Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sports

Florida Gators beat N.C. State Wolfpack 7-1 in NCAA baseball Super Region opener

GAINESVILLE — With two rain delays that totaled 2:51 in a game that eventually lasted nearly six hours, Florida's baseball players stayed loose by hanging out in the clubhouse, listening to music and watching other NCAA tournament games on Saturday.

Eventually, the Gators put away N.C. State 7-1 in Game 1 of the best-of-three Super Region at McKethan Stadium.

Florida can advance to the World Series with a win today (1, ESPNU).

Junior Hudson Randall (9-2) pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing six hits, walking none and striking out four.

"I thought the story line was Hudson Randall," Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent said. "Hudson Randall was as advertised."

Randall, who allowed eight hits over 52/3 innings in his last start, earned his school-record fifth NCAA tournament victory. He also holds the school tournament record for innings (572/3), strikeouts (49) and starts (nine).

"I felt pretty good with all my stuff," he said. "My fastball had a little more life, and everything just felt sharper this time around."

Florida led 5-0 in the seventh when the first delay came, Plant High graduate Preston Tucker on first after a walk and Mike Zunino at the plate. When play resumed after 2 hours, 3 minutes, Zunino homered on the second pitch.

"I was just zoned in trying to get a good at-bat," Zunino said.

The second delay, lasting 48 minutes, came during the eighth.

The Gators (46-18) are one win away from a third consecutive trip to the World Series. But coach Kevin O'Sullivan said he doesn't expect a victory today to come easily.

N.C. State (43-19) played three elimination games during last weekend's region tournament it hosted. First, it beat UNC-Wilmington 17-5. Then it beat Vanderbilt, which eliminated Florida in the SEC tournament semifinals, 6-5 and 9-7. The Wolfpack trailed 7-3 in Game 2 before scoring three runs each in the eighth and ninth.

"N.C. State has been in this position before. They had their backs against the wall last weekend on the brink of elimination," O'Sullivan said. "Our players realize that. They'll have a lot of motivation. They don't want their season to end. They want to get to Omaha just as bad as we do. We're not going to look past (today). We're not going to come out flat. We're going to approach it like we're down 0-1.

"N.C. State's got the ability to come back and win this series. And our players realize that."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

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