Updated: Florida eliminated from CWS with 5-2 loss to Arkansas

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Florida players return to the dugout Friday night following the College World Series game lost to Arkansas in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Special to Gatorsports.com

OMAHA, Neb. — Florida made a go of it, but couldn’t get out of the hole it put itself in with last Sunday’s loss in the College World Series opener.

The same can be said for Friday’s bracket final. The Gators, last year’s national champions, spotted Arkansas a 4-0 lead, made it interesting at 4-2 before being eliminated with the 5-2 loss.

Florida, which ousted Texas and Texas Tech in elimination games this week, sees its season end with a 49-21 record. Florida lost for the first time in eight NCAA elimination games. The Gators were looking to get to the finals for the fourth time since 2005.

Arkansas (47-19) advances to the CWS championship series Monday with a 3-0 record here. The Razorbacks allowed only three hits and had control of the game from the start.

Florida’s loss means the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed has fallen short of winning the national championship every year since 1999 — the first year of the current format when Miami won the College World Series.

“I don’t know there’s a whole lot of separation between the 1 seed and the 8 seed,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “When these seeds come out, that was almost a month ago. If Auburn was sitting here and they had won our super regional, they would have had just as good a chance to win it as us. This game is very fickle. It can change game to game and week to week. The seeds are really irrelevant when you get to this point.”

Arkansas got to Brady Singer (12-3) quickly, scoring on a two-out single by Luke Bonfield after Casey Martin had reached on a single in the first inning.

Dominic Fletcher drove in Martin, who had singled and moved to second on an error by Blake Reese at second base, with a single for a 2-0 Arkansas lead in the third.

The Razorbacks’ lead grew to 4-0 in the fifth after Martin doubled and later scored on a groundout by Bonfield. Fletcher followed with his 10th home run of the season.

Florida finally broke through against Arkansas starter Isaiah Campbell (5-6) for two runs after two outs to cut the deficit to 4-2. Until then, Campbell was pitching a perfect game with six strikeouts.

“Yeah, he was a lot better than I thought,” O’Sullivan said of Campbell. “He had a perfect game through four. Once we got him into the stretch, he lost some command. He was certainly a different pitcher than we saw in Gainesville. He was 94-96 (mph) pounding the outer half of the zone and threw enough off-speed to keep us off his fastball.”

Austin Langworthy started the frame for Florida with a single before Reese was hit by a pitch. Brady Smith then hit an RBI single and Reese scored on a wild pitch.

Singer, pitching on only four days rest after losing Sunday’s opener to Texas Tech, went five innings, allowed four runs on seven hits and struck out two.

Singer, the No. 18 overall draft pick by the Kansas City Royals, took both of Florida’s losses in the CWS and was beaten for the second time this season by Arkansas. The four earned runs against Singer were the most he’s allowed since Arkansas got to him for six on March 23 in what was his first loss of the season.

“I think they’re ultra-aggressive,” Singer said. “I threw some pitches, but they capitalized on the bad ones. That’s what a good hitting team does. I could have obviously made some better pitches.”

Arkansas regained momentum in the sixth off UF’s Tommy Mace. Jared Gates singled, moved to third on the Gators’ fifth error of the CWS and later scored on Martin’s run-scoring infield single for a 5-2 lead.

Campbell more than atoned for his worst performance of the season when he faced the Gators in the teams’ Southeastern Conference opening series in March. He was at his best this time, matching his career high with eight strikeouts and leaving with a 5-2 lead. Razorback relievers Jake Reindl and Matt Cronin kept the Gators scoreless the rest of the way.

Campbell’s outing was in stark contrast to his outing at Florida on March 24. That night, the 24th-round pick of the Los Angeles Angels lasted one inning and was rocked for six runs in a game the Razorbacks lost 17-2.

Arkansas will play the winner of the Mississippi State and Oregon State game in Saturday’s other bracket finale. Arkansas has never gone to the CWS finals since the NCAA Tournament went to its current structure in 1999. The Razorbacks were runner-up in 1979 in their only appearance in a championship game.

