June 11, 2010

By Paul D. Bowker
Special to NCAA.com

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The University of Miami has eliminated Florida from the baseball postseason eight times over the years.

But after the Gators rattled Miami in a 7-2 NCAA Division I Baseball Super Regional win Friday night in front of the eighth-largest crowd (5,429) in McKethan Stadium history, Florida will have an opportunity to send the Hurricanes home for the second consecutive year in Game 2 on Saturday.

Florida pitcher Alex Panteliodis shut down the Hurricanes on a 3-hitter; his biggest mistake was serving up a home run to Miami slugger Yasmani Grandal. Designated hitter Brian Johnson and No. 9 hitter Jonathan Pigott each had two hits in a nine-hit Florida attack against two Miami pitchers.

Total domination, and those were the Miami coach's words.

"They totally dominated us," Miami head coach Jim Morris said. "They outplayed us in every phase of the game."

Florida freshman pitcher Hudson Randall (8-3, 2.97 ERA) will start for the Gators (46-15) on Saturday, when they go for a sweep and try to grab a berth in the College World Series for the first time since 2005. First pitch is 7 p.m. (ESPN2). Miami ace Chris Hernandez (10-3, 2.77 ERA) will start for the Hurricanes (43-19). If Miami wins Saturday, a third game would be played at 7 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2).

"This thing's a long way from over," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said, repeating what he said he told his team immediately after the game. "We're going to have to be on top of our game tomorrow if we want to win tomorrow's game."

Panteliodis, who set up his curveballs with blistering fastballs, won his 11th game in 13 decisions. He struck out a career-high 12, including two in the ninth inning, and retired Miami's last 14 hitters to get a complete-game victory. Florida catcher Mike Zunino said he could tell in the pregame warm-up in the bullpen that Panteliodis had something special going.

"As the game went on," Zunino said, "he was able to harness it."

"He was outstanding," O'Sullivan said.

Panteliodis, a sophomore from Tampa, admitted to being motivated after receiving a text message from O'Sullivan, who repeated a comment from Grandal in which Miami's junior catcher suggested the Gators had better be ready for Miami's offense.

"It gave me more fuel for the tank," Panteliodis said.

Miami pitcher David Guttierrez held the Gators scoreless until the third inning when a line drive hit at Hurricanes shortstop Stephen Perez with the bases loaded changed the game.

With two out and the bases full of Gators, Johnson hit a low line drive toward Perez. No problem. Reaching down, Perez caught the ball, and believing he caught it before the ball hit the dirt, he held it up for what he thought was the third out and did not make a play toward any base. After a second or so, third base umpire Phil Benson ruled that the ball had hit the ground, and that it was not an out. The play scored a Florida run, and one play later Zunino followed with a two-run single to left field.

"It was just one of those things," O'Sullivan said. "If he (Perez) throws the ball to first (base), it's a non-issue. I couldn't see whether it hit the dirt or not."

"Big play, big call," Morris said. "Next guy gets a hit, two outs."

The play was ruled a hit, but the Hurricanes committed two other errors that didn't help Gutierrez, who lost his third consective decision.

"It's frustrating," Gutierrez said, "but at the end of the day, you've got to battle. This game is about adversity and overcoming adversity."

Grandal, drafted in the first round (12th overall) by the Cincinnati Reds this week and the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, responded in the fourth inning with an opposite-field, two-run homer that curved just inside the right-field foul pole and over the fence.

"I thought we had the momentum back as soon as I hit the home run," Grandal said.

Then, the Gators tacked on three runs in the fourth inning and another in the fifth on a home run by Tyler Thompson (his fourth in two games).

"They outplayed us," Morris said. "It wasn't one play, it wasn't one play at short. That's the bottom line. They played better than us."