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Florida baseball beats Mississippi State 8-6, advances to College World Series

Florida junior outfielder Preston Tucker, a former Plant High standout, hits a three-run home run to give the Gators a 7-6 lead over Mississippi State in the seventh inning.

Associated Press

Florida junior outfielder Preston Tucker, a former Plant High standout, hits a three-run home run to give the Gators a 7-6 lead over Mississippi State in the seventh inning.

GAINESVILLE — A few hours after Florida's ninth-inning loss to Mississippi State on Saturday in their NCAA Super Region, coach Kevin O'Sullivan was facing a bit of a crisis.

He needed to keep his players focused yet not let them succumb to the pressure of being the No. 2 overall seed favored to reach the College World Series. And he couldn't have them dwelling on what might have been as they headed into Sunday's winner-take-all game against the Bulldogs. So he reached out to Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan and UF offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.

It turned out to be one of his best moves of the weekend. Florida overcame a two-run deficit in the seventh inning for an 8-6 win and a second straight trip to the College World Series.

"Coming back from last night, I probably learned more about coaching in the last 24 hours than I have in the last four years," an emotional O'Sullivan said. "For lack of a better term, I had my head in my rear end last night, and I needed to pick myself up because the players were going to look to me. We never meet as a team after a loss. Billy thought it would be a good idea to get the team together last night just to see my face for 10 minutes. And that's what we did. … I took his advice.

"I met with the team (Saturday) night at 7:30 for 10 minutes. Short and sweet. And I think it helped them, just more so to know that yesterday is gone, it's over with and we've got to move forward."

The Gators (50-17) led 4-0 in the second inning, but Bulldogs second baseman Nick Vickerson's hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning.

After the Bulldogs (38-25) took a 6-4 lead, Preston Tucker, a former Plant High standout, hit a three-run home run in the seventh inning to give the Gators a lead they never relinquished.

"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," said Tucker, who went 2-for-3 with three RBIs. "So I think it completely changed the momentum, and it carried us on through the next inning."

Daniel Pigott's home run in the eighth inning added security.

Former Alonso star Tommy Toledo (6-3) earned the win after giving up two hits and two runs in 21/3 innings. After Bryson Smith made the last out in centerfield, the Gators mobbed Toledo on the mound.

"It's unbelievable," Toledo said. "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."

Notable: In the ninth inning, Bulldogs assistant Nick Mingione appeared to trip Gators first baseman Vickash Ramjit as he tried to make a play on a foul ball. O'Sullivan and Bulldogs coach John Cohen had a heated exchange, but both later downplayed the incident.

Florida 8

Miss. St. 6

.Fast facts

College

World Series

When/where: Saturday-June 28/29; TD Ameritrade Park Omaha (Neb.)

Details/ticket information: gatorzone.com; ncaa.com/championships/baseball/d1

Florida baseball beats Mississippi State 8-6, advances to College World Series 06/12/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 12, 2011 10:38pm]
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