GAINESVILLE | A recap of Florida’s 8-6 win over MSU in Game 3 of the Gainesville Super Regional. Florida wins the series, 2-1.
• The buzz: MSU could almost taste those Omaha steaks, but Florida did what it had done all day long and bashed its way to the program’s seventh College World Series berth. The Gators (50-17) scored all of their runs on a season-high five homers, including two by designated hitter Daniel Pigott. The big blast, though, was Preston Tucker‘s three-run homer to give Florida a 7-6 lead in the seventh inning. MSU (38-25) tried to pitch around him with an open first base and a struggling Josh Adams on deck.
• Big inning: MSU had a big top of the seventh, scoring three times with two outs to take a 6-4 lead. It started with Cody Freeman‘s double, and he scored on Nick Vickerson‘s RBI single. Then Brent Brownlee came through with a two-run single just under the glove of UF shortstop Nolan Fontana. But Florida struck back in the bottom half with the help of two walks to start the inning from reliever Daryl Norris. After Mike Zunino laid down a sac bunt – no, really – Tucker stepped in and did his thing to dead center field.
• Key stats: MSU pitchers issued seven walks. … MSU hitters only struck out twice. … Again, Florida with five home runs today. Huge.
• MSU at the plate: MSU had 11 hits, and Vickerson had another big day, going 2 of 5 with four RBIs. His three-run homer in the fourth brought State within 4-3. Brownlee had three hits and two RBIs, while Freeman also had two hits.
• Florida at the plate: The Gators had 10 hits, so half of those were long balls. Pigott was 3 of 3 with three RBIs, and Tucker was 2 of 4 with three RBIs. Zunino, who has killed MSU pitching all season, was 2 of 4 with an RBI. Florida jumped ahead 4-0 in the first two innings on three home runs, including back-to-back jobs by Pigott and Vickash Ramjit in the second.
• MSU on the mound: The loss went to reliever Caleb Reed (1-2), the fifth of eight MSU pitchers. He yielded Tucker’s deciding homer a day after throwing 82 pitches and earning the Game 2 win. Starter Luis Pollorena gave up four runs on four hits in two-plus innings.
• Florida on the mound: Starter Alex Panteliodis, who was making a school-record sixth NCAA postseason start, was solid until MSU’s three-run fourth. He gave up three runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings, with no walks or strikeouts. The win went to Tommy Toledo (6-3), the fourth and final UF reliever. He allowed two runs on two hits in 2 1/3 innings.
• Bottom line: Even though State wasn’t expected to reach Omaha, this one still must sting. Big picture, though, this is something to build on. MSU showed today that it will be a factor in the SEC next season.
• Quotable: “I don’t wanna say it’s a moral victory, there are none. We’ve got to get to Omaha and do what it takes.” – MSU coach John Cohen