“We fought all the way to the end,” O’Sullivan said. “This is probably the — well, it’s not probably, it is the best four-year run in our school history.

“And, unfortunately, there’s only one team that’s going to move on, and that’s Arkansas from our bracket. But I couldn’t be more proud of our team. It was obviously the disappointment on their faces when the last out was made, it was not easy. But awfully proud of the way they played this year, their careers, and I know there’s a lot of disappointment right now.

“But we’ve got a lot of good players coming back. Good recruiting class. And we’ve created something really special here at Florida. And the next couple days will not be easy, but certainly proud of them, the way they handled themselves both on and off the field. It obviously goes a lot deeper than wins or losses. But it’s just disappointing right now.”

Notes: The Razorbacks won three of five meetings with the Gators this season, including the last two. … Singer finishes his UF career with a 23-10 record, including a pair of CWS victories in 2017 to help the Gators win their first national title. … UF senior captain JJ Schwarz set a school record with 266 career games played.

Arkansas 101 021 000—5 11 1
Florida 000 020 000—2 3 2

Campbell, Reindl (6), Cronin (8) and Koch; Singer, Mace (6) and BSmith. W_Campbell, 5-6. L_Singer, 12-3. Sv_Cronin (13). HR_Fletcher (10).

42 COMMENTS

  1. Only one team will be NCs. 63 go home. This was another entertaining year. All bemoaning this and that means nothing. Arkansas was the better team tonight. Will be interesting to see how Sully reloads after losing the heart of his team.

  2. Arkansas was just to much. We have not been clicking on all cylinders for awhile. There is something to that number one seed jynx not winning it all since 1999! This team had a great year. I am very proud to be a Gator! Hopefully it is an all SEC final. Good to see Mace and the other freshman pitch with confidence. We should be in good shape for next year. I am sure we will have another top 5 recruiting class.

    • Ark won easily tonight, they dominated, the 11-3 hitting performance says it all. They peaked at the right time and we didn’t, it happens, it’s all about timing the performance cycle. Gator fans are leaving mature and respectful comments on here Robert – the only trash comment I see is yours.

  3. What a relief! I thought the Sun was going to actually have to take the baseball team seriously and, you know, spend a few hundred bucks to have a reporter cover the team. Thank goodness we can focus on more continuing coverage of a football team that is, according to the latest news, still months from actually playing and, when last sighted on the field against an actual opponent, embarrassing itself. Please write more stuff to make us forget that.

    Yet another great season for baseball. Next year sure looks rough with all reliable pitchers and virtually all reliable hitters heading out. Let’s hope Mace has a great off-season, Leftwich continues his progress, and the rest of the unproven players work their butts off to keep UF near the top of the SEC. This year finally broke the jinx of my son seeing the Gators lose in Omaha. A five-peat is unthinkable. But it would be amazing. Thanks to these seniors and juniors, and of course to the best coach in college baseball.

  4. Congrats to Arky. Certainly the better team tonight. The clock finally struck midnight for the Gators. You could just tell from the regionals on that this just wasn’t a team destined to repeat. This team was agonizing to watch in the post season. The entire UF pitching staff was average, at best, in the CWS. Gator bats went cold at the wrong time. A couple of decent games with runs above 3 but not enough fire power to repeat. The team just felt lucky to get as far as they did. Frustrating to watch all the men left in the scoring position to be sure. That being said, UF made it to the Final 4. It’s just tough to swallow when you know that Florida had all the talent to repeat and just couldn’t find a way to beat a team they were, on paper, better than. Easy to be am arm chair QB but Sully wasn’t at his best in the post season. If not for his CWS win last season he might be the next Mike Martin; having the best talent in baseball and never winning anything. Good season but a lot left on the field. Florida could have easily repeated. Singer was a huge disappointment in his last 2 starts. Good luck in the bigs, kid.

  5. I’m a FSU grad who follows college baseball faithfully. When FSU loses its final game of the season so many fair weather fans jump on message boards to crucify the coach. Every year like ground hog day and it gets really, really old. Gator fans don’t do Sully that way which I respect. Winning the CWS is hard and a lot of times the best teams don’t win. Sully has been outstanding and I particularly like the way Brady Singer plays the game and conducts himself off the field. I hope he, Kowar and FSU’s Jackson Lueck all play for KC in The Show!

