Ridaught: Gators, Sooners in winner-take-all

This past weekend had it all in college baseball.

There were top 10 plays, late rallies, plenty of offense, and well, just some things you don’t usually see.

North Carolina eliminated Georgia, 6-5, thanks to this catch in center field by Vance Honeycutt, who robbed the ‘Dogs of a game-tying home run in the ninth inning.

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The Tar Heels, the top seed in the Chapel Hill regional, will play No. 3 seed VCU tonight at 6 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Super Regionals.

East Carolina’s Bryson Worrell hit a home run from both sides of the plate — in the same inning!

LSU rallied twice this weekend to advance today’s Winner-take-all against top seed Southern Miss in the Hattiesburg Regional (4 p.m.).

Down 11-4 to Kennesaw State heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, the No. 2 seed Tigers came all the way back and then some, scoring 10 runs in the frame to take a 14-11 lead in its NCAA regional opening win.

Then, down 6-2 in the ninth against host Southern Miss, the Tigers scored four runs in the ninth and won it in the 10th, 7-6.

LSU became just the second team in NCAA Regional history to go 2-0 after trailing in the seventh inning of both games.

Last night, TCU and Texas A&M had a see-saw battle in an elimination game for the Frogs, who blew a 3-0 lead, only to rally from a 7-3 deficit to tie the game in a seventh inning that took an hour to complete.

A&M scored five in the top of the seventh, but TCU scored four in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 7-7.

The Aggies scored on in the eighth for an 8-7 lead, but the Frogs scored two in the bottom of the eighth for a 9-8 lead.

Texas A&M exploded late to win 15-9 and advance to the Super Regionals.

And speaking of exploding, if you like offense there were plenty of runs scored across the country.

Virginia Tech, which will play the winner of the Florida-Oklahoma game in the Super Regionals, defeated Columbia, 24-4, Maryland crushed Long Island, 23-2, Georgia eased past Hofstra, 24-1, plus Oklahoma State scored 29 runs in eliminating Missouri State, 29-15.

Those are just some of the high-scoring games in regional play, where top-ranked Tennessee, Notre Dame, No. 9 Texas, No. 5 A&M, and No. 4 Virginia Tech have advanced.

A total of 11 regional champions will be crowned today.

In Gainesville, the Gators took care of business on Sunday by winning twice.

Facing elimination for a second time last night against Oklahoma, Florida called on a freshman left-hander to save the day.

Carsten Finnvold, who had only thrown nine innings all season, came in relief of starter Timmy Manning in the bottom of the first inning with no outs and the bases loaded. He retired all three batters he faced in the inning, en route to retiring 16 Sooners in a row. 

He finished the game by throwing nine innings in relief and allowing just two runs on five hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

Finnvold is now known for turning in one of the most memorable postseason pitching performances in Gators history.

“Any adjective I use to describe his outing is not going to do it justice,” said Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. He had to come in in the first, bases loaded, nobody out. Had to rush him down to the pen and he gets out of it. I was just hoping to limit the damage, and the next thing you know, he goes nine.”

Sullivan said it was tough leaving him off the 27-man roster during the regular season, but he noted that these types of stories happen to those who work hard.

“Jonathan Crawford was left off the roster when we went to a World Series,” O’Sullivan said. “The following year, he’s throwing a no hitter in the regional. He’s the number one pitcher on the USA team. And two years later, he ended up being a first round pick and he wasn’t traveling.”

The Gators (42-23) advanced to face the Sooners after holding off Central Michigan, 6-5, on Sunday afternoon. The Chippewas (43-19) scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game 5-5, but Florida scored a run in the ninth to win it 6-5.

Trenton’s Wyatt Lanford hit two home runs against Central Michigan, moving him into sole possession of second on Florida’s single-season home run list with 25, while Trinity Catholic’s (Ocala) Jud Fabian hit a pair against Oklahoma, moving him into sole possession of third at 24 on Florida’s single-season home run list.

Langford, who now has five two-homer games on the season, trails only Matt Laporta, who holds the all-time record with 26 homers in 2005.

As a team, the Gators have 120 home runs this season which ranks second all-time in program history (132 in 1998).

Florida, which lost to Oklahoma on Saturday night, will take on Oklahoma in the rubber match this afternoon at 1 p.m. with a spot in the Super Regionals at stake.

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