The day has arrived; the Florida Gators are back in the College World Series after a two-year hiatus that showed Kevin O’Sullivan and two Florida seniors just how difficult it is to get to Omaha.
After a three-year run of making trips to the College World Series, the Gators lost six consecutive NCAA Tournament games (dating back to the 2012 College World Series).
“We were fortunate enough to get here three years in a row in ’10, ’11, and ’12 and didn’t get back here until this year,” O’Sullivan said from Omaha on Friday. “I think from my perspective, I think I’ve enjoyed this journey a little bit more than the other ones. I think I’ve maybe kind of taken a step back and appreciate how difficult it is to get here.”
Florida’s road has been littered with familiar faces. The Gators hosted Florida Atlantic, South Florida and FAMU in the Gainesville Regional and then instate rival Florida State in the Super Regional.
Now, they’ll face off against a Miami team they took two games from back in February. The series in Gainesville came so early in the season that it does not reflect the two teams that will take the field in prime time at TD Ameritrade Stadium. For starters, Miami will go with their ace, Andrew Suarez, on Saturday night. Suarez was slated to pitch against Florida on Friday when the two teams met, but was a late scratch with an injury. Florida’s ace — and Saturday night starter — Logan Shore, left the game in the very first inning with an injury of his own.
The two teams are both talented, obviously, they’re two of eight teams across the country still playing baseball, but Miami manager Jim Morris knows that this Florida team is much better than the one his ball club faced in February, and they might even be the best team in the country.
“They’ve got great arms. They’re so talented defensively. They’ve got probably the best shortstop in college baseball. I love watching him play,” said Morris. “And the progress he’s made, I love watching those guys more than anything. They’re just an outstanding club.”
The teams have grown throughout the rigorous college season. Florida navigated a tough SEC slate to win the SEC Tournament and Miami was the first team to punch their ticket to Omaha, sweeping the Miami Super Regional. There is some familiarity, there is respect shared between the two managers and the programs they have built but make no mistake about it, when the first pitch is thrown on Saturday night, there will be no love lost from the two Florida schools.
“It’s definitely a rivalry, Morris said. “No question about that.”