Gators walk off Tigers in wild 13th for Florida to advance to CWS in umpire-dominated game
Crighton pleads his case after ejection (Photo by Susan Lloyd).

Gators walk off Tigers in wild 13th for Florida to advance to CWS in umpire-dominated game

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Omaha will have to wait yet another year.

Florida’s bats stayed hot, and Clemson’s pitching staff ran into more trouble as Florida defeated Clemson 11-10 in 13 innings on Sunday in the Super Regional to move onto Omaha. Clemson hasn’t been to the College World Series since 2010, and an appearance will have to wait at least another year.

Clemson finishes the season 44-16. Florida improves to 34-28 as their postseason surge continues.

Clemson pulled ahead 10-9 in the 13th, but Florida loaded the bases and a two-run double sent the Gators to Omaha.

This game had it all – extra inning drama. Ninth inning drama. Ejections. The Catch by Cam Cannarella. And another heartbreaking loss for the Tigers.

The Gators didn’t take long to make a statement. Cade Kurland was hit by the first pitch of the game by Aidan Knaak, and Jac Caglianone hit the second pitch he saw well over the batter’s eye in center for a 2-0 lead.

Things took an emotional turn in the second. Jack Crighton doubled to left-center with two out, and Nolan Nawrocki came to the plate. Nawrocki’s excuse me swing rolled up the first base line and Caglianone fielded the ball in the base line and collided with Nawrocki. Caglianone shoved Nawrocki and players came off of both benches.

Order was restored, and after a lengthy review, the umpires tossed Crighton, who ran over from third to help his teammate. The stadium exploded in anger and boo birds rained down on the umpires and anyone wearing Florida colors.

The Tigers came to bat in the third and scored against Caglianone. Jarren Purify led off with a walk and scored on Jacob Hinderleider’s double to left-center. Head coach Erik Bakich called timeout, leaving Caglianone to stew in the sun, and Blake Wright smoked the first pitch he saw over the wall in center for a 3-2 Clemson lead, his 22nd of the season.

The Gators tied it in the bottom of the third on two singles and a wild pitch and then chased Knaak in the fifth. Knaak didn’t have his best stuff and two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases. Colby Shelton poked a two-run single into right-center for a 5-3 lead. Knaak was replaced by Reed Garris, who got out of further trouble.

Knaak pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up five earned runs. He walked three and struck out five.

Jimmy Obertop brought the Tigers closer in the sixth with a long homer to left, his 22nd of the season, to make it 5-4. The Gators answered in the bottom of the frame with a two-run homer by Brody Donay to make it 7-4.

Austin Gordon came in to pitch and shut the Gators down over the next two innings and the Tigers drew a little closer in the 8th. Wright led off with a single and moved to second on a throwing error by the third baseman. Cam Cannarella singled over shortstop – his first hit of the series – to score Wright to make it 7-5. Obertop walked, and the Gators went back to the bullpen, bringing in Brandon Neely, who threw 59 pitches Saturday.

Neely struck out Bissetta, but Tryston McCladdie singled through the right side to score Cannarella to make it 7-6. McCladdie replaced Crighton at first after the ejection, and his contribution was made even more special considering he hadn’t had an at-bat since April 16th.

However, Neely got fly outs from Nawrocki and Purify to end the threat.

Gordon got two quick outs in the eighth, but the Tigers elected to not pitch to Caglianone with Gordon well over 50 pitches. Ashton Wilson made the Tigers pay with a two-run homer to make it 9-6.

The Tigers didn’t go away, and why would they after a season that saw 25 comeback wins?

Hinderleider singled with one out, and Wright poked a single into center to bring the tying run to the plate in Cannarella. Cannarella stepped in the box, eyed Neely and deposited the first pitch he saw over the wall in right to tie the score at 9-9.

Gordon ran into trouble in the bottom of the tenth. A two-out error put the winning run on first, and the Tigers didn’t even let Caglianone bring a bat to the plate. Wilson, who homered in his last at-bat after walking Caglianone, drove a ball to deep center. Cannarella broke back, looked up, and did his best Willie Mays impression with an over-the-shoulder catch at the wall to end the inning.

Gordon’s day was done after the tenth, and he went five full innings, giving up the two runs while walking three and striking out 10.

Both teams started and stopped, sputtered, and had big moments, but neither team broke through until the 13th—the wild and wooly 13th.

Alden Mathes, 0-for-6 on the day, turned a two-out fastball around for a long homer to right, putting the Tigers ahead 10-9. Then all you know what erupted, and along the way, Bakich and Jack Leggett were ejected.

When the Tigers play next season, both Bakich and Leggett will be suspended for two games, and Crighton will have to miss one game.

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