OMAHA, Neb. — The Florida baseball team’s record-breaking season came to an end in the championship finals of the College World Series on Tuesday night.
South Carolina defeated the Gators 5-2 to repeat as National Champions by taking both games of the best-of-three finals at TD Ameritrade Park in front of 26,721 fans to become the ninth program to repeat as CWS champions.
The win extended the Gamecocks’ record of NCAA tournament wins to 16 and CWS wins to 11.
“I congratulate South Carolina,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “They earned this one. They were a little bit better than us in all phases. They pitched a little bit better. They hit a little bit better. They played a little bit better defense and they earned it. We knew it was going to be a great series, because we’ve been involved in the SEC all year long and it’s been like that.”
South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt shared the Southeastern Conference championship.
“They earned it,” O’Sullivan said. “There’s nothing more to be said other than that. I’m awfully proud of our team and how we battled. I feel bad for the guys that are leaving our program, but we got a great nucleus coming back. On our way home we’ll be already talking about next year, but South Carolina deserves all the credit. Congratulations to them.”
South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said that the Gators will be in the CWS for many years to come.
“I want to take a moment to recognize coach O’Sullivan and the Florida Gators,” Tanner said. “What a great team, what a tremendous team, classy organization. They play the game the right way. You never like to lose games, but you like to play people like the Gators and coach O’Sullivan because you get after it and you play the game the right way, and you can rest assured he’ll be back to Omaha time and time again.”
Florida finished the season with a 53-19 record, the best in school history and finished as the national runner-up for the second time in school history.
“The feeling is definitely the same (as year after going 0-2 in the CWS),” Florida sophomore catcher Mike Zunino said. “Unless you come out here to win it, you’re always going to have that feeling. We made great strides this year. That’s just how it worked out this series. You’ll have that hollow feeling unless you win the whole thing. We had a great year, and that’s all we can look back on.”
The Gators have advanced one stage further each year under O’Sullivan during his four-year tenure at UF.
“It’s nice to make steps, but to be honest with you, the idea is to win this thing,” O’Sullivan said. “I think there’s a lot of disappointed players in that locker room right now. Our goal year in, year out is going to be to win a national championship. I think we have the pieces in place, facilities, et cetera, to be one of those teams year in, year out. We’re going to be back here. We just want to finish this thing off.”
USC pitcher Michael Roth (14-3) held the Gators to two runs and five hits in 7.2 innings while striking out six Gators and allowing two walks.
“History happens here and it’s pretty special to be part of history,” Roth said.
USC closer Matt Price pitched a perfect 1.1 innings to earn his 20th save of the season.
South Carolina finished a team ERA of 0.88 in five CWS games while the bullpen finished 4-0 record and a 0.00 ERA in 19.0 innings of work and did not allow an extra-base hit.
Florida senior Josh Adams had an RBI single in the eighth inning, the final at bat of his career.
“We stuck with our approach all night pretty much,” Adams said. That’s the game of baseball. Some days you can come out on top; other days you look like a fool. All you can really do is say ‘what if.’ But it doesn’t matter anymore. Just gotta get back at it. Gotta get back at it next year.”
Zunino led the Gators’ offense with a 3-for-3 performance at the plate after having a relatively quiet CWS entering the game.
“Just in the game with the season on the line, I’m just trying to do everything I can so I can play more games with my boys,” Zunino said. “It’s just about all you can do. It’s just empty feeling. I mean, you stick with these guys a whole year, two, three years sometimes, and you just grow close, and when you can’t achieve that goal you just go after it, you just feel empty.”
Zunino hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, his 19th of the season, to put the Gators on the scoreboard.
UF freshman Karsten Whitson (8-1) was handed his only loss of the season after allowing one earned run and four hits in 4.2 innings. Whitson had trouble locating his fastball and hit three batters and allowed two walks. The three hit batters matched his season total entering the game.
“I just think I started nibbling a little bit and pitched behind the count, walked a couple of guys, hit a few,” Whitson said. “It wasn’t very good execution on my part of pitches. But, you know, I just knew if I gave up one don’t give up two. I just tried to battle out there. Just tried to keep my team in the game as best as possible.”
The Gamecocks were able to score two unearned runs off of Whitson in the third inning that would be the difference in the game.
The three runs allowed by Whitson in the third inning matched the most runs he has allowed in an inning all season. Whitson has not allowed more than three runs in any of his 19 starts this season. Whitson threw a career-high 98 pitches against South Carolina.
South Carolina junior shortstop Peter Mooney led off the third inning with a double then moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a sacrifice fly for the Gamecocks’ first run. A ground ball from Christian Walker was misplayed by Florida shortstop Nolan Fontana for an error that allowed a run to score, then an infield hit by Brady Thomas drove in the third run of the inning for South Carolina.
“Tonight, we make one error,” O’Sullivan said. “I mean, I don’t want to point to that one defensive play. I mean, the bottom line, South Carolina made all the plays. In retrospect, you look back (and think about) if we would have made that play, this play. Bottom line is South Carolina just played better than we did the last two nights. It’s as simple as that.”
The Gamecocks (55-14) added run in the sixth inning on a solo home run by Mooney, his fourth of the season, off of Florida reliever Tommy Toledo.
USC second baseman Scott Wingo had an RBI single in the eighth inning, hits fourth RBI of the CWS. Wingo was named Most Outstanding Player of the CWS after batting .333 and making several outstanding defensive plays.
Florida senior center fielder Bryson Smith extended his hit streak to 15 games with a first-inning single and was named to the All-Tournament Team after leading the Gators with a .368 average in the CWS.
UF sophomore third baseman Cody Dent was also named to the All-Tournament team after batting .286 in the CWS with his only two extra base hits of the season.
The Gators will return home to Gainesville on Wednesday. In the next few weeks, several players will depart for summer leagues and others will sign professional contracts.
Adams reflected on his outstanding career at Florida following the game.
“These coaches, they’re the best coaches in the nation,” Adams said. “As a player, they help you grow. I think they help you grow even more as a person. For the seniors who are leaving, we’re all going to be coming back. At some point in our life, we’re going to come back and going to look back on it. But for the guys that are still here, I know these coaches are going to keep them in check and they’re going to keep grinding. That’s the mentality we have here. That’s definitely what’s going to leave with me. These coaches have done great things, and that’s the main thing I’ve gotten out of this whole experience.”
2011 NCAA DIVISION I BASEBALL
MEN’S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Catcher: Robert Beary, South Carolina
First Base: Christian Walker, South Carolina
Second Base: Scott Wingo, South Carolina
Third Base: Cody Dent, Florida
Shortstop: Peter Mooney, South Carolina
Outfield: Tony Kemp, Vanderbilt
Outfield: Connor Harrell, Vanderbilt
Outfield: Bryson Smith, Florida
Designated Hitter: Brady Thomas, South Carolina
Pitcher: Michael Roth, South Carolina
Pitcher: Matt Price, South Carolina
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER
Scott Wingo, South Carolina