Once more, for the Gators, to Omaha.
Florida got timely hitting and timely pitching in a dramatic marathon in Game 2 of the Gainesville Super Regional, finally finishing N.C. State off in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 9-8 win that gave the Gators their third straight trip to the College World Series.
The first two and a half innings of play were very quiet, with Carlos Rodon and Jonathon Crawford getting nine and six outs without yielding a hit, but then rain came, enough to necessitate a two-hour, 37-minute delay that sent Rodon to the showers. Crawford would return, but his efficacy was limited, as he immediately gave up consecutive doubles in the third, and the Gators and Wolfpack would trade the lead back and forth for the rest of the day.
Florida scored four runs in the fourth inning to go up 4-1; N.C. State rallied back with two in the fourth and one in the fifth to tie. The Wolfpack took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh; the Gators struck back with two runs in the eighth. N.C. State tied again in the bottom of the eighth, and heroics from Josh Tobias gave Florida the lead in the ninth. But Austin Maddox couldn't finish out his win, giving up another run to the Wolfpack.
And then came the 10th, when a solo homer from Daniel Pigott gave Florida the lead and another RBI from Tobias extended it, and when Karsten Whitson (!), Bobby Poyner (!!), and Keenan Kish (!!!!!) combined to hold the Wolfpack to just a run and stave off a comeback that would have forced a Game 3 on Monday.
Instead, the Gators are bound for the College World Series once more, and may meet a familiar foe when they get there: Florida's first game in Omaha will come against the winner of the Columbia Super Regional, where South Carolina is already a game up on Oklahoma.
And while getting back to Omaha feels really friggin' sweet right now, Florida knows it has the talent to come through where it came up short last season, and Gators fans know that this crazy, topsy-turvy, immensely satisfying season will only feel right with a trophy being hoisted at season's end.