The 100th season of Florida baseball has come to an end in a very disappointing fashion. For the second straight year, the Gators' season has ended in regional play. This time, North Carolina was the culprit, as the Tarheels defeated the Gators 5-2. The Gators finish their season at 40-23 and have now lost six straight NCAA Tournament games.
Bobby Poyner was originally the starter for the Gators in this elimination game. Poyner would not be on the mound for long as a three hour rain delay in the third inning prompted Coach Kevin O'Sullivan to pull him from the game. Poyner's stat line at the time stood at 2.1 innings pitched and two strikeouts. There were two runners on base at the time of Poyner's exit.
After the rain delay, freshman Kirby Snead entered the game and gave up five runs on four hits. It seemed that the UNC hitters continually kept putting the ball in the gap between right and center field. Snead would be pulled after this inning for Dane Dunning who then gave way to A.J. Puk. Together, the two freshmen combined for five shutout innings and six strikeouts. They ended their seasons retiring the last 13 UNC hitters in order.
Offensively, it wasn't much different from last night. The Gators scored late in the game and left 13 runners on base. Casey Turgeon and Josh Tobias led the team in the hits department with two a piece in today's game. Turgeon also joined Zack Powers as the only two Gators to record RBI's today.
On the other side of the diamond, the North Carolina Tarheels (35-26) have kept their season alive and will play the loser of the College of Charleston/Long Beach State game at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
After watching the Gators go two games and out in their own regional, I am stunned at how their offense just completely disappeared. The Gators scored a total of four runs in their two games. The pitching also couldn't avoid the big inning as a three-spot in the first inning of the Charleston game and a five-spot in the UNC game put the Gators away early.
I'm starting to wonder if that late inning loss to LSU in the SEC Championship game might have left an imprint on the Gators' psyche and affected their performance these past two games. The Gators didn't score a run in the SEC Championship and held LSU scoreless until the eighth inning. Whatever it is, it doesn't change the fact that the Gator baseball season has ended in regionals for the second straight year.
Many Gator fans were probably celebrating when rival Florida State, the #5 national seed, was eliminated in two games after the Seminoles' comeback attempt against Alabama fell just short. Little did they know that they would be experiencing the same feeling just a few hours later.
I honestly don't know what's worse: Giving up a five-spot early in the game and realizing that your season might already be over because you know that your offense has been nonexistent, or rallying for five runs in the 9th inning and stranding the tying run on third to lose 6-5 and end your season. Either way, five was the magic number. A five-run second inning sunk the Gators early and a five-run ninth inning proved just not enough for FSU to comeback.
In the upcoming weeks, I will be writing a season wrap-up on the SEC Regular Season Champion Florida Gators. In it, I'll cover: The season's stat leaders, some big wins, my overall opinion on this season, and much more. Stay tuned!
*Stats accredited to Gatorzone.com & NCAA.com