Gators' season ends with sweep by USC
Published: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 11:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 11:41 p.m.
OMAHA, Neb. — There were a lot of tears and a lot of hugs at the College World Series on Tuesday night. Unfortunately for the Florida Gators, they weren't tears of joy or hugs of celebration.
Because history repeated itself Tuesday night for both Florida and South Carolina.
For the second time in school history, the Gators were swept out of the finals of the College World Series. And for the second straight season, the Gamecocks won the national title.
South Carolina beat Florida 5-2 at TD Ameritrade Park as the Gators again struggled to get runners home from scoring position. Florida went 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position for the two games.
“We just didn't do enough,” said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. “We made one error. South Carolina made all the plays. They just played better than we did both nights. It comes down to a play here and a play there.
“They were a little bit better than us in all phases of the game.”
Particularly broken up was senior Josh Adams, who paused for 30 seconds before answering a question in the post-game press conference about his last game.
“We'll all be coming back at some point in our lives,” Adams said. “For the guys who are still here, these coaches are going to keep them in check, keep them grinding.”
In two championship series (2005 and 2011), Florida has scored a total of seven runs.
“That's the game of baseball,” Adams said. “Sometimes you come out on top and sometimes you look like a fool.”
South Carolina, which finished its season 55-14, didn't need a miracle this time around as they beat Florida for the fourth time in five games. The Gators looked like a team that was still woozy from Monday night's heartbreaker, managing only six hits.
“(Monday) night was a tough loss but we were ready to play,” O'Sullivan said. “We just couldn't quite get over the hump.”
The Gators finished their season with a record of 53-19 and plenty of hardware. They just didn't get the one they wanted the most, their first national title.
South Carolina scored three times in the third inning despite only one hard-hit ball against freshman Karsten Whitson, who suffered his first loss of the season. Peter Mooney led off with a double, and after a walk and a sacrifice, was driven home by Scott Wingo's sacrifice fly. After a walk, Florida shortstop Nolan Fontana booted Christian Walker's high hopper as he tried to sweep it on a short hop as he has done so often this season.
One run scored on the error and another on Brady Thomas' infield single.
Down 3-0, Florida struck back with a solo homer by catcher Mike Zunino, his 19th of the season.
The Gators threatened in the next inning against South Carolina ace Michael Roth, getting runners to first and second with no outs. But Cody Dent fouled a third-strike bunt attempt, and Bryson Smith hit into a double play to end the inning.
And there was a UF tease again in the sixth, when the first two runners reached base. But Roth was up for the challenge, retiring the next three Gators in order.
South Carolina added to its lead in the bottom of the sixth when Mooney, whose brother Mike played for Kevin O'Sullivan's second Gator team in 2009, homered to right field off reliever Tommy Toledo.
Typical of the Gamecocks' scrappy effort was first baseman Christian Walker, diagnosed with a fractured left wrist on Sunday. He had four hits in the two games.
Roth, pitching on three days rest, came into the game with an ERA of 0.98. He secured his 14th victory of the season by baffling Florida's left-handed hitters with a variety of slow changes, curves and sliders. Florida's lefties went 0-for-10 against Roth, who threw 127 pitches in 7⅔ innings.
Zunino was the bright spot offensively for the Gators with three hits and a walk. In his last six at-bats at the CWS, Zunino was 4-for-4 with two walks after a 2-for-15 start in the Series.
Zunino doubled in the eighth and came home on Josh Adams' two-out single off reliever John Taylor.
South Carolina then went to Matt Price, who closed Monday night's win. After pinch-hitter Tyler Thompson just missed a double down the right-field line, he was called out looking at a third strike.
South Carolina added insurance in the eighth inning when Wingo bounced a single over a drawn-in infield with a runner on third and one out.
Price pitched a scoreless ninth for the save, touching off a celebration the Gamecocks are getting used to against the Gators. They beat Florida in football to capture the SEC East and in basketball in Gainesville.
Florida's Dent and Smith were named to the All-Tournament team.
“The feeling is definitely the same as last year,” Zunino said. “It's a hollow feeling unless you come out here and win it all. It's just an empty feeling. I wanted to keep playing ball with my boys.”
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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