Gators save victory vs. UCLA 4-3

The Florida Gators survived a tight game against UCLA in the NCAA Regionals at Oklahoma City 4-3. They get the rest of the day off and play the winner of the UCLA vs. Oklahoma game tomorrow. UPDATED - Recap & Post Game Quotes.

Top seed Florida beat UCLA 4-3 behind a stellar performance from Connor Falkenbach and Ben Harrison, to earn a spot in the championship game of the Oklahoma City Regional Saturday afternoon.

The scoring started early. UCLA starter Wes Whisler hit first baseman C.J. Smith and right fielder Ben Harrison back-to-back. Jeff Corsoletti singled up the middle driving in Smith and giving the Gators a 1-0 lead.

The Bruins tied things up in the bottom of the second with a pair of singles and a wild pitch. Both Falkenbach and Whisler settled in until the fifth.

Third baseman Jonathan Tucker singled through the hole on the right side. After stealing second as Adam Davis struck out, Tucker scored on Smith's hard single through the left side of the infield. Harrison then stepped up and ripped Whisler's first pitch over the wall in left-center giving the Gators a 4-1 lead.

UCLA (34-28) scored in the bottom of the fifth when leadoff hitter Billy Susdorf launched a Falkenbach pitch over the wall, near the spot of Harrison's homer for a solo shot. McMillan was walked on five pitches and advanced to third on pair of put outs. He scored on third baseman Preston Griffin's single to left cutting the Florida lead to 4-3.

Pitching again took over, as Falkenbach kept the ball down and took control. Whisler remained until the seventh when reliever Brant Rustich took over at the top of the eighth. Rustich allowed only a single to left fielder Brian LeClerc in the ninth.

Falkenbach began the ninth by striking out Bruin second baseman Brian Svetlic. His attempt to quietly complete yet another complete game victory, met with some resistance. UCLA pinch hitter Brandon Averill lined a 2-2 pitch to right. Josh Roenicke was inserted to pinch run for Averill. Susdorf laid down a beautiful bunt, allowing him to reach safely. With men on first and second, McMillan hit into a four-six-three double play to end the game.

The Gators (42-20) are expected to send Tommy Boss to the mound tomorrow at against the winner of tonight's Oklahoma/UCLA game. Oklahoma eliminated Central Connecticut State 6-1 in the loser's bracket game. With a victory tomorrow, the Gators will advance to the NCAA Super Regional, probably in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes blasted N.C. State 15-5 to remain undefeated in the regional at Mark Light Stadium.

Postgame Quotes

Florida Head Coach Pat McMahon
Opening Comment:
"I thought it was a heck of a college ball game in every way. There were two teams really competing their hearts out. I felt we were opportunistic offensively. I thought we pitched and defended very well against an outstanding UCLA club. It was a heck of a game."

On not using his bullpen:
"One of the benefits of Conner Falkenbach is that he's so competitive. He throws the ball in the strike zone. He likes our defense to make plays. As a game gets close, you want to put yourself in the position for that to happen. That was the decision our staff made. If you looked in Conner's eyes, he wanted the ball in his hand. The want factor is a critical component in the success equation."

Florida's C.J. Smith (Junior, Outfielder)
On Conner Falkenbach pitching a complete game:
"I think that's huge for our bullpen. It's a great advantage for us, because we have so many guys that haven't thrown yet. The fact he went the whole distance is great for us."

Florida's Ben Harrison (Senior, Outfielder)
On his home run:
"I hit a fastball. I had a feeling he was going to come with a fastball. I was looking for it, but I can't tell you how much 'in' it was."

On not having a loss going into Sunday:
"It feels really good. It's the first thing I thought of. It's the first time we've ever done that. I don't want our team to lose focus. That's the first thing I'm going to do, is talk to the team and make sure we're focused. We're going to come out ready to play tomorrow."

UCLA Head Coach Gary Adams
Opening comment:
"There were two good pitchers going out there today. Wes Whisler pitched very well for us and the other team's pitcher (Connor Falkenbach) kept the ball down, where it was tough for us to hit. You don't see to many guys that throw side-armed. It was something new for our team, which we weren't very familiar with it. We didn't handle it that well. I think we just have to tip our hat to their pitcher. Our pitcher did a pretty good job, too."

On letting pitcher Wes Whisler hit:
"Wes did today what he's done all year. He is use to making the first out in the inning, the last out and the middle out of an inning. He is use to getting hits and coming in from the bases. His hitting doesn't affect his pitching. In fact, we've learned through experience, that he does a better job pitching when he's also hitting. He loves to play and likes to have the ball. When he pitches, it's the best of both worlds."

Game Notes

Florida (42-20) defeated UCLA (34-28), 4-3, to advance to the championship game of the 2004 NCAA Regional 13 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Florida center fielder, Jeff Corsaletti (1-for-3), who batted in a tournament-high six runs on Friday, knocked in the first run of the game, scoring C.J. Smith. Through four games of the 2004 Oklahoma City Regional, the team that has scored first is undefeated.

