Randall Strong in Super Regional Opener

It doesn't surprise Kevin O'Sullivan anymore. When Hudson Randall has a strong outing in a big game, it's routine. The junior right-hander has been so good in big games throughout his Florida career that anything less than dominance is surprising. Randall tossed seven shutout innings on Saturday as Florida cruised to a 7-1 win over North Carolina State to take game one of the Super Regional.

"I felt good with all my stuff today," said Hudson Randall after he moved to 9-2 on the year. "My fastball had a little more life, and everything was a little sharper this go around."

Randall allowed just six hits and no walks while striking out four batters over seven innings on 94 pitches, lowering his ERA on the season to 2.43.

Those aren't even the impressive numbers.

In six NCAA Tournament starts over the past two years, Randall is 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA. In 41 innings pitched during that time, Randall has allowed 34 hits, seven earned runs, six walks and recorded 33 strikeouts. The junior has saved his best for the postseason, as he showed on Saturday at McKethan Stadium.

"He's a gamer," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said after his team moved within one win of its third straight College World Series appearance. "It's as simple as that. There are certain players you coach that have the ability to rise to the occasion. You can't teach it. He has had it since day one. He continues to have it.

"He has a calming effect on you as a coach. You know you're going to get his best effort every time out. He has proven time again that he can rise to the occasion."

Randall attacked North Carolina State hitters with his fastball and slider in the early innings before mixing in more changeups and cutters in the late innings.

It didn't matter what he threw. Randall allowed multiple base runners in just two of his seven innings, but that's when he was even more effective. The Wolfpack had runners on first and second with two outs in the fourth and seventh inning.

In the fourth, Randall got Andrew Ciencin to fly out to right field. In the seventh, Randall got NC State ace pitcher Carlos Rodon, who was pinch-hitting, to ground out to end the threat on what could be the last pitch Randall ever throws at McKethan Stadium if he elects to sign with the Detroit Tigers after the season.

Just as he did last weekend against Georgia Tech, when runners got into scoring position, Randall turned it up a notch.

"Playing in college with these metal bats, teams are going to get hits and get on base," Randall said. "It takes another hit to score them, so I do everything I can in my ability to keep them from home and scoring."

O'Sullivan was flirting with the idea of bringing Randall back to the mound for the eighth inning after 94 pitches, but a two-hour rain delay ended any thought of that. Greg Larson, Bobby Poyner and Keenan Kish each threw two-thirds of an inning to end the game and save Steven Rodriguez and Austin Maddox.

It's not a coincidence that Randall has thrown his best late in the year. He has grown accustomed to the long college baseball seasons, and his arm is able to handle the grind.

"At this point in my career in my third year of college, getting up to 80 innings in a year isn't bothering me as much," Randall said. "I'm starting to hit my stride. I'm a more veteran arm with pitch count and innings."

The Florida offense gave Randall a cushion with a four-run third inning.

After back-to-back singles by Josh Tobias and Nolan Fontana with one out in the inning, Preston Tucker followed with an RBI single to center. Fontana and Tucker both moved into scoring position on a passed ball by NC State catcher Brett Austin.

With two strikes on him, Mike Zunino just wanted to put the ball in play to score a run. He rolled over a ball to NC State shortstop Chris Diaz, but he threw short to first base and the ball got away, scoring both runs.

"With two strikes, I had to put the ball in play and do whatever I could to get the run in and help the team out," Zunino said. "I was looking to put the barrel on the ball."

Two batters later, Daniel Pigott singled to center to score Zunino and give the Gators a 4-0 lead after three innings.

Zunino delivered the knockout blow after a rain delay. Despite NC State right-hander Dillon Frye being the pitcher when play was halted, head coach Elliott Avent brought him back to the mound after a two-hour delay.

Play was originally halted with a 3-2 count to Zunino. When played resumed, he fouled off the first pitch before launching the second fastball over the left field bleachers, pushing Florida's lead to 7-0 in the seventh inning. With a 3-2 count and Florida already having a lead, Zunino sat on a fastball, knowing Frye didn't want to walk him.

Play was soon halted for another rain delay and resumed after one hour.

The Gators will try to earn a College World Series berth on Sunday at 1 p.m. Florida will start sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford against NC State freshman left-hander Carlos Rodon, who is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.

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