They didn’t celebrate when they won the Southeastern Conference tournament title. There was little fanfare when they captured the Gainesville Regional last weekend.
But with the countdown over, the Gators dogpiled Saturday after punching a ticket back to the College World Series for the first time since losing in the championship series three years ago.
Florida swept rival Florida State in the best-of-3 Super Regional, smoking the Seminoles 11-4 behind four homers in front of a sold-out crowd in McKethan Stadium.
“It’s hard. You don’t really realize how difficult it is to get [to Omaha],” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who has delivered four CWS berths in eight seasons.
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“This is not easy. I really liked last year’s team. We won the SEC championship and then ran into a really good College of Charleston club on the first night. … Now, this one I appreciate a little bit more.”
Florida’s first game in Omaha will be against another instate rival, Miami, which became the first school to secure a berth with a series win over VCU on Saturday.
The Gators, who reached the CWS in 2010, ’11 and ’12, jettisoned FSU (44-21) with relative ease — outscoring the Noles 24-9 in the two games.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to [Florida]. We ran into a buzzsaw,” FSU coach Mike Martin said.
“They’re certainly a team that can take this momentum to Omaha and come back with a championship.”
The Gators won their ninth consecutive postseason game, as their formula of strong pitching, superb defense and timely hitting proved unbeatable again — even despite some unusual shaky play in the first inning.
FSU jumped to a 2-0 lead, as the nation’s top defensive team committed two rare errors behind left-handed starter A.J. Puk.
But unlike seasons past, the young Gators (49-16) didn’t panic.
Puk, a 6-7 sophomore who consistently throws 96 mph, mitigated the damage with a strikeout and popup, working around a bases-loaded, one-out jam.
“Puk really showed me something getting out of that inning,” Martin said. “There was a big opportunity for us and he said in no uncertain terms, ‘No. That’s all you’re getting.’ ”
The next inning, UF’s white-hot hitting freshman JJ Schwarz smashed a two-run homer over the left-field bleachers, erasing an early deficit in a flash — and FSU’s upset hopes with it.
Schwarz’s shot immediately sucked the air out of Seminoles starter Mike Compton (4-4), who surrendered the lead for good on a Dalton Guthrie sacrifice fly.
Then Florida’s bats really heated up.
Shortstop Richie Martin homered. Later, outfielder Harrison Bader launched a two-run shot, and finally, Schwarz uncorked another one, setting a UF freshman record with 18 home runs this season.
In the NCAA Tournament, the catcher/DH is 12 for 20 with four homers and 11 RBI.
“This week as been indescribable,” Schwarz said. “My sister [Taylor] won a national championship [with UF’s softball team]. I think it’s our turn now and we’re really excited to get out to Omaha and take one home.”
While UF’s bats fired on all cylinders, its pitching hummed along, too.
Puk went just four innings, but the hard-throwing southpaw retired eight of nine batters with six strikeouts before surrendering a two-run homer to FSU outfielder D.J. Stewart to start the fifth.
But that was all for the Seminoles.
Gators senior Bobby Poyner (5-2) pitched five shutout innings in relief to earn the win. The lefty set down 11 of the final 12 batters with two strikeouts.