Men’s College World Series: Cam Cannarella channels Willie Mays

Clemson’s baseball season ended on Sunday.

But it was not for lack of trying on the part of center fielder Cam Cannarella.

Cannarella played a starring role in one of the most thrilling games in Men’s College World Series Super Regionals history. But it was the Florida Gators who punched their ticket to Omaha for the second-straight season with an extra innings, 11-10 win over the Clemson Tigers.

Cannarella and the Tigers trailed the Florida Gators 9-6 in the top of the ninth inning in a win-or-go-home contest. But Cannarella came to the plate representing the tying run with one out and runners on first and second.

In a flash, the game was tied:

Cannarella launched a no-doubt home run to right field, clearing everything and tying the game at 9-9.

But the center fielder was not done.

Florida had a chance to punch their ticket to Omaha in the bottom of the tenth inning, as the Gators had runners at first and second. Ashton Wilson, the third hitter in the Florida lineup, came to the plate with a chance to send the Tigers fans home unhappy.

With the runner on second representing the winning run, Clemson brought the outfield in, hoping to cut down that winning run at the plate on any grounder that got through the infield. But Wilson launched a deep fly ball to center field that looked as if it would get over Cannarella’s head, given his pre-pitch alignment.

Somehow, some way, Cannarella got to the ball:

Shades of Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series:

Cannarella’s incredible catch not only ended the inning, but it extended Clemson’s season.

Clemson took the lead in the top of the 13th inning, on this solo home run from right fielder Alden Mathes:

The moment was not without some controversy, as Mathes was then ejected by the umpiring crew for the post-homer bat spike. That brought out head coach Erik Bakich to discuss the call with the crew, and soon Bakich too was run from the game, but before leaving took a moment to pump up the Tiger faithful:

The Gators still had a chance in the bottom of the 13th, as they put the first two batters on as Luke Heyman singled to left field and then Tyler Shelnut laced a single to left-center. Dale Thomas laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, bringing catcher Brody Donay to the dish.

Clemson intentionally walked Donay — who had already homered in the game — to load the bases and set up the potential force play around the diamond. That brought Michael Robertson to the plate with the bases loaded, a hitter who was 0-7 on the season with the bags full.

Make that 1-8.

Robertson drilled a line drive to left center, which brought home a pair of runs, and punched Florida’s ticket to Omaha:

For the Gators, the second-straight trip to Omaha comes near the end of what has been an uphill fight for Florida. The Gators finished with a 34-28 record in the regular season, that included just a 13-17 record in SEC play. But they still earned an invitation to the Stillwater Regional as the third seed of the four teams, but Florida booked a trip to the Super Regionals by winning down in Stillwater.

Then they went on the road again facing a Tigers team that was seeded sixth overall, and won two straight games to head back to Omaha.

Overcoming some heroics from Cannarella in the process.

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