College World Series Day-7 Notebook

June 25, 2011
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Florida Headed to Championship Series, Vanderbilt Home

Game 11: Vanderbilt 4-10-1,  Florida 6-13-0
Final StatsVandy Recap | Florida Recap | Photos

Near-perfect baseball weather (overcast, low 70s, light breeze) greeted fans and players for Game 11 of the 2011 College World Series between Southeastern Conference rivals Vanderbilt and Florida.

Florida players stop to sign autographs after win over Vanderbilt

With the loser facing elimination from the tournament, both teams pulled out all the stops, battling back and forth deep into the game. In the end, Florida capitalized on a couple of 8th-inning bunts that were poorly handled by Vandy third baseman Jason Esposito and ace pitcher Sonny Gray – as the Gators went on to the 6-4 win.

By winning this semifinal elimination game, Florida advances to the championship series on Monday to face the winner of the Bracket One series between South Carolina and Virginia.

Vanderbilt slugger and third-round draft pick Aaron Westlake jacked a solo homer in the first inning to give Vandy the early lead. Florida evened the score with a run by Cody Dent in the bottom of the third, when the first baseman Westlake appeared to struggle with knowing how to play a ball bunted to him by Preston Tucker. Westlake decided to tag Tucker, allowing Dent to run from third to home.

Vanderbilt did not score again until the seventh inning while Florida put up two runs in the fourth and another in the sixth. Trailing 4-3 in the top of the seventh, Vanderbilt rightfielder Mike Yastrzemski scored on Connor Harrell‘s RBI single. Vandy then loaded the bases and scored another run when Nick Morande walked Bryan Johns, advancing Conrad Gregor to home.

Score after seven innings: Florida 4, Vanderbilt 2

Nolan Fontana and Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan

Vanderbilt made it interesting in the eighth by tying the score after Curt Casali, Yastrzemski and Esposito loaded the bases, on base hits. Casali scored when Gregor was hit by an Austin Maddox pitch. After Westlake struck out,  Esposito outran the throw from the third baseman Dent for an infield single, loading the bases with only one out. Casali scored when Gregor was hit by a pitch on a 2-0 count. Harrell then lined out to short and Esposito was thrown out at third.

In the bottom of the eighth, Florida rightfielder Daniel Piggot reached on a single to right-center. Dent then singled on what should have been a routine out at first – as Grey’s throw was off the mark but not ruled an error. Nolan Fontana then reached on a similar botched play, loading the bases as Gray quickly was relieved by right-hander Will Clinard.

Lefty Corey Williams later was sent to the mound to face Florida the lefthande-hitting Tucker. Tucker’s base hit drove in Pigott to give Florida a 5-4 edge. With only one out and the bases loaded, Vanderbilt made another change on the mound – with RHP Mark Lamm squaring off against Mike Zunino, who went down in TD Ameritrade Park history for the first broken bat in a CWS game (it turns out the new bats are more like wood than we first thought!). Zunino ultimately struck out swinging but Dent scored one more for Florida on a wild pitch by Mark Lamm to end the inning with a score of 6-4.

With two outs in the top of the ninth, Westlake tried to keep Vandrebilt’s hopes alive with a double to right-center. The game ended with Casali’s flyout to left.

– Notes –

• Florida is the fourth straight (and fourth different) SEC team to reach the CWS Finals. Georgia, LSU and South Carolina advanced to the final the three previous years. This also is the second time the Gators have reached the CWS Finals (they were the national runner-up to Texas in 2005).

• No SEC school has won national championships in football, men’s basketball and baseball – but Florida now has the chance to complete that trifecta if the Gators can win two more games. If Florida pulls off the feat, all of the championships (two each already in hoops and football) will have come in the past five years.

• Vanderbilt (54-12) lost only 12 times this season, but five of those losses were to Florida. They beat the Gators once in the six meetings.

• Seven home runs have been hit so far at the 2011 College World Series and Vanderbilt hit four of them.

• The Florida bullpen had walked only two batters in 28.2 innings prior to this afternoon, but Gator reliever Nick Maronde walked two straight in the seventh inning.

