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Florida returns to College World Series with 13-inning win

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Florida outlasted Clemson in a wild five-hour game Sunday to complete a two-game sweep of the Tigers in the NCAA super regionals and return to the College World Series.

Michael Robertson, the Gators’ No. 9 hitter, sliced a ball into the left-center gap to bring home two runs in the 13th inning and deliver an 11-10 walk-off win. The Gators have won nine straight super regionals under Kevin O’Sullivan since 2010 and will join North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia for the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska, starting Friday.

The other four CWS spots remained open Sunday night. Georgia forced a third and deciding game of its super regional against North Carolina State, bouncing back from a 17-run loss Saturday to beat the Wolfpack 11-2. Evansville played at No. 1 national seed Tennessee in a Game 3 and Oregon was at Texas A&M and Oregon State was at Kentucky in Game 2s.

Florida finally prevailed in its 5-hour, 3-minute game after the Tigers’ Cam Cannarella kept it going with a tying homer in the ninth and the defensive play of the tournament in the 10th. Alden Mathes hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the 13th.

The Gators led 9-6 with one out in the ninth when Cannarella came to bat with two runners on. Cannarella launched Brandon Neely’s first pitch out to right to tie it.

The next inning, Cannarella made an inning-ending over-the-shoulder basket catch on Ashton Wilson’s deep fly to center. Cannarella, who was playing shallow, turned and gave chase and the ball deflected off the heel of his glove into his chest as he left his feet to hit the wall. He was able to hang on to the ball and delay Florida’s celebration.

The Gators, the national runners-up last year, had to win their last regular-season series at Georgia to achieve a winning record and qualify as an at-large selection for the tournament. As a No. 3 regional seed, they went to Stillwater, Oklahoma, and beat host Oklahoma State twice to advance. Their sweep at Clemson came in the programs’ first meeting since 1983.

No. 7 Georgia got homers from Slate Alford, Tre Phelps and Paul Toetz to get out to a 10-0 lead against NC State. Held to four hits Saturday, the Bulldogs had 15 Sunday. Their starter, Leighton Finley, pitched a season-high 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run and striking out five.

“For us, the bounce-back was huge, and we just stayed focused on playing the game,” Georgia coach Wes Johnson said. “Obviously, scoring those two right there in the first got us off to a great start. Leighton threw the ball extremely well. It really put our bullpen at ease a little bit because you never know what you’ll have to do in a game like this.”


Clemson first baseman Jack Crighton, coach Erik Bakich and volunteer coach Jack Leggett were ejected in connection with two separate incidents.

There was an 18-minute delay in the second inning when benches cleared after Gators pitcher Jac Caglianone fielded a grounder and collided with Nolan Nawrocki on the first-base line as he applied the tag.

Crighton, who had doubled before Nawrocki came to bat, was ejected for leaving second base to join teammates at the site of the confrontation, according to NCAA secretary-rules editor Randy Bruns. Bakich, during an in-game television interview, expressed confusion because the play ended the inning and Crighton was on his way back to the dugout. The teams’ confrontation occurred in front of Clemson’s dugout.

Bakich and Leggett, who led Clemson to six CWS as head coach from 1994-2015, were thrown out in the 13th for their conduct after Mathes’ home run. Mathes threw down his bat, as if to spike it, before beginning his trot around the bases but was not ejected for excessive celebration. It was not immediately clear why Bakich and Leggett were tossed.

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