Florida Advances to College World Series, Beats Miami, 4-3

By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer

GAINESVILLE (AP) — Florida players waited until coach Kevin O’Sullivan got a headset on and was right in the middle of answering a question to douse him with a bucket of ice water.

They executed it to perfection — the kind of flawless performance Miami never enjoyed in this best-of-three series.

Austin Maddox’s two-out RBI double in the 10th inning lifted Florida to a 4-3 victory Saturday night over the error-prone Hurricanes and gave the Gators their sixth trip to the College World Series.

“It’s the top of college baseball,” said O’Sullivan, whose team became the first to land a spot in Omaha. “It’s awfully hard to get there. It’s never easy.”

The Hurricanes (43-20) gave the Gators (47-15) plenty of help along the way. The Canes tied a postseason record with seven errors, the last one leading to the winning run.

Right fielder Chris Pelaez misplayed Nolan Fontana’s fly ball down the line to start the 10th. Fontana reached second on the gaffe, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Maddox’s drive down the right-field line.

“We made errors and handed them the game,” Miami ouatfielder Nathan Melendres said.

Third baseman Michael Broad and shortstop Stephen Perez had equally costly mistakes in the ninth that allowed Florida to tie the game.

Broad, filling in for injured slugger Harold Martinez, booted a grounder with one out that loaded the bases. Closer Daniel Miranda (5-3) struck out Brian Johnson for the second out, but Perez short-hopped a throw to first that would have ended the game.

Scott Lawson couldn’t scoop the throw, and Preston Tucker scored the tying run.

Miami’s defense was just as bad in Friday night’s opener. The Canes made two errors that led to five unearned runs in a 7-2 loss.

“Obviously, we didn’t play very good,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “When you make seven errors, it’s frustrating all game to watch the defense.”

The defensive lapses spoiled a strong outing from left-handed ace Chris Hernandez. He allowed three hits and three runs in 8 1-3 innings, but only one was earned.

Miami struggled most of the night against freshman Hudson Randall, but turned the game around with one swing in the seventh against closer Kevin Chapman. Melendres drove Chapman’s third pitch over the right-field fence for a three-run homer, his ninth of the season, that put the Canes ahead 3-2.

Their defense couldn’t hold the lead, though.

“Little things like that come back to haunt you,” O’Sullivan said.

Florida improved to 33-3 at home this season and won their 15th in a row at McKethan Stadium. Now, the young Gators — they have two freshman in their starting rotation as well as four freshmen and two sophomores in the normal lineup — will take their show on the road.

The ultimate destination, Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. It’s Florida’s first appearance in college baseball’s premier event since 2005.

“This is what I came back for,” said Matt den Dekker, the lone senior in Florida’s usual lineup. “I knew we would have a good club. This is definitely the best moment in my four years.”

Maddox, a freshman, delivered the biggest hit in the Super Regional.

“Got a good pitch to hit, put a good swing on it and came up big time,” Maddox said. “I’ll remember that hit for the rest of my life.”

The Canes surely will remember all the errors, their most in a postseason game since making seven against Clemson in 1978.

The last three might go down in Miami lore. The two that led to Florida’s first run might, too.

Den Dekker bunted to start the fifth and got the first hit off Hernandez. Mike Zunino tried to move den Dekker to second, but his bunt got to Hernandez quick enough that the pitcher could make a play at second. But his throw was a little wide of Perez, and ball sailed into the outfield.

Den Dekker tried to get to third, but got gunned down by Melendres’ throw. Second base umpire Phil Benson, however, ruled that Perez impeded den Dekker from leaving second and called him safe. Replays showed Perez blocked den Dekker with his right arm.

Morris ran from the dugout and argued with Benson, but the call stood. Perez was charged with an error for interference. Den Dekker scored on Brian Johnson’s sacrifice fly, giving the Gators a 1-0 lead with just one hit.

“Whenever you make seven errors, you’re not going to win,” Morris said.


Updated June 12, 2010