Tuesday, June 4, 1996
Florida's Chuck Hazzard took out some frustration Tuesday night to help the Gators knock Florida State out of the College World Series.
The Florida designated hitter blasted a pair of home runs to back the strong pitching of sophomore Tommy Bond in a 6-3 victory in a Bracket Two elimination at Rosenblatt Stadium. The victory, before a session-record crowd of 21,858, extended Florida's stay in Omaha for at least two more days.
"We knew were were going to have to have somebody step up today," Hazzard said, "or we'd be back on the bus, heading back to the hotel to pack up our things."
Hazzard carried the offensive load by slugging his 17th and 18th homers of the season. The first was a solo shot that helped the Gators take a 2-0 first-inning lead. He then chased Seminoles' starter Chuck Howell with a two-run blast in the third.
"Coming to Omaha, I had heard so much about how the ball just flies out of this park," Hazzard said. "Then when we get here and the wind is blowing in. I had three hits, but I wasn't feeling real good about things. I was a bit frustrated.
"When I came to the park today, there's no wind. I watched some of that Clemson-Alabama game, and the ball was just flying out of here. I decided I was going to go up there tonight and just get some good hacks."
Hazzard's hacking helped stake Bond to a 4-0 lead. The sophomore right-hander made it stand up through 7 2/3 innings, then got late help from relief ace Paul Rigdon to send the seventh-seeded Seminoles back to Tallahassee with a 52-17 record.
Second-seeded Florida improved to 50-17 and set up a Thursday afternoon game against Louisiana State, unbeaten in Bracket Two play in the double-elimination portion of the tournament.
In order to reach Saturday's championship game, the Gators will have to come up with a pair of wins over LSU. The Tigers, who defeated Florida 9-4 Monday, need just one win to earn a chance to play for their third championship of the 1990s.
"LSU is just on fire offensively," Florida State Coach Mike Martin said. "When you have a loss, like Florida does, there is a lot more pressure on you because everything is magnified.
"Florida is going to need to get a great outing out of Kaufman, and then you just never know."
Florida's John Kaufman beat Florida State in the Gators' CWS opener on Saturday. Facing elimination Tuesday, Florida Coach Andy Lopez considered bringing the junior left-hander back on two days' rest.
Kaufman did that at the East Regional tournament, throwing 264 pitches in posting a pair of complete-game victories.
"Granted, we had done that in the regional, but he felt great, it was nice, it was warm and he had a lot of adrenaline," Lopez said. "We just felt it would be better for John to go on three or four days' rest against LSU on Thursday.
"And Tommy Bond deserved a chance to pitch in Omaha. He's pitched well for us the past six or seven weeks, and we decided the matchup would be better with John going on Thursday instead of trying to come back on two days' rest."
Bond, who had lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his last start at the regional, pitched out immediate trouble in the first inning. Brooks Badeaux and Adam Faurot opened the game with singles but Bond came back to get J.D. Drew to ground into a double play. He ended the inning by striking out clean-up hitter Jeremy Morris.
Florida scored twice in its half of the first. David Eckstein led off the inning with a walk, stole second and went to third on catcher Jeremy Salazar's throwing error. Eckstein then raced home when Howell threw wildly on a pickoff attempt.
Two batters later, Hazzard launched a drive into the bleachers in right-center field. He added another opposite-field blast in the third after Howell had walked Brad Wilkerson with one out.
Up 4-0, Bond took control of the game. He gave up a run in the fourth when Morris doubled and moved to third on a balk. Morris scored on Scott Zech's sacrifice bunt, which started a string of 12 straight outs that carried Bond through the seventh.
Steve Nedeau ended the string by leading off the eighth with a walk. Bond struck out the next two hitters before giving up a record-setting homer to Drew that pulled the Seminoles within 5-3. Drew became the CWS' all-time home run leader with five, four of which came a year ago.
Rigdon replaced Bond and walked Morris. The right-hander came back to strike out Scooby Morgan to end the eighth, then struck out two more Seminoles in the ninth to finish off his 10th save. Bond improved to 4-0.
"I didn't want to let them get anything started," Rigdon said. "I saw what they did last night."