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Tuesday June 21, 2011Florida Defeats Vanderbilt, 3-1, In Completion Of Suspended Game To Remain In CWS Winner’s Bracket

Omaha, Neb.

Florida (52-17) notched a 3-1 victory over Vanderbilt (53-11) on Tuesday in the completion of Monday night’s winner’s bracket game at the NCAA College World Series. With their school-record 52nd triumph of the campaign, the Gators improved to 2-0 in the double-elimination event at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha and will be off until Friday at 2 p.m., when it will face the survivor of Wednesday night’s elimination game between North Carolina (51-15) and Vanderbilt on ESPN. UF needs one more victory to secure a spot in the best-of-three championship series that will begin Monday night.


Sophomore Steven Rodriguez (Miami, Fla.) (4-2) who took over on the mound in the fifth inning on Monday before the contest was halted because of weather issues, came back on Tuesday morning and went the rest of the way to pick up the win. Over a season-high 4.1 scoreless and hitless innings, the southpaw registered a career-high seven strikeouts and permitted one walk. Rodriguez retired 13 of the 14 batters he faced, including the final eight in a row, and concluded the contest with back-to-back strikeouts of junior Jason Esposito and freshman Conrad Gregor. Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) (2-for-4) provided the Gators’ offense with a three-run blast in the fourth inning off of Commodore junior Grayson Garvin (13-2).


“I thought it was a great game by both clubs,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Obviously, the margin for error was very small for both sides. I kind of had an eerie feeling going into the game because we had a similar situation at Vanderbilt where they had a two-run lead and got rained out and had to come back the next day. I thought both pitchers did exactly what they needed to do to give their team a chance to stay in the ballgame. Like I said, the margin for error was very small today.  A walk here, an error there and the next thing the complexion of the game could change.”


“We’re looking forward to Friday,” O’Sullivan continued. “Obviously, we've got a long way to go in this thing. Whoever we play on Friday, we'll probably see their number one pitcher, so we've got a lot of work to do the next couple of days. We've got to stay focused on what we're doing and be ready to go. This thing is long way from over, but we're awfully excited about the position we're in right now.”


After freshman Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) struck out freshman Tony Kemp in the first inning, sophomore Anthony Gomez (2-for-4) singled up the middle and moved to second base on a passed ball. Whitson fanned junior Aaron Westlake for the second out and later uncorked a wild pitch that pushed Gomez to third. The righty stranded the runner by having senior Curt Casali fly out to right field.


Although Kemp roped a one-out triple in the third, Whitson was able to leave him 90 feet from home plate. The rookie had Gomez ground out to redshirt sophomore first baseman Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) and struck out Westlake for the second time to keep the contest scoreless.


Tucker provided the Gators with a 3-0 lead in the fourth with a deep homer into the seats overlooking right field. It was his 15th round-tripper of the season, fifth in this season’s NCAA Tournament and ninth all-time in NCAA play to extend his own school record. Sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) had drawn a one-out walk and sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) (1-for-4) had followed with an infield single for UF’s initial hit. A throwing error on the play by Garvin resulted in runners on the corners and Tucker opened the scoring by sending a 2-1 pitch out of the yard.


Senior Bryson Smith (Watkinsville, Ga.) (1-for-4) raised his hitting streak to 12 games with a two-out double into left center in the fifth but Garvin had Fontana fly out to end the stanza.


The Commodores used a two-out RBI single by Gomez in the home part of the inning to narrow the gap to 3-1. Whitson had retired six-straight VU hitters before sophomore Connor Harrell sliced a single into center field with one down. A grounder by junior Riley Reynolds moved Harrell into scoring position and Kemp walked for two runners aboard. Gomez delivered a base-hit into left to score Harrell for a 3-1 count and prompt a pitching change. It also ended a stretch of 22.2 scoreless innings for the Gators against Vanderbilt dating back to the finale of the regular-season series in Nashville. Rodriguez replaced Whitson, who gave up four hits and a run with five strikeouts over 4.2 innings, and whiffed Westlake to preserve the two-run lead for the Gators.


Tucker tied UF’s single-season record for doubles with his 23rd two-bagger with one down in the sixth, equaling the mark shared by Chris Lombardozzi (1985), Mike Moberg (1990) and Greg Catalanotte (1998). Garvin struck out senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) for the second out and Tucker was able to reach third on a wild pitch during sophomore Brian Johnson’s (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) at bat. Garvin escaped the jam with his ninth K of the night.


Rodriguez set down the first two Vanderbilt hitters of the sixth inning before the game was stopped at 8:02 p.m. CT due to a high winds warning. Play was officially suspended at 10:30 p.m. CT due to heavy rains and unplayable field conditions. When the action picked up again on Tuesday at 10:06 a.m. CT, Rodriguez finished off a strikeout of Esposito.


Sophomore Will Clinard replaced Garvin (6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 9 K) out of the delay and issued a one-out walk to junior pinch hitter Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) in the seventh. Thompson was thrown out attempting to steal second and Clinard punched out sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) to complete the frame. In the bottom of the inning, Rodriguez struck out Gregor and walked Harrell before fanning Reynolds and having Kemp ground out.


Rodriguez set down the Commodores in order in the eighth on a grounder by Gomez, a liner to first base by Westlake and a strikeout of Casali. At the time, his fifth K matched his career high set at Kentucky on April 18, 2010. With Vanderbilt down to its final three outs, the lefty had sophomore Mike Yastrzemski pop up in foul territory before he nailed down the win with consecutive strikeouts of Esposito and Gregor.


Florida held a 5-4 advantage in hits and its pitching staff totaled a dozen strikeouts. The Gators have now claimed four of the five encounters between the SEC Eastern Division rivals this season.


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