Red Raiders oust Gators from CWS


Florida's Jonathan India kneels on the second base bag after being called out as Texas Tech players celebrate around him.

The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, June 21, 2016 at 6:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2016 at 9:28 p.m.

OMAHA, Neb. — There will be no national championship for the Florida baseball team this year. No celebration at McKethan Stadium. No rings to hand out.

A season that began with that kind of promise because of Florida's depth in pitching ended because the Gators simply couldn't hit enough.

Top-seed Florida left the College World Series stunned and choked up following a 3-2 loss to No. 5 Texas Tech that ended its season Tuesday at 52-16.

Florida's second straight trip to Omaha and 10th in school history yielded hope that the Gators would bring home their first baseball national title. Instead, Florida unceremoniously went two-and-out, scoring just three runs in 18 innings.

“Obviously, we're all disappointed right now, but the fact of the matter is we had a helluva year,” Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “And I'm sad to see some of these guys move on. But we've got a good core coming back. We've got to get better in a couple of areas and I fully intend to make that happen.”

Florida made it interesting in the ninth inning, cutting Texas Tech's lead to 3-2 when junior first baseman Peter Alonso launched a two-run homer deep into the left field stands. But it only set up more heartbreak. With two outs, freshman Jonathan India laced a line drive down the left field line toward the corner. India tried to stretch the single into a double, but Texas Tech left fielder Tyler Neslony cut the ball off and made a perfect throw to second to get India for the final out of UF's season.

“We just fell short,” Alonso said. “I know a lot of us put our heart and soul into every pitch. And it was the goal to win a national championship. And it feels terrible because I mean, that was the goal, and not just me but the entire team has worked incredibly hard.”

It will likely be the final game for a number of Gator juniors taken in the Major League Baseball draft, including Alonso (second round, New York Mets), starting pitcher A.J. Puk (first round, Oakland Athletics), starting pitcher Logan Shore (second round, Oakland Athletics), relief pitcher Dane Dunning (first round, Washington Nationals), reliever Shaun Anderson (third round, Boston Red Sox) and center fielder Buddy Reed (second round, San Diego Padres).

“We've had some really, really good juniors, guys that are going to play for a long time,” O'Sullivan said.

With the season on the line before 16,865 at TD Ameritrade Park, Florida sent sophomore righty Alex Faedo to the mound. Faedo (13-3) was solid, allowing just two runs in 7.2 innings while setting a UF CWS record by striking out nine batters.

But Faedo made one mistake, allowing an 0-1 fastball to Texas Tech first baseman Eric Gutierrez to sail to much over the heart of the plate. Gutierrez launched the pitch deep into the stands in left field for a two-run homer, giving Texas Tech a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning.

“Just one mistake, unfortunately in a one-run game, that tends to get magnified,” O'Sullivan said. “But he pitched great. That's probably as good as he's pitched all year long.”

For Florida, it was an afternoon of continued offensive frustration. In the first inning, with Alonso on first base, JJ Schwarz launched a fly deep to left-center field. But Texas Tech center fielder Tanner Gardner raced the drive down and made a terrific running catch, robbing Schwarz of an RBI double.

After grounding into two double plays in a 2-1 loss on Sunday to Coastal Carolina, the Gators grounded into three double plays against Texas Tech. The most costly came in the sixth inning. Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock had his starter, Davis Martin, walk Alonso to load the bases with one out to face Schwarz. Ahead 3-0 in the count, Schwarz took a strike and launched a long drive to left foul. On the 3-2 pitch, Schwarz grounded a comebacker to Martin, who started a 1-2-3 double play. The throw from catcher Tyler Floyd to first carromed off Schwarz' back and into right field, but Schwarz was ruled out by home plate umpire John Haggerty for running out of the baseline.

“He was inside the line,” O'Sullivan said. “Got inside the line, veered out again. He made the right call. If he didn't, I would have come out and questioned it. But I didn't have any problems with the call.”

Texas Tech tacked on an important run in the top of the ninth when Nelsony scored from first base on a pair of Florida errors. India fielded a Gutierrez grounder at third, but his low throw skipped by Alonso at first base. Alonso, then trying to get Nelsony at third base, skipped a throw past India, allowing Nelsony to race home.

As a result of the run scoring error, Florida has now suffered its last five losses in CWS play by one run.

“To look at the games we've lost 2-1 and 3-2 and look at those guys in the locker room and think, boy this season's been a failure, if getting to Omaha is a failure, then, I don't look at it that way,” O'Sullivan said.

“Of course, we're disappointed. Of course we wanted to stay here longer. But there's eight teams out of over 300 to get here. We've been here five out of the last seven and we'll be here again soon. And as far as being a failure, people not seeing the real Florida team, like I said, we played almost 70 games.”

Texas Tech (47-19) will play Thursday against the loser of the Tuesday night game between TCU and Coastal Carolina.

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or kevin.brockway@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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