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Interference ignites Gators

The Arizona Republic

By JEFF METCALFE

The Arizona Republic

OMAHA, Neb. – He wore a gold shirt but is not an Arizona State fan. And he did the Sun Devils no favor by reaching for a Florida foul pop yesterday.

The plate umpire called Florida’s Brandon McArthur out after fan Brian Jordan reached for the ball near the screen and prevented ASU catcher Tuffy Gosewisch from catching it.

Florida coach Pat McMahon argued the call to no avail, then used the perceived injustice to awaken his sleeping Gators in the fourth inning.

His players responded to his fiery stand. They belted five hits – including three home runs – in the next seven at-bats to destroy ASU’s dream of reaching the College World Series championship series.

Instead it’s the No. 7-seeded Gators (48-21) who advance with a 6-3 win to play unseeded Texas (54-16) in the best-of-three final beginning tomorrow.

ASU (42-25) finishes third – the highest nationally by any Sun Devils team this school year – after being tripped up in its sixth elimination game of a magical postseason.

Jordan of Arlington, Neb., appeared to help ASU by reaching out from his front-row seat to touch a popup by McArthur near the screen as Gosewisch scrambled to make a sliding catch. But everything went bad for ASU, then leading 3-0, after Davis left McMahon red in the face.

“Obviously, I disagreed, but our guys have to focus through that,” McMahon said.

Brian Leclerc did just that, hitting a two-run homer to right.

“I thought I was right on the ball,” Gosewisch said. “The ball was right above my glove, and I thought (the umpire) made the right call. I don’t know if it lit a fire under them. Getting behind that next batter (3-1 on Leclerc) and him hitting a home run lit more of a fire than that call did.”

ASU coach Pat Murphy said the interference call might have helped the Gators relax.

“They probably felt some sense of, ‘Aw (expletive), we’re done, everything is going against us, let’s just play,’ ” Murphy said.

ASU pitcher Jason Urquidez got out of the fourth, but he exited from his third start in seven days after a Florida leadoff single in the fifth.

Then it was as if Rosenblatt Stadium caved in on reliever Brett Bordes (5-7), making his 38th appearance, one shy of the school record.

A grounder by Jeff Corsaletti got between the middle infielders into center, Adam Davis homered to left, then national home run leader Matt LaPorta crushed his 26th into the trees down the left-field line.

Unlike in the super-regional finale when they came back from a 7-2 deficit at Cal State Fullerton, the Sun Devils had no answer against Florida reliever Tommy Boss (9-4).

Boss, normally a starter, was making his first relief appearance since February. He replaced Alan Horne, who injured his left hamstring on a pitch in the top of the fourth.

That was the turning point from the ASU perspective because Boss was just that, allowing four singles in 5 2/3 scoreless innings.

Still, the Sun Devils stopped the Gators after the fifth and gave themselves a final chance in the ninth when, with one out, pinch-hitter Willy Fox walked, and Joey Hooft singled.

J.J. Sferra popped out, then ASU’s 19th CWS appearance ended on a grounder by Andrew Romine with Larish on deck.

“I believed until the last pitch,” Murphy said. “Even when that ball (from Romine) was going to the shortstop, I believed he was going to boot it.

“I believed this team was destined for greatness,” the ASU coach said.

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