Gators finish the job against Vanderbilt
Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 9:09 pm
By: By ERIC OLSON, AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Night or day, it didn’t matter to Florida’s Steven Rodriguez.
The pitcher did not give up a hit in 41⁄3 innings of relief over two days, and Florida finished off a 3-1 victory over Vanderbilt on Tuesday in the completion of a College World Series game suspended because of inclement weather.
The sophomore left-hander retired three batters Monday night before high winds and heavy rain disrupted the game in the bottom of the sixth. He struck out six of the 11 batters he faced Tuesday. He finished with seven strikeouts and a walk.
“Yesterday, when the sirens went off, I was kind of upset because I was dealing and I felt really good. I thought, ‘God, I don’t need this to happen right now,’ “ Rodriguez said. “It was super perfect today and things came out in my favor.”
Florida (52-17) beat its Southeastern Conference rival for the fourth time in five meetings this season and is now in control of Bracket 2.
The Gators need a win over Vanderbilt (53-11) or North Carolina on Friday to advance to the best-of-three finals.
The Commodores and Tar Heels play today.
“We’ve got a long way to go in this thing,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We’ll probably face a No. 1 pitcher for whoever we see Friday. This thing is a long way from over.”
Preston Tucker’s three-run homer off Vanderbilt starter Grayson Garvin (13-2) gave the Gators a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said the difference was “one swing” — Tucker’s.
“That is the way the game’s played, particularly when you’ve got two very even teams,” Corbin said. “And I know that they’ve had their way in terms of the outcome, but that doesn’t change my opinion in terms of the evenness between Florida and Vanderbilt.”
Anthony Gomez’s RBI single in the fifth scored the Commodores’ only run. Rodriguez took over for starter Kartsten Whitson after Gomez’s hit.
Whitson and Rodriguez combined on a four-hitter and 12 strikeouts.
“When you get 12 strikeouts against a Vanderbilt team, in my opinion, that’s an anomaly,” Corbin said. “That is a kid that’s executing his pitches. When kids like Aaron (Westlake) and Esposito and Gomez don’t get off good swings, there is a reason for that.
It’s like shooting poorly in basketball. If you can’t get off a good shot because you have a hand in your face, then you’re not going to be as successful.”
Rodriguez faced four batters Monday before umpires waved players off the field as dark clouds moved in from the south and winds began picking up.
Tornado sirens were heard as Mike Yastrzemski flew out to left field. No tornado warning was issued for the Omaha area, however. Local officials ordered the sirens turned on because of the high winds.
Many fans left the stadium or sought shelter in the nearby Qwest Center, and others stood in the concourse or sat in seats covered by the second-deck overhang. The game was suspended after a 21⁄2-hour delay.
“I was hopping around in the locker room trying to stay warm and hoping we could get back out there,” Rodriguez said. “It didn’t happen.”
Because Rodriguez threw just 11 pitches Monday, O’Sullivan said he didn’t have to think twice about sending him back out Tuesday. The coach said he might have made a different decision if Rodriguez had thrown more than 30 pitches.
“He’s well-rested, he’s strong and he’s durable,” O’Sullivan said. “There was no question we were going to run him back out there with the way his pitch count was.”
Rodriguez worked the outside corner and mixed in a fastball in the low 90s to shut down a Vanderbilt club that came into the CWS as the field’s top-hitting team and No. 5 nationally with a .319 average.
It took only 44 minutes to play the last 31⁄3 innings.