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Monday June 18, 2012Gators' Notebook: Randall's Early Exit, Turgeon's Check Swing And Omaha Heat Wave

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

OMAHA, Neb. -- Hudson Randall was well enough to rejoin his teammates in the dugout by the end of Florida's 5-4 loss to Kent State on Monday.

That's the good news for the Gators' ace. The bad news is that Randall had to leave after one inning due to heat-related symptoms.

With temperatures on the field at TD Ameritrade Park exceeding 100 degrees, Randall overheated and was removed from the game after facing six batters and throwing 16 pitches.

It wasn't the way anyone envisioned Randall's start against the Golden Flashes going with Florida's season on the line in an elimination game at the College World Series.

"He looked fine before the game,'' Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "I could tell he was laboring a little bit. Then when I went out there, it was obvious he was having a little trouble breathing.

"Then I asked him in the dugout if he was okay to go back out. Our option was to go with Jonathon [Crawford] and switch roles and have [Randall] start on Wednesday. He looked me in the eye and I could tell he wasn't ready to go back out."

O'Sullivan calls Randall the most competitive pitcher he has ever coached, so he knew the problem had to be serious.

Randall went into the clubhouse and rehydrated and once he started to feel better, he rejoined the Gators in the dugout.

Catcher Mike Zunino said the Gators quickly refocused when Crawford entered the game in the second.

"At first you are just hoping for his well-being,'' Zunino said. "We knew we had plenty of pen with Crawford and Larson and Maddox and we had Paco [Steven Rodriguez] back there. We were confident."

A QUESTIONABLE CALL? The Gators had Kent State freshman reliever Josh Pierce on the ropes in the top of the ninth.

Down by a run, the Gators had the bases loaded and Casey Turgeon at the plate. The count was 3-2 when plate umpire Phil Benson signaled Ball 4 on Turgeon's check swing.

Kent State appealed, and third-base umpire Jeff Henrichs ruled that Turgeon offered at the pitch for Strike 3.

Instead of Preston Tucker scoring from third with the tying run, the strikeout brought freshman Justin Shafer to the plate with two outs. Shafer flew out to right field to end the game.

While the call killed the Gators' momentum, O'Sullivan didn't use it as an excuse afterward.

"The game was not decided by the umpires,'' O'Sullivan said. “We made a couple errors in the first and second, and they capitalized and got two runs there in the bottom of the second. That was the difference in the ballgame."

Zunino held back any criticism of the umpires as well.

"I mean, Phil was great back there the whole game,'' he said. "He made the right call. On the check swing he didn't get to see it. My first gut instinct was hoping it was going to be Ball 4. They appealed, and it wasn't."

ZUNINO'S RISE: He became the first UF player to ever win the Dick Howser Award. He was named SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore. And earlier this month Zunino became the highest-drafted player in school history when Seattle selected him with the third overall pick.

Barring a breakdown in negotiations with the Mariners, Zunino walked off the field for the final time Monday as a Gator. What a trip it has been for the Cape Coral native.

"They've sculpted me as a player and helped me tremendously,'' Zunino said. "They saw potential me and got the best out of it. I bought into what they were saying.

"Obviously when you go back and reflect on the last three years, you are going to remember all the things they have helped me with and all the games and all the times we've had. I couldn't be any happier with the decision I made out of high school. It was the best three years of my life playing here."

HOT, HOT, HOT: While the Gators play their home games at steamy McKethan Stadium, the temperature at TD Ameritrade Park on Monday afternoon was 94 at first pitch -- the highest recorded temperature for a first pitch at a CWS game in 11 years.

The temperature climbed to 98 later in the game and ESPN reported an on-field temperature of 104 degrees.

Tucker, still sweating 20 minutes after the game, called it a different kind of hot than back in Gainesville.

"The air was heavy. It wasn't humid, but I was exhausted halfway through the game,'' Tucker said. "I was hydrated as much as I could, but obviously you saw with Huddy that it gets to people more quickly than others. They battled just like we did. It was tough for both teams."

QUOTE OF NOTE: "It wasn't the prettiest thing in the end. It was gut-wrenching no matter whom you were rooting for. Even if you weren't rooting for anybody, that was just tough to watch. But we found a way. We're still in Omaha and proud to be here." -- Kent State coach Scott Stricklin on the nail-biter ninth inning and the Golden Flashes' first CWS win in school history


Shafer went 2-for-5 Monday and 6-for-12 with three doubles and three RBIs in the final three games of his freshman season ... The Gators became the second No. 1 overall seed -- Arizona State in 2010 is the other -- to go 0-2 in Omaha since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1999 ... Randall's early exit tied the shortest outing of his career; he was lifted after one inning on March 27, 2010, in a 15-3 loss to Ole Miss ... Florida's five errors in two games tied for their most over a two-game stretch all season ... Tucker finished his career as the NCAA's active career leader in games (265), home runs (57), total bases (596) and RBIs (258) ... Senior reliever Greg Larson appeared in the 122nd game of his career, second in school history to Connor Falkenbach's 124 appearances from 2002-05.


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