For the second time this year, no. 2 Florida (52-17) and no. 6 Vanderbilt (53-11) resumed play on a game suspended overnight. Both resulted in a big Gator win. Preston Tucker's three-run bomb was the difference in this game as the Gators beat the Commodores, 3-1. The win gave Florida a school record 52 on the year. It also put the Gators one win away from returning to the College World Series Final for the first time since 2005.
On to the highlights...The match up was viewed by most as a pitchers duel and it did not disappoint. At least not on Monday. Freshman and 9th overall pick in the 2010 draft (Orel Hersheiser could not stop talking about him turning down $2 million to play for the Gators. If you watched the game, you know) Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.43 ERA) went to the mound for the Gators and Rays first round pick Grayson Garvin (13-2, 2.48 ERA) took the bump for the Commodores. Whitson lasted 4 2/3 innings (85 pitches) giving up four hits and one run while striking out five. His counterpart Garvin lasted 6 innings (he was taken out due to the weather delay) giving up five hits, three runs, while striking out nine.
The scoring started for Florida in the fourth when Tucker showed his light-tower power with a 3-run home run going into the wind that cleared the Gators bullpen. The homer scored Nolan Fontana and Mike Zunino to bring the score to 3-0. Tucker also hit his 23rd double of the season tying a UF single season record.
Bryson Smith followed with a double to left center to raise his hitting streak to 12 games. Smith was slated in the line up as the lead off man and the way he's been hitting and getting on base (his out in the first inning was his first out of the CWS), I don't think head coach Kevin O'Sullivan could have made a better choice.
The Commodores quickly got on the board with Anthony Gomez's two-out RBI single, scoring Riley Reynolds and making the score 3-1. That run was the first run given up by Florida pitching to Vandy in 22 2/3 innings.
Gators pitcher Steven "Paco" Rodriguez took over for Whitson in the fifth inning and took Florida the rest of the way. Even though the game was suspended with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. Rodriguez resumed after the overnight 14 hour and four minute delay, striking out the first batter he faced to end the inning. He pitched 4 1/3 hitless innings, striking out a career-high seven. Paco retired the last eight batters he faced.
Florida now gets to wait until Friday to play again. They will face the winner of the North Carolina (51-15) and Vanderbilt elimination game. Whoever the Gators face will have to beat them twice to get the the CWS finals. The win also gives Florida a chance to get their pitching staff in order, likely putting ace Hudson Randalll (11-3, 2.24 ERA) on the mound Friday.
Hear what the victors had to say at the postgame press conference below: