Gators Rally for Win in NCAA Opener

Teddy Foster's two-run single capped a three-run ninth inning rally as the Gator Baseball team rallied for an 8-7 win over Bethune-Cookman University in the first round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville. The Gators advance to a winners' bracket game with Miami, a 9-4 winner of Jacksonville earlier in the day.

Twenty years ago when Bethune-Cookman would come to town it was often in multiple vehicles, with players often having mismatched uniforms. I remember them taking infield with only one of the catchers having gear. But this B-CU program is nothing like that. It's a fundamentally solid team that executes the game at a high level.

After a scoreless first inning the Wildcats opened the scoring with a pair of runs in the second inning. Emmanuel Castro's double put runners on second and third and a single by Chris Brown off the glove of a diving Brandon McArthur put B-CU on the board. Peter O'Brien followed with a potential double play grounder, but when it was bobbled by Gator second baseman Josh Adams the DP was out and Castro came in to score and make it 2-0.

The third inning brought more of the same. Mark Brooks led off with a single, C.J. Lauriello walked and Ryan Durrence followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0. That ended the evening for Gator starter Anthony DeSclafani. Senior Patrick Keating entered the game and his first pitch was a strike but went all the way to the backstop on a passed ball. Castro followed with an infield hit scoring Lauriello for a 4-0 margin. Keating got the final two outs to escape further damage.

Florida got its first scoring opportunity in the bottom of the inning when Avery Barnes singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. However, Burgos struck out Jonathan Pigott to end the threat.

The Gators had another chance against Burgos in the fourth when the Wildcats ace lost control and walked two before hitting Tyler Thompson to load the bases. Hampton Tignor flied out to right leaving all three runners stranded.

Florida finally figured out Burgos in the fifth inning and started making things interesting. With one out Barnes singled and Pigott doubled him to third. Preston Tucker beat out a roller to first for an RBI single and Josh Adams ripped a single to centerfield to make it 4-2.

The Gators kept the momentum in the top of the sixth battling out of a tough spot. Keating gave up consecutive singles putting runners on the corners with no outs. He struck out Alejandro Sanchez and was replaced by Tony Davis who promptly got Brooks to bounce into an inning ending double play.

The Gators edged closer with two out in the seventh inning when Tucker unloaded on a blast that cleared the fence in right centerfield by 50 feet. It was Burgos' 130th pitch of the night. Six pitches later the inning was over as was Burgos' night.

But B-CU was not about to roll over for the nation's No. 8 seed. Wildcats pinch hitter Drew Clark drilled a two run homer in the eighth inning off Gator reliever Greg Larson and the lead was back to three (6-3).

The Gators came right back in their half of the inning on a two-run single by Mike Mooney off former Florida signee and Gainesville native Eric Thomas that made it a 6-5 game heading into the ninth. Florida's job got tougher when Ryan Durrence homered off Billy Bullock in the top of the inning making it 7-5 with three outs to go setting the stage for a dramatic bottom of the ninth.

Tucker opened the inning with a single and Josh Adams walked. Matt den Dekker, who hit the ball hard three times with nothing to show for it ripped an RBI single to right making it 7-6 and sending Adams to third. Jerico Weitzel bounced the first pitch he saw from reliever Felix Machado right back to him and was retired at first base with den Dekker advancing to second and B-CU elected to walk Daniel Pigott to bring up Teddy Foster with the bases loaded and one out. Foster watched the first four pitches, three of them balls before lining a single to right field to deliver Adams and den Dekker and give the Gators their 40th win of the season.

Bethune-Cookman will face Jacksonville Saturday at 1:00 in an elimination game while the Gators and Hurricanes hook up at 6:30. That game will be live on Sun Sports TV.


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