You wouldn't think the Florida Gators, the No. 2 national seed in the NCAA baseball tournament, would need to pull out many tricks to advance. However, during Friday night's regional game against the College of Charleston, they went to the oldest trick in the book — the old hidden ball trick — to steal a quick out.
The Gators decided to hit them with it early, too. With Nick Pappas running at second base in the first inning, the wheels quickly went into motion. Gators shortstop Richie Martin concealed the ball in his glove and casually wandered around by the bag. Meanwhile, pitcher Logan Shore took a knee to tie his shoe just off the pitcher's mound, which is a key point in the play. In high school and collegiate baseball, the pitcher is not allowed to be on the hill when the play is attempted.
The Gators had those two important bases covered. All they had to do at that point was wait for Pappas to step off the base or decide to call off the play if the fish wasn't biting. He ended up biting alright, taking just the slighest step off the bag. Martin quickly applied the tag and just like that Pappas was the latest victim of the hidden ball trick.
Obviously, this is a play that dominates Little League and youth baseball, but is run less and less as you move up in levels. That said, the Tampa Bay Rays did fool Juan Uribe of the Los Angeles Dodgers with it at third base during a game last August, and his teammates wouldn't let him live it down, mainly because they won the game.
That's the good news for Pappas, too. Despite his early blunder, the College of Charleston went on to pull off a huge upset, defeating the Gators 3-2 in their home ballpark. That put Florida on the brink of elimination coming in to Saturday, and wouldn't you know those tricky Gators fell again, this time 5-2 to North Carolina.
Maybe that will teach them to not play any tricks on their opponents! Or maybe they needed to learn a few more. Either way, the Gators are done, and a spot is wide open for an unexpected team like the College of Charleston to reach the College World Series.
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