Gators fall in 11 innings in CWS title series opener


Florida's Cody Dent is tagged out by South Carolina catcher Robert Beary in the bottom of the tenth inning of Game 1 of the CWS championship series at TD Ameritrade Park, in Omaha, Neb., on Monday.

Brad McClenny/Staff Photographer
Published: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 7:11 a.m.

OMAHA, Neb. — They did it again.

Just when it looked like South Carolina would lose an NCAA playoff game, the Gamecocks escaped Monday night.

As a result, it's the Florida Gators who will be looking to escape elimination tonight.

“It was a frustrating game for us but South Carolina is the defending champ for a reason,” said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. “This thing is a long way from over.”

South Carolina pitcher John Taylor got out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the bottom of the ninth and Jake Williams threw out Cody Dent in the bottom of the 10th.

“The ball beat me there,” Dent said. “It was thrown to the outside and I tried to slide on the inside. But he got me.”

The Gamecocks then scored an unearned run to beat Florida 2-1 in 11 innings in the first game of the College World Series Finals.

“We had our opportunities but we needed to elevate the ball (in the ninth),” O'Sullivan said. “We've got a good pitcher going (tonight) in Karsten (Whitson). We'll use Brian Johnson, too.”

South Carolina got out of three bases-loaded jams in extra innings when it beat Virginia last Friday night to advance to the Finals.

The Gamecocks have now won a record 15 straight NCAA games.

Florida (53-18) will need to win tonight and again tomorrow night to become the fifth school, and the first SEC school, to win national titles in football, basketball and baseball. South Carolina (54-14) is one win away from back-to-back national championships.

South Carolina will throw ace Michael Roth (13-3, 0.98 ERA) tonight, while UF counters with Whitson (8-0, 2.43).

Florida loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth on a walk, Brian Johnson's single and an intentional walk. That brought up Tyler Thompson who hit a shot up the middle.

But South Carolina second baseman Scott Wingo dived to his right to glove the ball on his belly and threw Florida catcher Mike Zunino out at the plate. Daniel Pigott then bounced a grounder to Wingo that he turned into a home-to-first double play to end the inning.

“We kept the infield up because Pigott can run,” said South Carolina coach Ray Tanner. “We were very fortunate.”

Dent singled in the 10th and went to second on a sacrifice. After Preston Tucker was intentionally walked, Zunino singled to left field. But Williams threw Dent out at the plate to end the inning.

In the 11th, South Carolina got a run the easy way, just as it did in its 13-inning win over Virginia. Christian Walker, who was supposed to be doubtful for the game with a wrist injury, singled to lead off the inning. He stole second and Zunino's throw sailed into center field. Bryson Smith fielded the ball and threw to third but the ball bounced away and into the dugout allowing Walker to score.

It was only the third error this season for Zunino and only the second for Smith.

“Mike has nothing to hang his head about,” O'Sullivan said. “He's a tough guy. He'll bounce back.”

In the 11th, Florida got a runner to second against South Carolina closer Matt Price, who wasn't supposed to pitch because of his extensive work Friday night. But Price struck out Thompson and got Pigott to ground out to end the game.

Hudson Randall pitched 7⅔ innings of shutout ball but Florida's offense was limited to eight hits in the loss.

Most of the pre-game drama centered around Walker, who leads the Gamecocks with 10 homers this year. Walker felt pain in his left wrist Saturday and Sunday could only take one swing in batting practice. X-rays showed a fracture in the wrist.

His name was not on the first line-up turned in an hour before the game but he hit five home runs in batting practice and Walker was inserted into the lineup.

He doubled down the right-field line on the first pitch he saw.

Florida scratched out a run in the bottom of the third without the benefit of a hit. Thompson led off with a walk, went to second on a ground out, to third on a wild pitch and scored on Dent's shallow sacrifice fly to left.

Randall made that stand up through seven innings by allowing only two singles. He retired 18 of 19 batters at one point.

In the bottom of the sixth, Florida got singles from Smith, which knocked out South Carolina starter Forrest Koumas, and Preston Tucker. But Zunino, who has struggled in Omaha, flew out to center to end the threat.

In the top of the eighth, Randall walked Peter Mooney, whose brother Mike once played for Florida, to lead off the inning. Mooney went to second on a sacrifice and to third on a fly ball to center.

Wingo lined a 2-2 pitch up the middle just past Randall and then Josh Adams to score Mooney from third to tie the game.

“It was my decision to throw a curve ball,” said Randall. “He saw one too many.”

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