Florida, South Carolina to face off in College World Series finals

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South Carolina knocked off No. 1 seed Virginia in a 13-inning game Friday to advance to the finals of the College World Series.  The Gamecocks will play Floida in a best-of-three final beginning Monday.

Virginia sent ace Danny Hultzen to the mound in an attempt to stave off elimination last night, but Hultzen, who was selected second overall by the Mariners in this month’s draft, was ill and had to come out after three scoreless innings and eight strikeouts.

With Hultzen gone, the Gamecocks took a 2-1 lead in the fourth, and starter Michael Roth was able to protect that margin until coming out after seven.  The Cavs tied it in the eighth, and at that point, the closers took over.  Brendan Kline pitched five scoreless innings for Virginia, working through the 12th.  Matt Price, a Diamondbacks’ draft pick, threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings for South Carolina, earning the win in the process.

Along the way, Price pitched out of bases-loaded jams in the ninth, 10th, 12th and 13th innings.  He pitched his 5 2/3 scoreless innings despite allowing seven hits and walking five (two intentional).  He threw more pitches (95) than Roth did in his seven innings (91).

So, now it’s the Gators and the Gamecocks for the title.  A few players to watch:

South Carolina

Jackie Bradley Jr.: The Gamecocks’ center fielder and cleanup hitter was a supplemental first-round pick of the Red Sox.  He actually had something of a disappointing season, but he came through with big hits in both of USC’s wins over Virginia.

Price: Arizona’s fifth-rounder was the Gamecocks’ second highest drafted player.  How he bounces back from throwing 95 pitches will be very interesting to see, particularly if he’s needed Monday.

Scott Wingo: The team’s second baseman got on base at a .473 clip during regular-season play.  He was a 10th-round pick of the Dodgers this month.

Florida

Karsten Whitson: Whitson was drafted ninth overall by the Padres last year, only to snub the team and go to Florida.  After having gone 8-0 with a 2.43 ERA as a freshman, he’ll start the second game against the Gamecocks.

Preston Tucker: The Rockies’ 16th-round pick.  Tucker has driven in 19 runs during the NCAA tournament, seven more than anyone else.  He had the go-ahead hit Friday as the Gators beat Vandy 6-4 to advance.

Nick Maronde: A left-handed reliever, Maronde was the Gators’ highest drafted player this year, going to the Angels in round three.  He has a 1.93 ERA and a 54/9 K/BB ratio in 42 innings out of the pen.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.