  6. Congratulations to the team and the coaching staff for another great season. Not winning the National title is disappointing I know, but it is very hard to repeat as National Champion. They made it to Omaha and were one of the last 4 teams. Nothing takes away from the accomplishments they achieved all season. You can have a great team, like they did, and still lose. It happens all the time and it happened here. There is no shame in loosing. It is how you play they game and show grace when you lose. They played the game the right way. They gave it their all. We are proud of the team. They are what it means to be a Gator.

  7. It’s been another splendid Gator baseball season. Miami was the last number one seed to win it all back in 1999. This team fought back from some late season injuries, battled through an offensive slump, had to move a pair of freshmen into prominent pitching roles, and stood through a string of win-or-it’s-over elimination games. Brady was pitching on heart last night and we ran into an emerging star on the mound for the Razorbacks. I hated seeing Matt Cronin from Navarre near Pensacola wrapping up the win for the Hogs. But congratulations to Arky. The SEC once more shows it’s the overall best conference and, meantime, Sully brings back pitching with Leftwich, Mace, possibly Byrne, Dyson, Butler and more. He’ll have to find some power in the line-up around Will Dalton but we’ve got plenty present and on the way to contend in 2019.

  8. At the end of the day, in order to win the pitchers had to pitch better and the hitters had to hit better and score runs. Playing clean in the field also helps. In our two losses the team did not do these things and we lost. It does not matter how many other games we won during the year or how many top players or draft picks we had. We lost the two games that counted. I say this not to take away from the teams’ accomplishments, which were great, but only to point out how hard it is to win back to back National Championships. This team can be very, very proud of what they accomplished. Looking forward to next season.

  9. Sully is right, baseball IS funny. #1 seed hasn’t won it in 19 years! How did UF beat Arky 17-2 in March? UF was clearly the best team in the nation until JJ’s injury, and never got their mojo back after they clinched the best conference with a series to go.
    Arky’s freshmen are budding superstars, we will need some of that from our recruits, and for our young players on this year’s squad to step up next year.
    Thank you, coach Sully for another great season! UF players play the game right, stay classy and represent Gator nation well always.

    • Perfect comments Steve – at one point UF was clearly the best team in the country and we never regained that form after JJ’s and others’ injuries – Sully is the best and I love his attitude!

      Another great year and as he said, “Best 4 year run in Gator baseball history.” All that need s to b e said is thanks!

  10. Great season Gators! Finished in top 4 this year and National Championship last year! This is an elite program! Didn’t play great down the stretch but so what as only one team wins it all. It’s great to be a Florida Gator!!!

  11. Any season that includes time spent as the #1 ranked team, sweeping FSU, winning the SEC regular season title ( much tougher than the ridiculous tourney!) making it back to the CWS and at least winning a couple games there has to be regarded as a great and successful one. Sure, this team had some holes that got larger toward the end (hitting with runners in scoring position, 3rd starter) but all in all it was a great effort by the players and coaches. Over the last 10 years, college baseball has become deeper and more competitive, with the SEC proving once again to be the toughest. Sully will reload with fresh talent, and we should look forward to getting into the much needed new stadium in a couple years, so we should enjoy Gator baseball for many years to come. Go Gators.

  12. Congrats 2018 Florida Gators Baseball for another enjoyable season…the CWS in itself is a major accomplishment and the NC is the icing on the cake. You cats battled, but Arkansas was just too much…they are a great ball club. We have solid pitching coming back with great experience from this run.

    Salute!!

  13. What the Gators accomplished this season is equivalent to a Final Four in basketball. It’s a little disappointing in the moment when the season ends short of a championship, but nobody should be disappointed with a Final Four appearance. Congrats to the players, Sully, and the rest of the coaches. Great season! Go Gators!!!

