Florida earns second consecutive trip to College World Series with 8-6 win over Mississippi State
Former Plant standout Preston Tucker hit a three-run home run in the seventh to give Florida a 7-6 lead and DH Daniel Pigott added a security run in the eighth to lead the Gators to an 8-6 victory over Mississippi State Sunday aftternoon in the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional.
Florida (50-17) will advance to the College World Series for the second consecutive season. The Gators will play either Arizona State or Texas when the CWS begins on Saturday.
Tucker, who was 2-of-3 with three RBI, hit a changeup pitch he called arguably thebiggest of his career.
“We had just given up three runs and everyone was kind of, we weren’t down, but everyone was questioning whether or not we could come back, even though we’ve done it plenty of times this year.'' Tucker said. "So I think it completely changed the momentum and it carried us on through the next inning.’’
Florida led 4-0 in the second, but MSU second baseman Nick Vickerson's three-run home run in the fourth pulled them to within one. MSU (38-25) took a 6-4 lead in the seventh off a game-tying single by Vickerson and a two-run, go-ahead single by Brent Brownlee.
Tucker gave the Gators the lead back in the bottom of the inning.
Former Alonso standout Tommy Toledo – who has missed nearly two seasons with injuries – earned the win. He went 2.1 innings in relief, giving up two hits, two runs in 45 pitches.
After Bryson Smith made the last out in center field, the Gators mobbed Toledo on the mound in a dogpile celebration.
“It’s unbelievable,’’ said Toledo who is 6-3 this season. “To see my teammates run out there like that, there’s no better feeling than to go back to Omaha. But that was our goal. We worked together and that was a great game today. I was just happy to see my teammates run out like that.’’
The Gators earned the win after losing to the Bulldogs on a walk-off homer in Saturday's game. That made Sunday's come-from-behind victory that much more emotional. It even prompted the normally stoic Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan to join fans in the Gator Chomp following the game.
"You jump out to a four nothing lead, then the next thing you know Vickerson hits another three-run homer,'' O'Sullivan said. "And you know he’s going to have two or three more at-bats. It just was an emotional game. It was an emotional game for the players, it was an emotional game for me. And like I said, I probably learned more about coaching in the last 24 hours than I thought I had in the last four years. It took a lot of restraint, it took a lot of thinking. I had to think through the words, I had to try to do the best job I could because everything was lined up for this team to lose today. Everything was lined up – we come back from a tough loss last night, get left on our own field. And we’re playing a very motivated Mississippi State team that’s playing very, very well. Everything was lined up. There was a lot of pressure on us to win. So it was just a big relief, a big relief. ''