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.

Ron Roenicke fired by Red Sox after one season

Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke will not return in 2021, the team said before its final game on Sunday, ending his tenure as a one-year, shotgun stopgap for a pandemic-shortened season with a last-place finish in the AL East.

Hired on the eve of spring training after Alex Cora was caught cheating during his time in Houston, Roenicke took over a roster that would soon shed 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price, who were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ace Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) and Eduardo Rodriguez (COVID-19) never threw a pitch for the team this year.

Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom also commended Roenicke for navigating the coronavirus shutdown and for holding the team together when racial protests interrupted the season.

“He did a tremendous job under really challenging and basically unprecedented circumstances,” said Bloom, who met with Roenicke in Atlanta on Sunday morning to give him the news.

“As you would expect, he handled it really well. Probably better than I did,” Bloom said on a Zoom call. “I think he is just an incredible human being.”

Sure to get attention as a possible successor: Cora, who led the Red Sox to a World Series championship in 2018, his first season as a major league manager. The team split with him less than a month before spring training after he was identified as the ringleader in the Houston sign-stealing scandal; Cora’s one-year suspension for that scandal ends after the World Series.

With Cora gone, the Red Sox promoted Roenicke from bench coach to interim manager. They removed the temporary tag in April, during the coronavirus shutdown, when Roenicke was cleared in the commissioner’s investigation into sign-stealing by the Red Sox during their championship season.

He was not given an extension on the one year he had remaining on the contract he had signed as a bench coach — fueling speculation that Cora could be welcomed back after serving his penalty.

The Red Sox dismissed such suggestions dismissed such suggestions at the time, but on Sunday Bloom refused to rule a return either in or out.

“I thought Ron deserved to be evaluated without anyone looking over his shoulder,” Bloom said, declining to comment further because “I don’t want to say anything about Alex that I haven’t said to Alex.”

Roenicke, 64, spent five years as the Brewers manager from 2010-15, winning 96 games and the NL Central title in his first season and finishing as runner-up for NL manager of the year. In all, he led Milwaukee to a 342-331 record in five seasons.

He was 23-36 with the Red Sox entering Sunday’s games. Bloom said he wanted to break the news to Roenicke before the end of the season.

“If Ron wanted the chance to look his players in the eye before we part ways … I didn’t want to take that from him,” Bloom said.

An infielder on Boston’s 2007 champions, Cora was mentioned 11 times in Commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision on the Astros, which said Cora developed the cheating system. Cora left Houston to become Boston’s manager after the 2017 season and led the Red Sox to a franchise-record 108 regular-season wins and the World Series title.

But fallout from the Astros investigation caused Cora and newly hired New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran to lose their jobs.