Florida books return trip to Omaha
Gators close out NC State in 10 innings to advance to CWS
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The final scene was a fitting end to an emotional game.
Florida players piled on reliever Keenan Kish near the mound, gloves and hats flying all around as the top-ranked Gators celebrated another trip to the College World Series.
A few feet away, North Carolina State coaches had to restrain shortstop Chris Diaz after he slammed his helmet to the ground, started screaming and followed the home-plate umpire up the baseline.
The reactions easily could have been much different.
Daniel Pigott homered to open the 10th inning, an opposite-field shot that barely cleared the fence, and Florida held on to beat North Carolina State 9-8 on Sunday and advance to Omaha, Neb., for the third consecutive season.
''One of those back-and-forth games, one that I know I won't forget,'' Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. ''It was just the momentum swings back and forth.''
Pigott's eighth homer of the season was key in a wild game that included 26 hits, 12 pitchers, a lengthy weather delay, a little controversy and some unlikely heroes.
''Two strikes, I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball,'' Pigott said. ''I found the barrel, the ball got up there in the air and I saw it keep drifting. I was just hoping it would keep going. Needless to say, I was pretty excited about it.''
Freshman Casey Turgeon followed Pigott with a base hit and scored on Josh Tobias' single. Tobias, another freshman and Florida's No. 9 hitter, had an RBI double in the ninth on a ball that slipped out of centerfielder Jake Fincher's glove when he landed while trying to make a diving catch.
Karsten Whitson (4-0) pitched two-thirds of an inning for the win. Kish got the final two outs for his first save.
Kish got Diaz looking for the final out, setting off strong sentiments on both sides.
''My angle is the worst angle in the world,'' North Carolina State coach Elliott Avent said. ''I'd like to grab 50 people behind home plate and ask them. I trust Chris Diaz. He's an All-American for a reason. He has a good eye. In that situation, he knows slider is coming. He's not going to leave the bat on his shoulder if he's not 100 percent sure it's a ball.''
Avent was even more armament about a call earlier in the day.
Avent strongly argued against restarting the game following a 2-hour, 23-minute weather delay in the third inning. He and North Carolina State officials pleaded their case to anyone who would listen, but the game restarted despite some wet spots in the outfield and some standing water on the warning track.
''Those people worked for an hour and a half to get that water off the field and there was still tons of water in the outfield,'' Avent said. ''They did an outstanding job, but there's that old saying, 'You just can't fight Mother Nature,' and I didn't see why we were trying to fight it.''
Avent decided not to bring undefeated ace Carlos Rodon back after the lengthy break. O'Sullivan stuck with Crawford.
Neither move paid off.
Florida (47-18) hammered reliever Anthony Tzamtzis, scoring four runs on four hits in the fourth. The Wolfpack (43-20) got to Crawford, too. The sophomore had pitched 14 1-3 innings without allowing a hit and had retired 25 consecutive batters before giving up a run in the third and two in the fourth.
The Gators scored twice in the eighth to take a one-run lead, but Jake Fincher's first home run of the season tied things up in the bottom of the inning.
North Carolina State scored runs in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th, but it wasn't enough.
Florida improved to 10-0 against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference, including consecutive sweeps of Georgia Tech and North Carolina State.
''This type of game, that kind of game and how things worked out, that's what I came back for,'' Florida senior Preston Tucker said. ''If I could pick a game that I wanted to go out with here at home, I think that's the one. Back and forth, it was extremely frustrating and exciting, just the battle the entire time. I definitely won't forget this game.''