GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Amid the hugging and the jumping of Florida’s sweaty celebration, senior Daniel Pigott sought out freshman and No. 9 hitter Josh Tobias, grabbed his young teammate and pointing to the McKethan Stadium-Perry Field scoreboard.
Specifically, to the number 9, as in “Florida 9, North Carolina State 8.”
“Look at that,” Pigott shouted in the mob scene. “That’s your run.”
Indeed, Tobias was responsible for the eventual game-winner when he slapped a single to give UF a 9-7 lead and what turned out to be the decisive insurance run against an NC State squad that would not quit.
But Tobias just as well could have been the one gushing on his teammate. It was Pigott who led off the top of the 10th with a home run that just barely cleared the right-field wall -- and the glove of leaping Wolfpack outfielder Brett Austin -- to get the Gators in run-scoring, game-winning mode and close out a second straight rain-delayed marathon; 6 hours and eight minutes worth, this time.
Florida had a chance to win it in the ninth when Tobias, after falling behind 0-2, bombed a double into the right-center alley that centerfielder Jake Fincher had, then didn’t.
“It snow-coned on me,” Fincher said.
Two sacrifices flies, the first by Preston Tucker and the second by Mike Zunino, brought Tobias home with the go-ahead run (a 7-6 lead), but NC State tied the game in the bottom of the ninth to kick the game into extra innings.
This time, it was Pigott who got things going (like Tobias, with two strikes) against Vance Williams, NC State’s fifth pitcher.
“I thought as long as I got the barrel on the ball and put it in play, we’d have a shot,” he said. “It felt good coming off ... and it just kept carrying and carrying.”
His third homer of the season gave Florida an 8-7 lead.
Freshman Casey Turgeon, who had three hits on the day, followed with a single to left and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Vickash Ramjit lined to short, bringing Tobias to the plate.
Like his previous at-bat -- the double to center -- Tobias fell behind 0-2.
“I wasn’t going to do anything different, even though it was a big situation,” he said. “I just took a deep breath, fouled a couple off and when he made a mistake, I made him pay for it.”
Tobias lashed a single between the first and second baseman, plating Turgeon with the inning’s second run. Though Tobias got caught in a run-down that ended the inning, he’d done his job.
How big was that run?
NC State put runners on second and third in the bottom of the 10th, but only got one run home, thanks to Keenan Kish, who put down both batters he faced -- striking out Chris Diaz looking to end the game -- for his first save of the season
“It was a total team effort, but Josh had some great at-bats,” Coach Kevin O’Sullivan said of Tobias, who missed more than a month of the season with a broken bone in his hand. “So did Preston and Daniel and obviously Casey.”
That’s what this team does.
"When someone needs to get another guys back, we do that," Pigott said. "We carry each other."
All the way to Nebraska.
“We grind,” Tobias said. “We grind at practice, we grind at games. That’s why we’re going to Omaha again."
He smiled when he said, as if he just realized something.
"I’m going to Omaha.”
As a UF recruit, Tobias watched the Gators clinch their CWS berth under O'Sullivan in 2010, and as a freshman at Summer “A” session did the same from his dorm room in 2011. This time, he was in the middle of it all.
And it was his run.
“Man, I’m going to Omaha,” Tobias said, as if he needed convincing. “It just blows my mind.”