Karl Jernigan's three-run homer in the 13th inning gave Florida State a 14-11 victory over Stanford yesterday in Omaha and put the Seminoles into the national championship game for the first time since 1986.
With runners on first and third and no outs, Jernigan said he wasn't trying for dramatics.
"All I was trying to do was get a ball to the outfield and bring in a run. The last thing on my mind was a home run," he said.
It will be an all-Florida final today when the Seminoles (57-13) meet top-seeded Miami (48-13). Miami won five of six games against Florida State this season.
Bobby Spano started Florida State's 13th with a leadoff walk. He went to third when Ryan Barthelemy bounced a single over the glove of first baseman John Gall.
Jernigan then hit a 1-0 pitch from reliever Tony Cogan into the left field bleachers. He pumped his fists as he rounded the bases.
Stanford, which trailed 7-2 in the seventh, appeared to have the game won with a 9-7 lead going to the bottom of the ninth. Cardinal Coach Mark Marquess elected to leave in right-hander Jason Young, who already had three complete games in the postseason.
It turned out to be the wrong choice. Young issued a leadoff walk to Jeremiah Klosterman and Kevin Cash hit a two-run homer into the left-center bleachers, tying it at 9.
Yesterday's game went exactly as Miami Coach Jim Morris had hoped as he watched from the stands. After Miami reached the championship game by beating Alabama on Thursday, Morris jokingly wished for extra innings to tire out whichever team survived to play the Hurricanes.
"There's no question they threw a lot of pitchers today," Morris said.
The Arizona Cardinals released fullback Larry Centers, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and the first NFL running back to catch 100 passes in a season.
Centers's release was intended to give the Cardinals more flexibility under the NFL salary cap. General Manager Bob Ferguson said the move was prompted by a need to commit to younger players.
Centers, 31, a fifth-round selection in 1990, set a team receiving record with 101 catches and holds the club's career reception mark with 535. He also rushed for 1,736 yards and 10 touchdowns. . . .
Tailback Harvey Williams, who rushed for 1,114 yards for the Raiders four seasons ago but was shuttled between tight end and fullback the past two seasons, was cut by Oakland as the team opened minicamp. The Raiders are also talking with the agent for running back Lawrence Phillips. . . .
The Baltimore Ravens bolstered their pass-catching corps, signing free agent wide receiver Billy Davis. Davis had 39 receptions for 691 yards and three touchdowns with the Dallas Cowboys last season, averaging 17.7 yards per catch.
Holmes Stops Smith
Former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes stopped James "Bonecrusher" Smith in the eighth round last night in Fayetteville, N.C., as part of the inaugural card of the Legends of Boxing series.
Holmes, 49, used powerful jabs to drive the 46-year-old Smith into his corner early in the decisive round. Smith escaped but Holmes trapped him again against the ropes in a neutral corner before Smith motioned to his trainer to stop the fight.
The fighters, faces swollen, embraced after the fight was stopped.
Holmes, a grandfather, stepped into the ring for the first time since 1997.
Smith, 46, hadn't fought since last November, when he knocked out David Slaughter in Australia. In July 1997, Smith dislocated a shoulder in a fight with Joe Bugner.
The 12-round bout was a rematch of their heavyweight championship fight on Nov. 9, 1984, when Holmes stopped Smith in the 12th round to successfully defend his IBF title. Smith won the WBA title in 1986 by stopping Tim Witherspoon, then lost it to Mike Tyson the following year.
The 41-year-old Witherspoon, a two-time champion, lost to former heavyweight champion Greg Page, 40, on last night's undercard in the less-than-half-full Crown Coliseum. Witherspoon beat Page for the vacant WBC title in 1984.
On the undercard, Washington lightweight Jermaine Fields improved to 17-0 as a professional, scoring an eighth-round TKO over Khalil Shakeel. . . .
Tyson's adviser said as far as he's concerned, talk about a Tyson-George Foreman fight is just that--talk. Shelly Finkel also said that Tyson probably will fight in September or October, and that two fighters being considered as an opponent are Axel Schulz of Germany and Brian Nielsen of Denmark.
As for a Foreman fight being in Tyson's future, Finkel said, "I asked Foreman to call me, and he never did. As far as I'm concerned, it's not real."
Marlin Wins Pole
Although sitting on the pole is not unique to Sterling Marlin, a four-year drought made it seem like a new experience.
"Well, it's a new car," Marlin said after breaking the track qualifying record at Pocono International Raceway. "It's a good race car. Now I hope I don't mess it up."
He certainly didn't make a mistake during his time test for the Pocono 500, getting his first pole since July 1995 by taking his Chevrolet around the 2 1/2-mile triangular oval in Long Pond, Pa., at 170.506 mph.
"That was a perfect lap," said Marlin, who needed it to edge Dale Jarrett, the Winston Cup points leader. Jarrett got his Ford up to 169.952 mph, and will start Sunday on the outside of the front row. . . .
The top of the provisional lineup for Sunday's CART G.I. Joe's 200 in Portland, Ore., looked a little unfamiliar.
There on the tentative pole was Richie Hearn, whose best start in the first six races this season has been 18th. Alongside on the front row was Patrick Carpentier, with Robby Gordon close behind.
The Pacific-10 Conference agreed to accept Washington's self-imposed penalties for football recruiting violations since Rick Neuheisel took over as head coach.
At issue were "quiet period" violations, contacts between Washington coaches and student athletes at another school without a written release and violation of the tryout rule. . . .
Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., said it would revive its football program in 2000, the first time the school will field a football team since 1967.
CAPTION: A photograph of former Maryland guard Steve Francis is seen on a building across the street from MCI Center. The Steve Francis Foundation for community and children's issues was launched yesterday at the photo's unveiling.