UCLA will face Oklahoma (38-23) in Game 5 of the regional in the second elimination game of the day.

Florida will meet the winner of the OU/UCLA game Sun., June 6, at 4 p.m.

UCLA's Preston Griffin went 2-for-4 in Game 4 on Saturday. He extended his hit streak to five games and has a least one hit in 29 of the last 32 games for the Bruins.

Florida starting pitcher Connor Falkenbach (10-6), in only his fourth start of the season, threw his second-straight complete game victory. It was the second complete game victory of the day after Oklahoma's David Purcey won against Central Connecticut State earlier in Game 3. The winning pitcher in each of the Oklahoma City Regional games has gone at least eight innings.

After handling all 10 opportunities today, Florida shortstop Justin Tordi had handled his last 110 chances without an error. Second baseman Adam Davis has not committed an error in his last 105 opportunities. Tordi and Davis finished the game with a 4-6-3 double play to send UCLA to the elimination bracket.

Gators leadoff man Jonathan Tucker was 1-for-5 for the second consecutive game and has scored one run in both.

Florida's Ben Harrison (2-for-3) extended his hitting streak to 13 games in the fourth. Harrison hit a first-pitch home run to drive in two runs in the fifth inning and scored the winning run. Harrison has reached base six times in eight plate appearances through two games of the regional.

UCLA's Billy Susdorf (3-for-5) led off the sixth with a home run. He extended his hitting streak to six games. Bruin right fielder Matt Thayer's hit streak ended at nine games with a 0-for-4 effort. Susdorf is 4-for-10 with four RBI in the tournament.

UCLA starting pitcher Wes Whisler tied a season-high in strikeouts with seven. Whisler also served as the Bruins' designated hitter but had no luck against his counterpart going 0-for-4 and striking out once. He hit two consecutive batters in the first inning with the first (C.J. Smith) scoring the first run of the game.

                               2004 Regional 13
                                Florida vs UCLA
               Jun 05, 2004 at Oklahoma City (Bricktown Ballpark)

Florida 4 (42-20)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
Jonathan Tucker 3b.......  5  1  1  0   0  1  1  2   0
Adam Davis 2b............  5  0  0  0   0  3  2  5   1
C.J. Smith 1b............  2  2  1  1   1  0 12  0   0
Ben Harrison rf..........  3  1  2  2   0  0  0  0   0
Jeff Corsaletti cf.......  3  0  1  1   1  1  3  0   0
Matt LaPorta dh..........  4  0  0  0   0  2  0  0   2
Justin Tordi ss..........  4  0  1  0   0  1  2  6   2
Brian Jeroloman c........  4  0  0  0   0  1  5  0   2
Brian Leclerc lf.........  4  0  2  0   0  0  2  0   0
Connor Falkenbach p......  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  3   0
Totals................... 34  4  8  4   2  9 27 16   7

UCLA 3 (34-28)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
Susdorf, Billy lf........  5  1  3  1   0  0  2  0   0
McMillan, Brett 1b.......  3  1  1  0   2  1  9  1   1
McCarthy, Ryan ss........  4  0  1  0   0  0  3  2   0
Whisler, Wes p/dh........  4  0  0  0   0  1  0  0   2
Griffin, Preston 3b......  4  1  2  1   0  0  0  0   2
Thayer, Matt rf..........  4  0  0  0   0  1  2  0   1
Denove, Chris c..........  4  0  1  0   0  0  9  1   0
Svetlic, Mike 2b.........  4  0  1  1   0  1  1  6   0
Page, Jarrad cf..........  3  0  0  0   0  1  1  0   2
 Averill, Brandon ph.....  1  0  1  0   0  0  0  0   0
 Roenicke, Josh pr.......  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
 Rustich, Brant p........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Totals................... 36  3 10  3   2  5 27 10   8

Score by Innings                    R  H  E
Florida............. 100 030 000 -  4  8  0
UCLA................ 010 020 000 -  3 10  0

DP - UF 1. LOB - UF 7; UCLA 8. 2B - Leclerc(11). HR - Harrison(17);
Susdorf(4). HBP - Smith; Harrison. SB - Tucker(10).

Florida                IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP
Connor Falkenbach...  9.0 10  3  3  2  5 36 38 131

UCLA                   IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF  NP
Whisler, Wes........  7.0  7  4  4  1  7 27 30  96
Rustich, Brant......  2.0  1  0  0  1  2  7  8  28

Win - Falkenbach (10-6).  Loss - Whisler (3-5).  Save - None.
WP - Falkenbach(1). HBP - by Whisler (Smith); by Whisler (Harrison). Inherited
runners/scored: Rustich 1/0. Pitches/strikes: Falkenbach 131/85; Whisler 96/66;
Rustich 28/19.
Umpires - HP: Paul Guillie  1B: Dave Buck  2B: Kevin Gillmore  3B: Jeff Head
Start: 1:30 pm   Time: 2:35   Attendance: 1981
Whisler faced 1 batter in the 8th.
Game: GAME04

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