is that we're trying to fight for a national championship. To win it, you're going to have to beat the best. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. It wasn't going to be easy for anyone.”
Vanderbilt has actually outscored the Gators 23-21 in the five games the two teams have played, numbers that are skewed by Vandy's 14-1 win over the Gators in the middle game of the regular-season series. Florida has won 6-5, 6-3 in 12 innings, 5-0 and 3-1, the latter score coming at the CWS.
“We feel like we matched up against them really well, but it hasn't fallen our way yet,” said Vanderbilt catcher Curt Casali. “We're looking to change that. We're not thinking, ‘How the heck can we beat Florida?' We feel we can compete with them.”
O'Sullivan will throw Alex Panteliodis at the Commodores. Panteliodis got the win when the Gators won in Hoover.
“We trust him,” O'Sullivan said. “The other options were Hudson Randall and Brian Johnson, but we thought it would be better for Brian to get his feet wet throwing an inning somewhere along the line.”
Although Johnson was the designated hitter in the first two CWS games, he hasn't pitched in a live game since being beaned in the head by catcher Mike Zunino's throw at the SEC Tournament.
The good thing for Florida is that almost every pitcher is fresh and ready. Especially if a seventh game against Vanderbilt is necessary Saturday.
The Commodores will counter with Sonny Gray, the All-SEC first-round pick who stifled the Gators in Nashville before rain forced a suspension of that game.
“In order to beat Florida, you can't give them anything,” said Corbin.
The All-SEC match-up is part of a dominance by the league in Omaha. Three of the four teams remaining are from the conference.
“It's a compliment to our league,” said shortstop Nolan Fontana.
Both Florida and Vanderbilt know each other. They knew each other before this marathon of a series began.
“Yeah, we know a couple of their guys,” said senior Josh Adams. “It's always fun to play against them. Vandy is a great team. We've known that all year long.”
And after so many close calls, there's nothing Vanderbilt would like better than to force a Saturday game.
“What we've done in the past against them doesn't matter,” Fontana said. “(Today) is the big day. The whole season is riding on it.”
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