NCAA Baseball Tournament – Super Regionals – Florida 9, N.C. State 8 (10)

N.C. State baseball team ousted by Florida in thriller

CorrespondentJune 10, 2012 

— Florida withstands two rallies – and part of a third – from N.C. State

With its ace no longer on the mound after a two-hour, 20-minute weather delay, N.C. State kept fighting back against No. 1 national seed Florida.

But it wasn’t enough for the Wolfpack to keep its season from ending Sunday afternoon. Florida center fielder Daniel Pigott broke a tie at 7 with a solo home run in the top of the 10th inning, and the Gators held on to sweep the Super Regional series with an 9-8 victory over N.C. State.

The comeback Wolfpack tied the score twice in the bottom of the eighth and the bottom of the ninth inning to extend the game. But it couldn’t overcome two Florida runs in the top of the 10th.

“We’ve been doing that all year,” N.C. State center fielder Jake Fincher said. “That’s something as a team that we’re really known for. I think we battled hard throughout the entire game and one team is going to win. Unfortunately, it wasn’t us.”

Fincher’s first home run of the season off Florida closer Austin Maddox tied the score at 6 in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Florida went ahead 7-6 on a Mike Zunino sacrifice fly, N.C. State tied the score in the bottom of the ninth on an RBI single from catcher Danny Canela.

“We never give up,” Canela said. “We’ve done that all year. It hasn’t been the first time. We’re almost comfortable with that situation.”

Unfortunately for N.C. State, its magic ran out in the 10th inning. Pigott’s home run and an RBI single from Josh Tobias put Florida ahead 9-7 going into the bottom of the 10th. N.C. State cut Florida’s lead to 9-8 on a Trea Turner sacrifice fly. But with the tying run at second base, N.C. State All-American shortstop Chris Diaz struck out looking to end the game.

Diaz had to be restrained by three N.C. State coaches from going after home plate umpire Steve Corvi.

“He’s emotional,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “I’ve been emotional myself. This guy has given N.C. State University three years of unbelievable hard work and play and toughness. All that can show you is the emotion that is wrapped up in how bad our guys wanted to win.”

Avent said it was hard from his vantage point in the dugout to see whether the pitch was a strike.

“I trust Chris Diaz,” Avent said. “He’s an All-American for a reason. He has a good eye in that situation. He knows a 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.”

From the beginning, it was a day of tough breaks for N.C. State. Ace lefty Carlos Rodon started for the Wolfpack, but managed just three scoreless innings before lightning and rain in the area forced a lengthy rain delay. Rodon, a Golden Spikes Award finalist, wanted to come back and pitch following the two-plus hour delay.

“He begged,” Avent said. “He went and talked to the pitching coach (Tom Holiday). It never was going to happen.”

Avent said he was concerned about the condition of the field when the game resumed. N.C. State associate athletic director Sherard Clinkscales lobbied NCAA officials over the phone to get the game postponed.

“The field had a tremendous amount of water and people worked extremely hard to make it very playable,” Avent said. “They did an outstanding job but there’s sometimes, you know that old saying, ‘You can’t fight mother nature.’ And I don’t see why we were trying to fight it.”

With Rodon out of the game, Florida scored four runs in 1/3 of an inning off N.C. State reliever Anthony Tzamtzis to take a 4-1 lead. But the Wolfpack battled back to take the lead. Brett Austin’s two-RBI double cut Florida’s lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth. Diaz then belted his second home run of the season in the fifth inning to tie the score at 4.

N.C. State took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single from Canela. But the lead was short-lived. Florida designated hitter Brian Johnson followed with a solo homer in the top of the eighth to tie the score at 5. Later in the inning, Justin Shafer had an RBI single to give the Gators a 6-5 lead.

N.C. State finished its season 43-20, two wins short of a College World Series berth. But Canela said players stuck together through adversity throughout the season.

“Sometimes you have strings pulling you apart and for the most part we didn’t have that as a team, and that was really nice to see,” Canela said. “We were all together.”

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