Momentum Swing Carries UF to Regional Final

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan exploded out of the dugout. Florida starting pitcher Hudson Randall thought he had Jake Davies struck out, but after both teams cleared the field to prepare for the next inning, the umpires got together and reversed the call. What followed was the offensive explosion the Gators needed and rode to a 6-2 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday night.

Randall thought he forced Davies to swing over a curveball that bounced on the plate for strike three to end a jam with runners on first and second. Davies, who was Georgia Tech's hottest hitter with five home runs in his previous five games, argued immediately that he tipped the ball into the ground before Zunino could catch it.

Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall came in from third base to join the protest, but the Yellow Jackets' base runners cleared the field, grabbed their gloves and headed out to play defense. The Florida offense was preparing to hit when the home plate umpire met with the other three umpires and ruled that Davies had tipped the ball and that it did hit the ground before Zunino could catch it.

It sent Randall back to the mound and Davies back to the plate with a 1-2 count. After fouling off a few pitches, Davies swung through a changeup for the third strike, sending the McKethan Stadium crowd 4,584 into a frenzy.

"I'm not going to comment on the umpires," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "I think they got the call right. It certainly got the crowd into it. It was a big emotional lift for us."

The issue was the length of the review.

"You'd like to get it quicker, but the key is on getting the call right is you get the call right," said NCAA's assistant game representative Dick Runchey. "It doesn't look good because you had a team off the field and the whole deal. But the key is did the ball did hit the bat and did the ball hit the ground; that's a sound thing.

"Everyone heard it, but you can't see it. As an umpire, you've got to hear it. Two of the umpires had it that the ball hit the dirt. Second and third, and they explained it to both coaches."

As Davies ran back on the field to man first base, loud "boos" came from the crowd, to which Davies reacted by tipping his cap. It didn't go unnoticed in the Florida dugout.

Randall's strikeout sent the entire team pouring onto the field to congratulate him, but Davies' move helped agitate the Gators some more.

The fourth inning started in a tie at one apiece, but Zunino changed that quickly. The All-American catcher hit a towering home run to center field off Georgia Tech ace Buck Farmer to start the inning, and the emotion wasn't hard to see.

Zunino clapped his hands around the bases and joined in a raucous celebration with his teammates outside of the Florida dugout.

"I just wanted to carry over momentum," Zunino said.

It didn't stop there. Two batters later, a pitch hit Daniel Pigott, and he moved to third on a double by Casey Turgeon. Justin Shafer's single to left scored one run, and Vickash Ramjit used a sacrifice fly to give the Gators a 4-1 lead in the fourth inning.

"Everything is a big momentum swing," O'Sullivan said. "When you're facing a guy like Farmer, every run is going to be important."

The controversy continued in the fifth inning. Nolan Fontana walked to start the inning and moved to second when Yellow Jackets shortstop Mott Hyde made a throwing error to thwart a possible double play.

After the play, second base umpire Chris Coskey called timeout before Fontana came running off the base, thinking he was out. Georgia Tech wanted him to be called out for leaving the base, but the umpires reiterated that timeout was called.

Hall burst out of the dugout and was thrown out of the game.

"Personal, verbal abuse," Runchey said. "Not suspended. Personal, verbal abuse. That's the way it's going to be written up in the report by the umpires and sent to everybody."

Florida couldn't push any runs across in that inning.

After Evan Martin cut the score to 4-2 with an RBI single in eighth inning, Preston Tucker put the game out of reach with a two-run home run over the right field scoreboard to push the lead to 6-2.

Steven Rodriguez allowed four hits and one run in the final 3.1 innings to record his fourth save of the year.

Randall didn't have his best movement and location on Saturday, but he battled and slowed down one of the hottest offenses in the country. The junior allowed eight hits and one run in 5.2 innings while striking out five.

"You rarely do have your best stuff," Randall said. "I was battling out there tonight. They're free swingers and swinging it good, early and often in the count. I was letting my defense work for me."

Georgia Tech and College of Charleston will play an elimination game at noon on Sunday. The winner of that game will come back to face the Gators at 6 p.m. on Sunday. Florida is expected to throw junior left-hander Brian Johnson.

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