For the second consecutive year Florida eliminated Miami in the postseason, this time in the Gainesville Super Regional, in a 4-3 victory in 10 innings at McKethan Stadium.
The Gators (47-15) capitalized on seven errors and took the lead on an RBI double to right by Austin Maddox off Hurricane closer Daniel Miranda (5-3).
The SEC Freshman of the Year drove in Nolan Fontana, who reached on a two-base error by right fielder Chris Pelaez.
It was Maddox’s 71st RBI of the season.
“I’ve been seeing the ball well all weekend and I felt like I had some good at-bats, but I just couldn’t get the ball to fall,” Maddox said. “But then I got a good pitch to hit and I put a good swing on it. I came up big time and I’ll remember that hit for the rest of my life.”
But it looked like Miami (43-20) might live to see another day when Nathan Melendres hit an opposite field three-run homer to right in the seventh off closer Kevin Chapman.
Setting up Melendres’ homer was Frankie Ratcliff’s infield single to second to lead off the inning.
After Lawson flied out to center and Yasmani Grandal popped out to short, Pelaez’s single to right was misplayed by Daniel Pigott and put runners at the corners with two outs.
“I just thought to stay relaxed, throw my hands and things happen,” Melendres said. “It definitely was a boost.”
Hurricanes starter Chris Hernandez, pitching on three days rest, went 8.1 remarkable innings, which included a three-pitch fourth, and allowed just three runs, one earned.
He pitched 12 scoreless innings to start the postseason over a span of three appearances.
Without getting a ball out of the outfield, the Gators put runners on the corners with no outs for a prime scoring opportunity in the fifth.
Matt den Dekker, who reached base four times, picked up the Gators’ first hit on a drag bunt to start the inning. Mike Zunino put down a bunt, but Hernandez’s throw to second for the lead runner went into center field.
Stephen Perez was called for interference at second when Melendres’ throw got den Dekker out at third.
Brian Johnson drove in his first of two runs on the night with a sacrifice fly to center to give Florida a 1-0 lead. He collected his second RBI in the seventh to make it 2-0.
Freshman righty Hudson Randall was just as good as Hernandez after giving up two runs on three hits over 6.2 innings. He faced the minimum through six innings thanks to two double plays.
“AP [Alex Panteliodis] had a great performance last night and I was coming in trying to give our team the same chance we had yesterday,” Randall said. “Attack the zone, be aggressive, throw low strikes and get ground ball outs.”
Lawson, the second batter of the game, was Miami’s only hit through six. A Hurricane base runner reached second just once over the first six innings.
With three outs remaining for the Gators, they tied the game at 3 on a hit, a walk and two errors thanks to the middle of the lineup.
Preston Tucker led off with a single, Maddox flew out to center and den Dekker reached on a walk.
Miranda took over for Hernandez with runners at first and second and got Zunino to ground to third on the ninth pitch of the at-bat, but Michael Broad committed his second error of the game, his third of the Super Regional.
Broad was starting for just the third time at third base with Harold Martinez, the Hurricanes’ cleanup hitter who leads the team with 21 home runs, missing the game with a leg injury that hospitalized him.
Miranda struck out Johnson with the bases loaded, but Perez muffed a ball at short to score the tying run.
“When you make seven errors you’re not going to win against a great club. Florida is an outstanding club,” Miami head coach Jim Morris said. “It’s frustrating all game to watch the defense. It’s something that the second half of the season was our strength.”
The Gators improved to 40-0 when leading after six innings. Miami scored just five runs during the Super Regional, on two homers – a two-run shot by Grandal on Friday and Melendres’ three-run long ball tonight.
Steven Rodriguez, the third reliever on the night for the Gators, improved to 2-0 after pitching one scoreless inning. Greg Larson collected his third save by recording the final two outs in the 10th.
Florida reaches Omaha for the first time since 2005 when it beat another rival, the Florida State Seminoles, in two games in Gainesville.
“The thing we’ve been able to do all year long is play good defense and pitch,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “When you don’t walk people and you don’t make errors you’ve got a chance to be in every game and that’s what happened tonight.”