Florida comeback falls short as Gators ousted from College World Series
Two teams from Florida made this year’s College World Series.
One is already back in the Sunshine State.
The other will be soon.
The Gators were the second team to be eliminated from the 2016 CWS and joined Miami as the only teams to go two-and-out after losing 3-2 to Texas Tech on Tuesday afternoon.
Florida, the top-ranked team in the nation heading into its game, ends the season 52-16.
“There are over 300 D-1 teams and we lost two one-run games out here,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
“It’s hard to lose 3-2 and 2-1 and look at our guys in the locker room and think this season was a failure. If getting to Omaha is a failure, then, well, I don’t look at it that way. Of course we’re disappointed. Of course we wanted to stay out here longer.’’
Texas Tech, now the only national seed left in this tournament, took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth before Florida finally got something going as Peter Alonso crushed a two-run homer onto the left field concourse with no outs.
The Gators couldn’t get the tying run across, however, as Jonathan India ended it by trying to stretch a single into a double and was gunned down sliding into second.
“The hustle play by [India] at the end is something I think he should do 100 out of 100 times,” O’Sullivan said. “The left fielder made a hell of a throw, a perfect throw. Maybe that’s a fitting way to end our season; it was a hustle play, an all-out play where he was trying to get to second to give us a chance to tie the game.”
Said Alonso: “The last three outs were just desperation, us trying to do anything to get on base. We were just trying to find a way to scratch a run across.’’
The Red Raiders (47-19) took the initial lead when Eric Gutierrez made it 2-0 by homering into the left field bullpen with two outs in the fourth.
Tech tacked on a huge run in the top of the ninth as a pair of infield errors allowed Tyler Neslony to score, an insurance run which proved to be the difference.
With one out, Gutierrez grounded to India at third base but Alonso couldn’t handle the throw.
As Neslony raced to third, Alonso recovered and fired to India but he couldn’t handle the throw and it bounded wide.
With that run, the Red Raiders were able to hold on and eliminate a Florida team considered the favorite to win its first baseball national championship.
The talented Gators, who had eight players taken in the first two days of the MLB draft, instead went 0-2 for the fourth time in 10 trips to Omaha.
“We worked incredibly hard to get to this point,’’ Alonso said, “and to fall short, it hurts a lot especially getting so close in back-to-back years. This just stings.”
Alex Faedo (13-3) gave Florida a strong start and pitched well enough to win, but for the second consecutive game, the Florida bats didn’t do much damage — until Alonso’s mash to left — and one mistake from Faedo to Gutierrez and two infield errors were costly.
“It looks like it’s the difference, but we had chances to put up runs earlier in the game,’’ O’Sullivan said. “Nine times out of 10, [Alonso] makes that play. We didn’t lose the game because of that although it’s easy to say that since we lost by one.’’
Florida, held to three hits before the ninth, had a few scoring opportunities but none bigger than in the seventh.
With pinch-hitter Jeremy Vasquez and Dalton Guthrie on second and third with one out, Alonso was given an intentional pass to load the bases.
Sophomore JJ Schwarz, whose father Jeff is a minor league pitching coordinator with the Marlins, grounded up the middle to pitcher Davis Martin setting off an inning-ending double play.
Martin threw home for the first out with catcher Tyler Floyd throwing to first. The ball hit Schwarz as he raced up the line with home plate umpire John Haggerty calling him out for runner’s interference.
Texas Tech got to Faedo in the fourth. With one out, Cory Raley reached on a bunt, stole second and moved to third on Neslony’s grounder.
Gutierrez then unloaded with just the third homer of the tournament.
The Red Raiders, who lost to TCU in their series opener, will face the winner of Tuesday’s game between Coastal Carolina and the Horned Frogs on Thursday.
For Florida players such as Alonso, who was a second-round pick of the Mets, the end of this season also meant the end of their collegiate career.
Despite the loss, at least Alonso went out in style with one of the longest homers hit since the CWS moved to downtown Omaha from its longtime home at Rosenblatt Stadium in 2011.
“I’m going to miss this,’’ Alonso said. “I’m going to miss playing in the orange-and-blue.’’