– Quotable –

“To be honest with you, nothing against the other two coaches, but I hope [the Gators] go off and win it. Tough ballgame, obviously, for us and the way it ended.” – Vanderbilt Coach Tim Corbin

“This is the best year I’ve ever had. And I love all these guys, and it’s making memories. This is history. You’ll never forget about it.” – Aaron Westlake

Eight of the nine outs Danny Hultzen recorded Friday vs. South Carolina were via strikeout.

South Carolina and Virginia Help Break In New Stadium With 13-Inning Thriller

Game 12: South Carolina 3, Virginia 2
Final Stats | VA Recap | SC Recap | Photos

The talk around Omaha lately has been that TD Ameritrade Park just needs a few classic moments to break it in. After tonight’s instant classic, we can consider the new home of the College World Series to be broke like a barrel-racing mustang. South Carolina took 13 innings to beat Virginia by  a score of  3-2 and advance to the 2011 College World Series championship series. The Gamecocks will play Florida in a best-of-3 series on Monday, June 27, at 6:00 p.m. CT.

Early on, it appeared this would be a relatively short game, given how few pitches were thrown in the first three innings. In the end it would be one of  the longest games in College World Series history. Virginia scored first on a sacrifice fly by centerfielder Kenny Swab that drove in Steven Proscia.

After three innings, Virginia coach Kevin O’Connor made the surprise move of the game by pulling the second overall MLB draft pick Danny Hultzen from the lineup (Hultzen had struck out eight batters in three innings). Coach O’Connor later revealed that Hultzen was ill.

With Kyle Crockett on the mound for Virginia, Christian Walker and Jackie Bradley, Jr. scored runs for South Carolina in the bottom of the fourth when Brady Thomas doubled to left-center.

A stalemate tug-of-war ensued for three full innings, until Virginia’s Chris Taylor tied the score on a John Hicks linedrive that was misplayed by the shortstop Peter Mooney. The inning ended with a textbook 1-4-3 double play when Proscia hit a tapper back to sidearmer John Taylor.

At the time when an ordinary game usually would have been wrapping up, the tension and emotions began to amp up – for the teams and the fans. Both teams put themselves in plenty of scoring positions over the next five innings. Virginia loaded the bases three times after the ninth inning. but left the door open for South Carolina to win in the bottom of those innings.

To the top of the 13th – Gamecocks cloerer Matt Price walked David Coleman, then Colin Harrington outran the throw from shortstop and Keith Werman laid down a bunt to get on first with nobody covering. Chris Taylor came to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. With a 2-2 count, Price tossed a breaking ball and Taylor swung past the ball for the first up. Moments later, John Barr who lined into a 4-6 double play and the Gamecocks had escaped again.

In South Carolina’s final time at bat, Thomas set the table by ripping a base hit to center. Adam Matthews was sent in to run for Thomas and Mooney laid down a bunt to the pitcher Cody Winiarsk, whose throw to second was wide and carried into center field. Robert Beary then laid  down a sacrifice bunt and Winiarski again was errant on the throw (this time to third) – allowing Matthews to score the winning run.

– Quotable –

“That was a baseball game of a lot of emotions, a lot of gut decisions, both teams taking a lot of chances. It’s unfortunate that we had to come out on the wrong end of it. I’ve got a tremendous amount of pride in this team and what they’ve accomplished this year.” –Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor

– Notes –

• South Carolina now has won a record 14 straight NCAA Tournament games, dating back to the 2010 College World Series. They were 3-0 at this year’s Regional, 2-0 in the Super Regional and now 3-0 in the 2011 CWS (after winning five straight in Omaha a year ago).

All four starting pitchers in today’s two games were drafted by MLB teams earlier this month. Virginia’s Danny Hultzen was selected #2 overall by the Seattle Mariners, Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray was the 18th pick (Oakland A’s), Florida starter Alex Panteliodis was a 9th-round pick (N.Y. Mets) and South Carolina’s Michael Roth was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 31st round. Roth entered the day with the best season ERA (0.97) among those four pitchers.

The closers logged extended duty Friday night. Virginia’s Branden Kline struck out seven in 5.0 shutout innings and threw 107 pitches. South Carolina’s Matt Price kept the Cavs scoreless for 5.2 innings, with five strikeouts and five walks on 95 pitches. That’s 10.2 total shutout innings and 202 total pitches for two of the best closers in the country.

With an all-SEC CWS Finals set, the conference is guaranteed to have its third straight national champion.

Virginia pitching coach Karl Kuhn

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