GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Miami was sloppy. Florida was clutch. The outcome was a familiar one.
Nolan Fontana's bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Florida Gators a 5-4 victory over the rival Miami Hurricanes in the Gainesville Regional on Saturday.
Fontana lined Daniel Miranda's 1-1 pitch into left field, scoring Daniel Pigott from third and putting the Gators (47-16) in command in the double-elimination regional.
Miami (37-22) will play Jacksonville in an elimination game Sunday. The Hurricanes can only hope for better defense in that one.
The Canes committed four errors — all of them leading to runs for Florida. Miami committed nine errors in two games in Gainesville last year.
"You've got to play catch," Miami manager Jim Morris said. "We made too many errors. That's the bottom line for us. We were pretty equal hitting-wise and everything else, but we made errors that cost us the game."
The last blunder Saturday was the most costly. Pigott reached base when shortstop Stephen Perez booted a grounder. Pigott moved to second on a balk and to third on a walk, setting up Fontana's winner.
"It's exciting to say the least," Fontana said. "We'll enjoy it, but tomorrow's another day."
The Gators could get injured two-way stars Austin Maddox (foot) and Brian Johnson (concussion) back in the lineup Sunday, although manager Kevin O'Sullivan said Maddox is probably more likely to be medically cleared.
"It's hard for me to say right now," O'Sullivan said. "Johnson is still day-to-day. I don't know about that one. We're hopeful about Austin maybe a little bit more so, but we really don't know at this point."
This much is certain: Florida has owned the series against Miami in recent years. The Gators have won seven straight and 10 of 11 against their in-state rival.
Florida eliminated Miami from the NCAA tournament with a 4-3 victory in 10 innings last year. In that one, Fontana reached base on an error to start the ninth and came around for the winning run.
Miami endured equally painful miscues in this one.
Third baseman Brad Fieger dropped a routine pop-up in foul territory in the fourth, and Tyler Thompson made the most of his second chance. Thompson doubled to right two pitches later, scoring Mike Zunino.
The Hurricanes committed two errors on the same play the following inning. Fontana singled to left and Rony Rodriguez bobbled the scoop, allowing Vickash Ramjit to score from second. Rodriguez got the ball in, but Zeke DeVoss threw wildly to first, allowing Fontana to move to second.Comment on this story
The backbreaker, though, came in the ninth on Pigott's grounder.
"We're going to have to play perfect baseball to beat them and I definitely think we're capable of that," DeVoss said. "We didn't do it today, but we'll be back tomorrow. We'll take care of Jacksonville, go one game at a time and we'll be back."
Gators reliever Tommy Toledo (5-3) pitched the ninth for the win. Miami's Travis Miller (2-2) took the loss after replacing effective reliever Sam Robinson.
"It was a pressure game for us, no question, because it puts you in the driver's seat," Morris said. "It definitely puts Florida in the driver's seat and it puts our backs up against the wall. They've got to win one game. For us, we've got to win three games to be able to win, so it's a much better situation for them."