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Defending champion Florida the last to make the Elite Eigh

Gators win deciding game to join the field of Oregon State, North Carolina, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Washington, Texas Tech and Texas on the main stage

By Arnie Leshin 
Arnie Leshin

Hold the presses. A half hour before the midnight hour in Gainesville, Fl., Austin Langworthy’s solo home run that just made it over the right-field fence, brought defending national champions Florida a 3-2 win in the bottom of the 11th inning Monday night.

The Gators and underdog Auburn put on quite a show before a capacity crowd estimated at 5,500, as well as those who had to settle for standing room only.

The pitching and fielding was outstanding, both made mistakes, but it was a stellar SEC match-up as Florida (47-19) became the eighth and final school for the double-elimination NCAA World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., before a capacity crowd that was estimated at 5,500.

In earlier action, the bubble burst for surprising Tennessee Tech Monday as Texas won the deciding game in Austin to gain its record 36thappearance in the championship tournament.

That’s the most times any school has gotten this far, but the host Longhorns didn’t have it easy in turning back the Golden Eagles twice in the Super Regional best-of-3.

In the deciding contest, 13th ranked Texas scored twice in the second and but came up short in the 5-2 loss.

Now 42-21, the Longhorns had lost game one, then bounced back to take game two against a program in the 64-school field for the first time.

In fact, the Golden Eagles had a super season, winning 53 times for the most by any school, and losing only 13 times. They had come from the Regional they hosted in Conway where they swept the other three teams.

They withstood the pressure in getting this far. As has been the case in the eight Super Regional, the stands were packed and it was standing room only when the first pitch was thrown. The visitors had their traveling supporters, but the rowdy Texas faithful was seated in about every section.

Four different pitchers combined handled the challenges from Tennessee Tech. Too many base on balls had it threatening almost every frame, but it couldn’t get the key hits that would close the gap. The Golden Eagles were down 4-0 after three innings, but scored once each in the top of the fourth and sixth frames. The Longhorns picked up the insurance run in the last of the sixth.

As has been the case all season, junior secondbasemen Kody Clemens, son of Texas graduate and Major League stellar pitcher Roger Clemens,and the Gators best player, had a home run in all three Super Regional games to bring him 24 for the campaign.

Batting from the left side, Cody, his team’s most feared hitter, was pitched around and intentionally walked. He batted .423 during the regular season, and for these three games, his dad watched from right behind the screen, close by the Longhorn dugout.

In the college draft, Clemens was picked in the fourth round, the 79th pick; by the Detroit Tigers.

This was the opener of the record six Super Regional deciding games, four on Monday.

Next came Duke versus 9th ranked Texas Tech in Lubbock, and the Blue Devils also have a player whose father played 15 years in the majors as an outfielder. That is Jeff Conine, and his son Griffin, is a senior right-fielder for Duke, and his mom and dad were seated behind the Blue Devils’ dugout.

Griffin clouted 18 runs and batted .3i67 during the season.

In the college draft, Connine was picked in the second round as the 52nd overall selection.  

But it was a good day for Tech (54-11). After winning game one, 6-4, back came Duke to prevail 9-2, and in the win-or-go-home contest, it was the home team on top, 5-2, to join the World Series field. As for the unranked

Blue Devils, four times they came from behind to survive after losing their first Regional game.

It was a parley for the Longhorn State as Texas Tech joined Texas to play in Omaha. Also in are3rd ranked Oregon State (48-10), 10th ranked North Carolina (44-18) unranked Mississippi State (36-26) unranked Washington (34-25), and 5th ranked Arkansas (44-19) the ninth school to celebrate.

Also, the two remaining games on the busy Monday night, unranked South Carolina (37-25) played in Fayetteville versus 5th ranked host Arkansas (43-19), and the final game featuredunranked Auburn (43-22) against top-ranked Florida (46-19) in Gainesville.

As for Arkansas, the Hogs also had a SRO turnout and answered the challenge of the Gamecocks after dropping game two on Sunday. But the first and the last went to the home side, 14-3, and their next stop is their date in Omaha.

Last but certainly a key match-up between SEC teams Auburn (43-22) and top-ranked Florida (46-15) in Gainesville. The Gators had no problem taking game one, but back came the Tigers to stun the Florida fans with a game-winning solo home run in the bottom of the ninth.

And in the bottom of the 11th, the Langworthy clout ended a intense, tight game and Auburn’s stellar effort came out second best.

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