FROM CBD NEWS SOURCE
OMAHA, Neb. – The Florida Gators overcame a late-inning rally from the Vanderbilt Commodores to advance to their second Men’s College World Series championship finals, notching a 6-4 victory on Friday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park.
Florida’s 4-1 lead quickly turned into a 4-4 deadlock as the ‘Dores plated three runs over the seventh and eighth innings combined. The Gators responded just as fast, however, tallying two runs in the bottom of the eighth to regain the lead 6-4.
Florida (53-17) will meet either defending champion and SEC foe South Carolina or No. 1 national seed Virginia in the best-of-three finals. Vanderbilt, making its first appearance at the MCWS, finishes its season with a 54-12 record.
In the bottom of the eighth, Florida chased Commodore starter Sonny Gray (12-4) by loading the bases on three-straight singles, the last of which was bobbled by Gray on the infield. After a long single to left field from Preston Tucker plated Daniel Pigott, Cody Dent scored on a wild pitch for the final margin.
With the lead back in their possession, Austin Maddox (3-0), who entered with one out in the top of the eighth and pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in that inning, closed out the game to pick up the win. Maddox was the fifth Gator relief pitcher used after Alex Panteliodis was pulled after the sixth.
In addition to leaving three runners on base in the bottom of the eighth, the ‘Dores left the bags loaded to end their seventh inning as well, preventing the chance to grab the lead. In total, Vanderbilt stranded nine base runners on the day.
The Commodores took the initial lead of the elimination contest, using Aaron Westlake’s 18th home run of the season to snatch a 1-0 advantage in the first inning.
Florida tied it at 1-1 in the bottom of the third as Cody Dent ripped the eighth triple of the MCWS to center field to open the frame. Tucker, who has 19 postseason RBI, drove in Dent with a groundout to first.
The Gators stuck again the very next inning, using back-to-back one-out singles from Josh Adams and Tyler Thompson to set up Nolan Fontana’s two-run single to center to give the Gators a 3-1 edge. Florida added a single tally in the sixth thanks to a Pigott double and an RBI groundout from Bryson Smith to extend their advantage to 4-1.
Vanderbilt used a two-out single from Conner Harrell and a bases-loaded walk from Tony Kemp to plate its two runs in the seventh and cut the Gator lead to 4-3. The next inning, the ‘Dores had the bases loaded with one out, but managed just one run with Conrad Gregor’s one-out hit by pitch. After that, a line out to short and a fielder’s choice quickly ended Vandy’s rally, leaving the game knotted at 4-4 before Florida’s two-run eighth.