The Florida Gators have been in this situation before in Omaha.
A 2-1 Sunday night loss at the hands of first time College World Series participants Coastal Carolina banished Florida to the loser’s bracket. It’s the sixth time the Gators have started the CWS with a loss, and the third time under Kevin O’Sullivan.
The Chants, a red hot mid-major that just bested the LSU Tigers two games to none at Alex Box Stadium to earn a ticket to Omaha, handed Logan Shore his first loss in 23 starts.
“I thought I threw pretty well,” Shore, who lasted just five innings Sunday, said after the game. “Credit them. They’re a good team.”
The surprising loss puts the Gators into another tight spot, win or go home, backs against the wall. It’s happened all offseason. Florida dropped its opening game of the SEC Tournament to LSU. The Gators won three consecutive games to make it back to the SEC Tournament Championship game before they fell to Texas A&M. Florida swept through the Regional round before dropping the first game of the
“We’ll talk about it, about the SEC tournament, and we got to the final game,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Then obviously lost the first one against Florida State and then won the next two. That’s all we can do at this point.”
Florida has spent most of the season ranked atop the country, earned the No. 1 National Seed in the NCAA Tournament. The expectations that were heaped on their shoulders before the first pitch of the year was thrown would be too much for most teams to handle. Florida, instead, embraced the expectations.
“I think after the last game last year it was like let’s fast forward to next season so we can get back here and take care of business and come out on top,” Shore said before the CWS began. “It has been the focus since day one of fall and day one of workouts when we all got back. We met all the freshman and do everything we possibly can to make it back to Omaha and end up on top.”
To end up on top Florida will need to win four consecutive games to get to the championship series. Last year the Gators nearly came out of the loser’s bracket. After an opening game win over Miami the Gators lost to Virginia before staving off elimination with a second win over Miami. The Gators lost to eventual champion Virginia.
Before the College World Series began, junior Pete Alonso balked at the idea that Florida is a “team of destiny.”
“We worked for this. We earned it. It’s not luck or destiny,” he said. “It just worked out that way. We’ve worked extremely hard to get to this point.”
The junior class has worked hard for this moment. Most of them have already achieved personal goals by being drafted and the will begin the next faze of their baseball careers as soon as this one ends. They just hope that the ending to this chapter doesn’t end on Tuesday night. To run the table is improbable, yet not impossible. Three teams have gone on to hoist the National Championship trophy after losing its first game in Omaha. Southern California lost to LSU in its first game in 1998 before besting Mississippi State, LSU twice and then Arizona State to be the first team to accomplish the feat. Oregon State became the second in 2006 and, most recently, South Carolina accomplished the comeback in 2010. Impossible? No. Likely? No. But if any team is equipped to make this sort of run it’s the Florida Gators and their pitching staff.
At this point of the season, one loss away from packing it in for good, the Gators might sing a different tune Tuesday night. Sometimes you need a little luck, like a ball slicing into the night, just glancing off the outermost edge of the foul line and a replay to overturn the original call.
- Game: No. 5 Texas Tech (46-19) vs. No. 1 Florida (52-15)
- Florida will be the home team.
- Starting pitchers: Davis Martin (9-1, 2.73 ERA) vs. Alex Faedo (13-2, 3.25 ERA).
- Time: 5 pm EST
- TV: ESPN 2
- Radio: AM-850, 95.3 FM