Back Nine: Gators' good season ends in disappointment


Florida's Justin Shafer, center, walks with teammates after losing 5-4 to Kent State in an NCAA College World Series elimination baseball game in Omaha, Neb. on Monday. (The Associated Press)

Published: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 18, 2012 at 11:30 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after a great Father's Day of watching baseball, golf and the NBA Finals. The only things missing — my two wonderful daughters and my father. Such is life on the road.

10. There is no doubt in my mind that this was the most disappointing College World Series in the history of Florida baseball. UF has gone two-and-out before and did so in 1998 as a No. 1 seed. Losing your best pitcher to heat-related symptoms after one inning was a body blow. But for Florida to commit five errors in the two games and not get the clutch hits, I mean, it was a disappointing showing. I know everyone is stunned that they went two-and-barbecue but I'll be honest, I could see the potential for it happening. You open with the two-time defending champs and then have the weight of a win-or-die situation against Kent State. Still, let's not lose perspective. This was still a great season, one of the best in Gator history, and these guys still made it to the College World Series for three straight years, something that had never been done by a UF team before. It's just a shame it had to end on such a sour note. As far as the umpiring, I've said it a million times that you have to play around poor umpiring. It's the way it is. Yes, the 3-1 pitch to Casey Turgeon was outside and would have tied the game if the umpire had called it correctly. But Florida should have never been in that position.

11. One team I did not see sliding into the driver's seat in its bracket at the CWS was Arizona. But Andy Lopez's team has only given up three runs in 21 innings in Omaha. Good for ‘Lopes', still one of my favorite people I've ever dealt with. There were a lot of reunions and hugs in Omaha prior to the start of play as so many people Lopez worked with at Florida showed up for his presser to say hello. And don't think Florida State is finished out here. The Seminoles have the bats and the pitching to still get to the finals despite that gut-wrenching loss in the opener. One reason I'm a Mike Martin fan — his first words after that 12-inning loss on Friday were about reporter's deadlines. Gotta love that.

12. The Back Nine was incorrect when I wrote last week that the U.S. Open was another Gator-less major. Because former Florida golfer Paul Tesori was on winner Webb Simpson's bag. Tesori is one of the best caddies in the business, having looped for Vijay Singh, Jerry Kelly, Sean O'Hair and former UF golfer Chris Couch. He had a chance to join another former Gator golfer last year but chose Simpson over Camilo Villegas because of their shared faith. Tesori is a St. Augustine guy which is another reason Simpson's victory made me smile.

13. While the West Coast U.S. Open was kind of odd because you were watching golf while it was dark outside, it was everything the Back Nine wants in an Open. Watching this tournament is not supposed to be for the namby-pamby golf fans who want to see everyone making birdies. It's like watching NASCAR — you move to the edge of your couch when there are wrecks. And there were plenty of them. Lee Westwood fell victim to a ball-eating tree. Tiger Woods shot 75-73, his second worst weekend score ever at a major. And we saw rare emotion from Jim Furyk when he saw his chance for a second Open slip away. The tee shot he hit on 16 looked like something you'd see in a Sunday foursome at Haile Plantation. U.S. Opens are about carnage not carnivals.

14. So Seattle is two wins away from ecstasy. The basketball fans in that city are rooting for the Miami Heat as hard as anyone wearing a LeBron jersey is because their team was taken from them by Oklahoma City. (And Cleveland, which lost LeBron James to The Decision, was fifth in the overnight TV ratings for Game Three. Think they're rooting for the OKC? A lot of angst out there.) There is still a lot of basketball to be played but it seems like Oklahoma City is doing a lot of the things that Miami did in last year's final. Maybe the pressure is too much for a young team or maybe the Heat have been steeled by last year's loss to the Mavericks. At any rate, I had the Heat winning before the series and nothing has changed my mind. Enjoy Game Four.

15. I understand why the government feels a need to prosecute when they believe someone had lied to a grand jury. But it still seems like a huge waste of money in the case of Roger Clemens. I don't even want to know how much it cost and how many hungry people could have been fed with that money. So don't tell me. I'm covering my ears.

16. Former Gator great Matt Walsh recently returned to the States after playing overseas and has a pair of basketball camps going for underprivileged children. One is in Philadelphia and the other in Jamaica, where they plan to build a pair of basketball courts. The 150 children at each camp will not have to pay a thing. Anyone wanting to donate can go to pmbleague.com or e-mail Walsh at mattyvincent44@yahoo.com.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Sir Nick Faldo — “Webb says ‘i never dreamed about this, wanted it … but its a dream come true!' … I miss that morning after a Major win fog!!!” See, football players aren't the only ones who miss the action.

18. Has this ever happened to you. You're using public wireless and someone's music library pops into your ITunes list? And you look at the songs in his or her library and make a judgment on that person's musical tastes? Anyway, the iPod is getting a workout here in Omaha. Try these downloads — “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers and thanks for the suggestion from a reader, “Youth Without Youth” by Metric and for the old school in you “Midnight Confessions” by the Grass Roots.

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