Sunday, June 21, 2015

2015 College World Series: Florida's Season is Over

The 2015 Florida Gator baseball season has reached a somber conclusion with their 5-4 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers in the Semifinals at the College World Series tonight. It was one exhilarating ride, and I am very sad to see it end like this.

It is so hard to stomach this loss when I know that on paper, the Gators were a far superior team. Of course, the Gators ultimately get beaten by a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning. It is just fitting because that is how Virginia beat them the first time. They threw the same pitcher that they threw on Monday, Brandon Waddell, and the Gators were able to score four off of him this time around.

However, that did not stop him from going six innings and somewhat keeping the Gators at bay. Once he left, Virginia used the same strategy and went with reliever Josh Sborz. Florida could not figure out Sborz yet again as he went three innings and held the Gators scoreless to seal the victory.

Apart from Harrison Bader's solo home run, Peter Alonso's two-run home run, and Mike Rivera's RBI single, the Florida Gator offense scattered nine hits. In his final collegiate game, Bader notched four hits (including his final homer) and scored once. Mike Rivera followed with two hits of his own and an RBI. Finally, JJ Schwarz ended his freshman season with a 1-3 performance with two runs scored.

For pitching duties tonight, it was not A.J. Puk who got the ball. Instead, Coach Kevin O'Sullivan went with sophomore Dane Dunning. He did his job and kept Florida in the game as he went 4.2 innings and allowed three runs on four hits, struck out just one, and walked two.

Once Dane left, a usually lights out Florida bullpen finally came down to earth. Sophomore lefty Kirby Snead came in and gave up a run on two hits in just 0.1 innings. Once he was removed, junior Taylor Lewis came in and gave up what proved to be the game-winning sac-fly. He also allowed a hit, walked two, and struck out one. Following Lewis was junior lefty Danny Young, who retired all four batters he faced in 1.1 innings.

The bullpen should not be faulted nor should the offense. It was not the Gators' night. As deserving as they seemed to be, Florida got beaten by the fundamentals. There was no cutoff man to field Bader's throw from left field on a UVA double in the fifth. UVA was able to get bunts down and execute with men on base. Florida misplayed a couple balls in the outfield. It is easy to blame pitching and hitting on the surface, but it goes so much deeper than that.

As much as it hurts now, the pain will eventually subside. When it does, happy reminisces of a spectacular season will take its place. Making it to Omaha and winning the SEC Tournament are just a couple of this team's amazing feats that I will cover in my season recap. I am very proud of this Gator baseball team, it just was not their year. Even though Florida is losing eight players to the MLB Draft, much of the team is returning. They are so close to figuring it out, they just got to find a way to climb over the hump.

Florida finishes its 2015 baseball campaign with a very respectable 52-18 record. It truly was a fantastic season to watch. The team will return to Gainesville within the next day or two and soon go their separate ways as players get ready for summer ball or the minor leagues. The loss tonight should only motivate them to work harder this offseason.

As for Virginia (42-23), they set up a rematch of last years Finals with Vanderbilt (50-19). Game 1 will be Monday, June 22nd. Game time will be 8 p.m. and it can be seen on ESPN. If anyone is wondering, I have Vanderbilt taking this one in a sweep to claim back-to-back National Championships.

*All stats accredited to

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