The field was scattered with hats after the celebration, the lids ripped off and tossed in the air with the enthusiasm of an entire Gator Nation. The celebration was loud and wet, just like the weekend.
Florida survived one crazy Super Regional on Monday night in an endurance test that wore out just about everyone who was a part of it whether they be fans or coaches or players or even media.
The Gators won because a kid who has only pitched for two years and struggled with control issues threw five scoreless innings nobody saw coming.
(So impressive was Tyler Dyson’s performance that JJ Schwarz stopped his postgame presser to make sure he gave the freshman credit.)
They won while dealing with just shy of 10 hours of rain delays and some strange umpiring and six homers by Wake Forest.
They won because Schwarz loves Super Regionals. His two-run homer in the third was the biggest hit of a long day.
“I knew the situation,” Schwarz said. “They wanted me to bait (the pitcher). He came in with a strike and I put a good swing on it.”
They won because a guy who was drafted in the first round earlier in the night got out of a jam he created in the eighth and was flawless in the ninth.
“I forgot how hard it is to come out of the bullpen,” said Alex Faedo. “You feel a little lost out there. I tried to take a closer’s mentality and I didn’t need to.”
They won with the pitching staff most teams envy and yet their best two pitchers only threw 12 of the 31 innings.
“We just find ways to win,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
And to the victors belonged the dogpile. And the group photo on the soggy field after the game.
This will be O’Sullivan’s sixth trip to the College World Series. And it was his toughest road to Omaha.
Certainly, it was different than all the others.
“I keep hearing about what we can’t do,” O’Sullivan said. “And then I look at our record and it’s 47-18.
“I told this team before the season that they have as good a chance to win a national championship as any team we’ve had. I believed in them.”
Through the slumps.
Through the broken hamate bones.
Through the junior-itis.
This team was given up for dead after the first weekend of SEC play and had to bounce back from numbing home losses in the regional and super regional.
It watched Wake Forest celebrate a walk-off win against the player who is the the team MVP in pitcher Michael Byrne, then bounced back to beat the Deacons by shutting down the scariest lineup I’ve seen since the nuclear bat era.
“Not every game is perfect,” Faedo said. “It’s kind of the way it has been all season.”
A long season that just got longer.
Maybe it was fitting that O’Sullivan was sporting a black and blue welt under his left eye on Monday night, a souvenir that came from chasing after his six-month old golden retriever on his slippery lawn while wearing flip flops.
Because this has been a team that has kept taking pratfalls and kept coming back to try again.
Batting averages are for suckers. How many runs do they need?
“If you had told me we’d hold them to three runs I’d have signed up for it,” said Wake Forest coach Tom Walter. “The Schwarz homer was really the difference in the game. Once they get up 3-0 with those three guys, it’s difficult to catch them.”
But he never dreamed Dyson would be the shutdown in the middle of the game. Neither did O’Sullivan, who was just hoping for a couple of solid innings out of a guy who entered the game with a 4.39 ERA.
But Omaha is a ride that usually requires some wild twists and turns.
“It’s been tough,” Schwarz said. “The whole season has been a roller coaster. It makes that last out that much more special.
“I think it says a lot about our team.”
And there is still more to say.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.