Gators Headed to Omaha

The first ticket has been punched for the 2010 College World Series, and it belongs to the Florida Gators.

Freshman slugger Austin Maddox came through with a clutch two-out double to right field to score fellow freshman Nolan Fontana with the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning, and Gator reliever Greg Larsen shut down Miami in the bottom of the inning with the tying run at second as the third-seeded Gators (47-15) advanced to Omaha for the first time since 2005 while closing out Miami's season for the second straight year.

"I am going to remember that hit for the rest of my life," Maddox said.

"It's awfully hard to get there," said head coach Kevin O'Sullivan of Omaha. "The last game to get there is always the hardest, and I think this game tonight just proved that."

A McKethan Stadium record crowd of 5,783 fans witnessed the dramatic win, and no one left early as the two teams gave it everything with their seasons on the line. The win was UF's sixth in the last seven meetings with the 'Canes.

Miami center fielder Nathan Melendres had hit a two-out, three-run home run off Gator closer Kevin Chapman in the bottom of the seventh, enabling the Hurricanes (43-20) to take their first lead of the game.

That blast energized what had been a lethargic Miami dugout, but the Hurricanes couldn't close it out. Florida's Preston Tucker singled off Miami starter Chris Hernandez to open the ninth, and he eventually scored the tying run when Josh Adams' two-out, bases-loaded grounder to short off reliever Daniel Miranda turned into an unearned run as Hurricane shortstop Stephen Perez's throw was low and first baseman Scott Lawson could not dig it out.

Fontana hit a high pop to short right leading off the 10th that Miami outfielder Chris Pelaez misplayed into a two-base error to start the inning, Miami's school-record tying seventh miscue of the night. Daniel Pigott sacrificed him to third, but Tucker grounded out to short, with Fontana having to stick at third. That's when Maddox came through, and the Hurricanes could not capitalize on a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning by Peleaz, with the Gators running to the mound from all directions after Fontana threw out Miami's Rony Rodriguez at first for the game's final out.

"This is what I came back my senior year for," said a happy Matt den Dekker, who made another key clutch catch in the big win. "I couldn't be any happier right now."

UF appeared to be in the driver's seat, up 2-0 behind a pair of RBIs from freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson and 6.2 innings of scoreless pitching from freshman right-hander Hudson Randall. But with runners on first and third and two outs in the seventh, Gator coach Kevin O'Sullivan decided to pull Randall, who had only given up three hits, and bring in left-handed closer Kevin Chapman to face Melendres, a right-handed batter.

The Gators, the visiting team for game two, had earlier ended a scoreless pitcher's duel by scratching across a run in the top of the fifth. Den Dekker got it started with a beautiful bunt for a hit. Catcher Mike Zunino's attempted sacrifice bunt was fielded by Hernandez, but his throw to second in an attempt to get den Dekker sailed in to center field. Making matters worse that was as den Dekker tried to get up and run, he was grabbed by Perez and awarded third base.

Freshman designated hitter Brian Johnson then lined out to deep center, with den Dekker racing home on the sacrifice fly with the game's first run.

Up to then, the game's only hit was a first-inning single by Miami's Scott Law.

Johnson made it 2-0 in the top of the seventh with a two-out, RBI single to score den Dekker.

Florida, making its sixth CWS appearance, will play the winner of the Los Angeles Super Regional between No. 4 seed UCLA and Cal-State Fullerton in its opening CWS game.

This year marks the 64th College World Series and will be the last played at famed Rosenblatt Stadium. A new stadium is being built in Omaha which will be the new CWS home starting next year. This year's College World Series begins Saturday.


Fightin Gators Top Stories