  14. As a 1978-9 UF baseball walk-on, I’ve never been more proud of what this team with Sully has accomplished. At the time, UF baseball (and football) had never won an SEC championship, let alone an NCAA title. Off the charts success, kids heading the Bigs, and surprisingly, a happy and gracious group of baseball fans on this thread. Thank you all and Go Gators!

  15. This was a terrific season and an excellent Gators baseball team. Congratulations to Sully and the players. That said– some observations that I need to get off my chest.
    The Gators won 52 games each of the past three season. This year, when they beat Georgia and clinched the SEC title in mid-May they were 42-10. The team went 7-11 the rest of the way and looked like a completely different team with fielding errors and below average hitting, especially with runners in scoring position. They struggled to beat FAU and Auburn in Regionals/Super-Regionals while continuing to play less than stellar ball. The performance in Omaha was not much better and it took a career start from Kowar and bats coming alive against Tech to keep them afloat. Last night’s game was a debacle with two key errors and no hitting against an average pitcher. A team seemingly lacking intensity. There is losing when you are playing your best and you tip your hat to the better team; it is deeply disappointing when you lose playing poorly without fire in the bellly.

    • The reason this team was a different team from near the end of the season on, is 1st they lost their excellent catcher and best hitter who was batting .459 the last 10 games before his injury. He came back and wasnt the same plus he booted Bell off 1st base since he couldnt catch, leaving Girand to bat instead of Bell. Then Singer never was the same after his injury, it appears he must not be 100% from that hamstring. so without your best hitter and catcher and best Ace there’s no way they werent going to struggle. Its amazing they got to the final 4! Just shows you how good they really were even without those 3 key positions!

  16. Royals gotta be scratching their heads over drafting Brady so high!!!
    can you say BUST!?!?!?!?!?!
    can you say OVER-RATED!?!?!
    LOSING BOTH GAMES FOR US AND GETTING ROCKED RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE IN BOTH!!
    he will never make the majors!

  17. Sully has clearly put the Florida baseball program in the list of top tier college baseball teams in college baseball history. Hard to argue with that achievement, and nothing is likely to change in the near future with him at the helm. And Leftwich and Mace look like the next studs in the Florida rotation, with I am sure others to join them in this year’s recruiting class and young pitchers on the roster refining their game. But the roster clearly needs a couple more stud hitters in the lineup and needs to improve defensively in CF (speed), C, and 2B. Go Gators.

  18. We just seemed to run out of gas and hit a slump right at the time we went into Starkville and was never really able to overcome it. The lack of experienced pitching was hidden for most of the season when the bats were red-hot and UF was scoring a lot of runs and launching HR’s out of the park in almost every game, and I kept saying, as a team, we are really only as good as our bats this year with the young pitchers. If the bats don’t hit, odds are we aren’t going to win against a quality opponent.

    Good season, an SEC Title, lots of great moments, but maybe we could finally consider some sort of new approach to batting, perhaps a batting specialist.

    Go Gators.

      • The key player on last year’s team was Mike Rivera. He was a take charge field general- like another coach- had fire in the belly and seemed to get a big hit when needed. There is an old baseball adage – you win with strength up the middle…it starts with the catcher. I see Cal Greenfield as having that potential for the next two years although Brady Smith has to be in the conversation, and Brady can play the field as well.

  19. Nothing to say but thanks for the memories guys. Best team in Gator history. They played with class and lost with class too. Just like Sully said, baseball is a fickle game. The “best” team does not always win. It is the best team that day. These guys played hard every time out and gave it their best. That is all you can ask. Sully is a great coach. Proud to be a Gator. Born a Gator and will die a Gator.

  20. this team has been a joy for quite some time. I hate that its over, it seemed like whatever happened – probably nothing, just a little bad luck – a few weeks ago resulted in a negative cascade that just wouldn’t quite stop, and the guys probably lost a couple games they would have won any other time. We are lucky to have them, and we can all learn something from this incredible group of guys, go gators.

  21. This team was beautiful! We can’t win every year and we gave a great effort! I will miss so many of these players. Wish them the best in pros and hope our team comes back re-inspired next year.