Daniel Pigott lifts Florida past FSU

March, 16, 2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It sure didn't seem like a mid-week college baseball game in the middle of March.

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Daniel Piggott
Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMIDaniel Piggott brought the Gators back from the brink against rival Florida State.

Florida State used nine pitchers, as Seminoles coach Mike Martin tried to mix and match left-handed arms against Florida's right-handed hitters and vice versa.

There were brush-back pitches, a stare-down between FSU designated hitter Stuart Tapley and Gators pitcher Nick Maronde and a bang-bang play at the plate.

"It's a rivalry," Florida pitcher Greg Larson said. "It kind of brings out the best of both teams. It was a really intense game."

There aren't many college baseball teams better than the No. 1 Gators and No. 4 Seminoles, and they needed 10 innings to decide Florida's 5-4 victory on Tuesday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,930 fans, the largest ever at McKethan Stadium.

Florida ended a four-game losing streak to the Seminoles, who knocked the Gators out of last year's College World Series.

"Personally, I'm worn out," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "I don't remember being involved in a game quite like that. There were 15 pitching changes and they used their bench and we used ours."

Gators left fielder Daniel Pigott was the hero, as he delivered a two-run single in the eighth to tie the score at 4-4, and then singled in the 10th to drive in shortstop Nolan Fontana for the winning run.

Pigott hit the winning single off FSU's Mike McGee, one of the country's best closers.

"He threw me a bunch of sliders and fastballs, in no particular order," Pigott said. "I knew he was going to give me a hard time up there."

Pigott, a junior from Ormond Beach, Fla., went 3-for-4 with a career-high four RBIs. He leads the Gators with a .482 average.

"He's our hottest hitter and he came through again," O'Sullivan said. "He covers both sides of the plate and handles lefties and righties."

FSU took a 4-0 lead in the third inning on two-run homers by right fielder James Ramsey and shortstop Justin Gonzalez.

But FSU's bullpen couldn't hold the lead, even as Martin tried to use every available arm.

"It seemed like every move coach Martin made worked," O'Sullivan said. "They battled."

Florida (15-2) now heads into SEC play with a three-game series at No. 7 LSU this weekend.

It won't get any easier for the Seminoles either. FSU plays a three-game series at No. 5 Virginia this weekend.

"This is the real season," O'Sullivan said. "The second part of the season starts and everybody is 0-0. This is going to be great challenge for us."

It's hard to imagine the challenge being any more difficult that the one the Gators faced on Tuesday night.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com.

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