The Florida Gators have done it! They are going back to Omaha. With a lot of help from sloppy Miami defense, the Gators swept Miami 7-3 and 4-3 to punch their ticket.
On Friday Alex Panteleodis was outstanding for the Gators, pitching a complete game and striking out 12 Cane hitters. Most of those Ks came late in the game as APants got stronger as the game went on. The 'Canes only scoring came on a two run homer from Yas Grandal to make the score 3-2 in the fifth.
The Gators took the lead in the bottom of the fourth when the Canes made their first defensive blunder of many. The Canes shortstop, Stephen Perez back handed a line drive as it hit the ground with two outs and the bases loaded. Convinced he made the catch he held the ball up to show the umps. The ump called it a trap and instead of throwing it to first to make sure, the Gators were all safe and the first run had scored. A two out single then followed and it was 3-0.
On Saturday, the Canes simply imploded. They committed seven errors on the night. Three of those came in the ninth and 10th innings which led to the Gators scoring twice and turning a sure 3-2 loss into a 4-3 win.
Hudson Randall started the game for the Gators and pitched shutout ball with two out in the seventh. With the tying runs on Gator manager Kevin O'Sullivan pulled Randall to give his ace closer, Kevin Chapman a chance for a seven out save. Chapman who is usually automatic then promptly gave up a three run shot to Cane center fielder, Nathan Melendres.
The Canes took that 3-2 lead into the ninth when Preston Tucker led off with a single. A potential game ending double play ball was then booted by the third baseman, Michael Broad to load the bases. With two outs Josh Adams was the Gators' last hope. He swung and missed the first two pitches from the 'Canes closer Daniel Miranda. He then hit a weak grounder to short that looked to be the game ender. However, Perez short hopped the throw to first which bounced away and the Gators had tied the game.
Nolan Fontana then led off the Florida 10th with a pop up to shallow right field. It looked like a routine out but as we have learned, there are no routine outs when the 'Canes are in the field. The right fielder muffed the play and Fontana stood on second. He then move to third on a sac bunt for Preston Tucker to drive home. Tucker failed by grounding to Perez which left it up to Austin Maddox. Maddox then drilled a double down the right field line to send the Gator Nation into a wild celebration. The Canes then left the tying run at second in the bottom of the 10th sparking another celebration as the Gators knocked the 'Canes out of the tournament for the second straight year.
The Gators will be going back to Omaha for the first time since losing to Texas in the Final Series in 2005. Florida will attempting to become the only school besides Michigan to win national titles in football, basketball and baseball. If successful, the Gators will have accomplished all of that in less than five years, with two football and basketball titles thrown in for good measure.
The Gator baseball team will have a lot of history riding on this trip to Omaha.