OMAHA, NE - JUNE 27: Flags of the UCLA Bruins and the South Carolina Gamecocks wave outside of Rosenblatt Stadium before the men's 2010 NCAA College World Series on June 27, 2010 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

NCAA Baseball Super Regionals 2011, Florida Vs. Mississippi St: Gators Advance To College World Series

In a stirring all-SEC affair in Gainesville this weekend, No. 2 Florida survived Mississippi State to earn a spot in the College World Series.

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NCAA Baseball Super Regionals 2011, Florida Vs. Mississippi State, Game 3: Nick Vickerson Walk-Off Forces Game 3

Florida and Mississippi State's NCAA Super Regional matchup in Gainesville looked like a mismatch after the Gators' 11-1 win on Friday. And Florida did eventually prevail, winning 8-6 in Sunday's Game Three, but not until after one a stirring, topsy-turvy series.

Florida pounced early in Game Three, building a 4-0 lead in the first two innings on home runs by Mike Zunino, Daniel Pigott, and Vickash Ramjit, but let some of that lead erode when starter Alex Panteliodis gave up a three-run homer to the Bulldogs' Game 2 hero, Nick Vickerson, in the fourth inning.

Florida then lost its lead in the sixth inning: Nick Maronde was lifted after putting two men on, and Tommy Toledo let three runs score on singles by Vickerson and Brent Brownlee, putting the Gators in a 6-4 hole.

But the feisty Gators weren't done: Florida took the lead for good in the seventh inning, after Preston Tucker's three-run homer made up for Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan inexplicably having Zunino bunt, and added to that lead in the eighth inning on Pigott's second homer of the day.

Toledo worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to seal Florida's victory.

For Florida, it's a second consecutive trip to the College World Series, the first time the Gators have headed to Omaha in back-to-back years in school history.

For more on the 2011 NCAA Super Regionals, visit our NCAA Super Regionals hub.


NCAA Baseball Super Regionals 2011, Florida Vs. Mississippi St., Game 2: Nick Vickerson Walk-Off Forces Game 3

From the third inning until the last pitch of the game, the Florida Gators lead Game 2 of their Super Regional against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. At no point in the first 17 innings of this series did they trail. Then, with the first pitch he was thrown by relief pitcher Steven Rodriguez, Nick Vickerson hit a two-run walk-off home run to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 win over the Gators, allowing them to live to fight another day.

Florida's offense has been the best in the tournament so far, but they were contained today by Nick Routt and Caleb Reed, who both had solid outings. Reed came in as a reliever in the 4th inning and pitched through the rest of the game, allowing just one earned run against a potent Gators offense.

Karsten Whitson pitched well for Florida and appeared to be in control of the game for Florida, but the Bulldogs finally broke through in the 7th inning and scored twice, tying the score up at 2-2 after the Gators put up two runs in the third inning. Florida would get that lead back in the bottom of the inning, though, when Tyler Thompson hit a triple over the head of C.T. Bradford, who was playing way too shallow in center field, scoring Mike Zunino.

The Bulldogs would finally take the lead in the bottom of the 9th on Vickerson's walk off, though, and as a result the two teams have to play again tomorrow for a trip to the College World Series.


NCAA Baseball Super Regionals 2011, Florida Vs. Mississippi St., Game 2: Gators Lead Through Three Innings

The Florida Gators are in position to advance to Omaha for the College World Series early on in Game 2 of their NCAA Baseball Tournament Super Regional against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, but Nick Routt isn't making it easy on them. It hasn't been the typical Florida offensive shellacking so far, but they've done well to manufacture a run, and they lead by a score of 1-0 after three innings. 

In the top of the 3rd inning, Cody Dent singled, then was moved over to third base on a double by leadoff hitter Bryson Smith. It should have never been a double, though, as Jaron Shepherd mis-timed his jump at the warning track and missed the ball on what should have been a flyout that allowed Dent to advance to second. Instead, Dent got to third and was scored on a sacrifice fly Nolan Fontana. It looked like Mike Zunino was going to drive in Smith from second, but his line drive was impressively snagged by shortstop Jonathan Ogden. Preston Tucker couldn't advance Smith either, and the inning ended with Florida scoring just one run when it looked like they had the potential for much more.


NCAA Baseball Super Regionals 2011, Florida Vs. Mississippi St., Game 1: Final Score, Gators Win 11-1

The Florida Gators have done everything that was expected of them and more this afternoon in Gainesville in the first game of their Super Regional series, and they're halfway to the College World Series after an 11-1 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs. 

Hudson Randall put together a fantastic start, going eight strong innings, giving up just one earned. He threw 115 pitches - 81 of them strikes - to go along with a line of six hits, two walks, and a season high eight strikeouts. Keenan Kish closed out the game in the ninth inning as Florida got to save their talented bullpen.

It was a rough day for Mississippi State starting pitcher Evan Mitchell, who was pulled when the first pitch of the third inning went for a Mike Zunino home run. That solo home run was the seventh run that the Freshman gave up as the Gators bats tore Mississippi State apart in the early going. The Gators' catcher and SEC Player of the Year was fantastic, going 2-4 with a walk and three RBI.

Florida will be big favorites tomorrow to become the first team to advance to Omaha, as Gators freshman pitcher Karsten Whitson will be a big favorite pitching against Bulldogs starter Nick Routt.


NCAA Baseball Super Regionals 2011, Florida Vs. Mississippi St., Game 1: Evan Mitchell Pulled

Today was not Evan Mitchell's day. The Mississippi State Bulldogs' starting pitcher finished just two innings, giving up a solo home run to Mike Zunino on the very first pitch of the bottom of the third inning. He was pulled for reliever Devin Jones, who should be able to give the Bulldogs multiple innings.

