The Florida Gators got the rematch they so desperately wanted at the College World Series.
No, not Miami.
By beating the Hurricanes 10-2 on Wednesday night, the Gators put themselves back in the championship conversation and another game against Virginia at 3 p.m. Friday.
The Cavaliers topped Florida 1-0 on Monday night, sending the Gators into an elimination game Wednesday against the Hurricanes.
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Although Virginia holds the upper hand in the double-elimination tournament — Florida has to win Friday and Saturday to move into the title round, while Virginia advances with a win Friday — the Gators are confident they can pull this off.
“In these elimination games, it’s important that you kind of build some momentum early on,” said UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan, whose team won four must-win games to claim the SEC tournament title last month after being knocked into the losers’ bracket.
“The most important thing is I was really pleased with how we responded [Wednesday] from a tough loss on Monday night. And I thought we were very relaxed. Thought we came out with a purpose. We’re looking forward to play on Friday.”
Florida bounced back from Monday’s shutout by jumping all over Miami starter Enrique Sosa on Wednesday, kicking things off with Harrison Bader’s leadoff home run before taking a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the first off a two-run shot from Buddy Reed.
“You know, baseball is a game of failure,” Reed said. “You’re not always going to succeed. Obviously, hitting 3 for 10 and you’re in the Hall of Fame. We always have a game plan. And baseball, you have to be confident.
“It’s a game of inches like any sport, really. And I guess, yeah, we came out really good against Miami the first game. Lost a tough one but we stayed confident. There’s no like, ‘Oh, we’re going to fail.’ We’re just going to come in with the same game plan, keep our minds right, and just keep playing.”
The Gators offense is considered perhaps the best in Omaha with Florida only being slowed by the Cavaliers. Since the NCAA tournament began, Florida has outscored opponents 78-18, with all of its victories coming against teams from Florida.
“We’re not going to score 10 runs every game,” Bader said. “There are going to be games where we might get shut out. So the biggest thing was it was a fresh start. And at this point in the game, you are fighting for your life. So you have to lay it out there, every pitch, every inning, that’s what we did, and that was what our approach was and it worked out for us [Wednesday]. So it felt good.”
Virginia, which has won seven straight since losing its final three games at the ACC tournament in North Carolina, is playing its best baseball of the year at the perfect time.
The Cavaliers (41-22) have yet to be beaten in the NCAA tournament and know what it takes to get into the championship round.
Virginia lost to Vanderbilt — which is still in play to advance to the finals — in last year’s championship.
“[We have given] these guys a chance for a couple of days to enjoy Omaha a little bit,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “The advantage of being in the bracket that we’re in compared to last year, you do have an extra day, which I think makes a difference.”