UF baseball one win from Omaha
Published: Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 8:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 8:11 p.m.
The only thing that could knock Hudson Randall out of a big game came from the sky at the Gainesville Super Regional Saturday,
By then, it didn't matter.
Randall was masterful, pitching seven innings of shutout baseball to lead Florida to within one win of a third straight trip to Omaha. The Gators beat North Carolina State 7-1 in the first game of a best-of-three super regional.
Florida is 9-0 against ACC teams so far this year and if they can make it 10-0 today, they'll be playing in the College World Series again.
The two teams had to endure a pair of rain delays — the first which ended Randall's day — that lasted a total of 2:51.
“Hudson Randall was pretty much the storyline of the game,” said N.C. State coach Elliott Avent. “He was as advertised.”
In his Florida career, Randall is now 5-1 with a 2.48 ERA in NCAA tournament games. In his past five starts, he has allowed only four earned runs, and in 11 of his 15 starts this season, Randall has given up two runs or less runs.
“I'm starting to hit my stride,” Randall said.
He allowed only six singles and pitched out of trouble in the fourth and sixth innings.
“He's a gamer,” said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. “It's as simple as that. Some players rise to the occasion in big games. You can't teach that.”
By the time the first rain came, Florida was up 5-0 and threatening in the bottom of the seventh. That rain created a body of water in right field that was so large it needed a name and forced a delay of 2:03 before the game resumed.
When it did, it started to rain again. But it didn't bother junior catcher Mike Zunino, who belted his 19th homer on the second pitch after the delay, a two-run no-doubter that made it 7-0. Zunino is now tied for the Florida record for home runs by a catcher with David Ross and Tony Socarras.
“I knew with a 3-2 count they didn't want to walk me,” Zunino said. “I knew it would be something around the zone.”
A crowd of 5,117, the third highest of the year, watched the game before the first rain delay, but only a couple of hundred made it to the end.
Florida reached N.C. State starter Ethan Ogburn for four runs in the third inning to break a scoreless tie. Josh Tobias led off with a single and went to third when Nolan Fontana singled on a hit-and-run.
Tucker followed with a single to make it 1-0 and Zunino's grounder was thrown away by Wolfpack shortstop Chris Diaz to score two more. Daniel Pigott's single made it 4-0.
Florida loaded the bases off Ogburn in the fifth but could only score one run on a Pigott sacrifice fly to deep right. D.J. Thomas came in from the bullpen to induce Casey Turgeon, the MVP of last week's regional, to hit into a double play.
Greg Larson, Bobby Poyner and Keenan Kish combined to pitch the last two innings. N.C. State scored a run with two outs in the ninth on a double by Brett Austin and an RBI single by pinch-hitter John Gianis.
The second game of the super regional will be played today at 1 p.m. with N.C. State ace Carlos Rodon pitching for the visitors. Avent said he didn't hold Rodon back a day.
“He's always gone second,” he said.
Florida will counter with Jonathon Crawford, who threw a no-hitter last weekend in a regional game against Bethune-Cookman. O'Sullivan said he expects the Wolfpack, who had to beat Vanderbilt twice last weekend to advance, to battle today.
“They had their backs up against the wall last weekend,” he said. “They want to go to Omaha as much as we do.”