Mitchell gave up four runs in the fourth inning, two in the second, and then finally one in the third inning. Zunino is having a field day so far, as he's 2-2 with a home run and three RBI. The Gators lead by a score of 7-0 in the bottom of the third inning, and based on what they did in their first three games of the NCAA Baseball Tournament, the offense that they're putting up shouldn't surprise anyone.

Florida starter Hudson Randall has good stuff this afternoon, as he's gotten through three scoreless innings with five strikeouts and no walks, but he hasn't looked unhittable. If the Bulldogs can somehow manage to slow down the Gators' offense - which seems unlikely - it wouldn't be terribly shocking to see them generate some runs. However, Florida's bullpen is strong, so seven runs might be a bit out of reach. 


NCAA Baseball Super Regionals 2011: Florida Vs. Mississippi St. Score Update, Gators Up Quickly

It's been an eventful start in Gainesville for the first NCAA Baseball Tournament Super Regional, and the Mississippi State Bulldogs are already in a hole after the first inning. Florida Gators starting pitcher Hudson Randall got through four batters in 13 pitches in the first inning, but things didn't go quite as well for Evan Mitchell, who struggled through a four run Florida inning. Against his first three batters faced, he threw just two strikes and walked two of the three batters.

With the bases loaded and no outs, SEC Player of the Year Mike Zunino singled right center field, driving in two runs. Two batters later, Tyler Thompson added two RBI of his own with a double to the same spot that caught C.T. Bradford playing shallow in center field. Mitchell eventually got out of the inning when Thompson was caught trying to steal third base and Daniel Pigott grounded out shortly afterwards, but the damage was done. After just one inning, the Florida Gators lead the Mississippi Bulldogs by a score of 4-0. 


NCAA Baseball Super Regionals 2011: Florida Vs. Mississippi St. Preview

It's an all-SEC affair in the Gainesville Super Regional this weekend as Florida and Mississippi State do battle in the NCAA Baseball championship with a spot in the College World Series on the line. And despite all of the talk about the conference's depth, there is a distinct divide in the SEC.

There is the SEC West, where .500 was good enough for Arkansas to win the division, and then there is the SEC East, where three teams were good enough to earn national seeds (the Gators are the No. 2 overall seed).

The three SEC East teams that earned national seeds finished in a three-way tie for the conference regular season title. In the conference tournament, it was all Gators as they grabbed the conference crowd and with it, the number two national seed. Not that such success is a surprise. Florida made it to the College World Series a year ago and were in every preseason top three, even No.1 in a couple rankings. The Gators were supposed to be one of the top teams in the country and to this point they have lived up to every bit of the hype.

The Gators are a team stacked with talent and this season, experience. Last season they were good, but they were young. Two of the starters in their weekend rotation were freshmen and several of their top hitters were also rookies. While they may have dominated their Regional and Super Regional to get to the College World Series, they were roasted in Omaha. Their inexperienced finally bit them.

Now inexperience isn't an issue. They have experience. They've won in conference, they've won in Regionals, they've won in Super Regionals and they've been to Omaha. All that talent they had a year ago is still there, too, and it's awfully good talent.

No team in the country can match the Gators on the mound. Two of their starters have ERA's under 2.50 and their top two relievers are at 2.25 ERA's or better. Florida is so good that their ace from a year ago is now out of the weekend rotation. When Brian Johnson suffered a concussion at the SEC Tournament and missed last weekend's Regional it didn't matter because the Gators could just slide another pitcher out there.

Having an explosive offense to back a top-notch pitching staff doesn't hurt either. Mike Zunino hits .371 with 16 homers and Preston Tucker went yard 13 times, one of six Gators to hit over .300. Florida averaged more than 10 runs a game this season, just an unfair offense to have in support of the nation's best pitching staff.

That is what Mississippi St. will have to contend with this season. They've already lost three of four to the Gators this season and don't have the best of starting rotations. They also don't have the most powerful of offense so it is no surprise that they finished below .500 in SEC play. The Bulldogs did sweep through their Regional though, including wins over highly touted Georgia Tech and Southern Miss so they didn't get a free pass to the Super Regionals. As one of the weaker teams to make the Super Regionals though and having to go up against arguably the best team in the country, things don't look good for Mississippi St.

Probable Starters

Friday, 12 pm ET (ESPN2): Hudson Randall (9-3, 2.38 ERA) vs. Evan Mitchell (6-1, 3.47 ERA) - A freshman All-American a year ago, a lot was asked of Randall this season and he delivered. His one bad start did come against the Bulldogs though, when he was touched for six runs before being pulled in the third inning. Mitchell did prove he could get outs against the Gators earlier this season, but being a freshman in the postseason is another animal.

Saturday, 12 pm ET (ESPN): Karsten Whitson (8-0, 2.42 ERA) vs. Nick Routt (3-3, 3.78 ERA)- As far as freshman go, Whitson was about as hyped up as one could be. A first-round pick who passed on the pros for college, Whitson has eye-popping stuff. The same can't be said for Routt, but he's done a good job of keeping the Bulldogs in games and against the Gators that would be more than enough from the southpaw.

Sunday, 1 pm ET (ESPN): TBA vs. Luis Pollorena (7-5, 3.97)- If all is well, Brian Johnson will start for the Gators on Sunday, but he's recovering from a concussion so he might not be able to go. If not, Alex Panteliodis will get the nod and as the Gators' ace a year ago, he'll be more than ready to take the ball. Pollorena doesn't look the part of pitcher at just 5'6'' and without the great pure stuff will probably struggle against Florida.

What To Watch For

The Gators have one of the best bullpens around, but a key cog down there is Austin Maddox, who is out with an ankle injury. It shouldn't be too much of an issue for Florida because they have so many other guys, but finding a chink in the armor for the Bulldogs to exploit takes some digging.

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