Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016 College World Series: Florida's Season is Over

Yet again, another Gator baseball season has concluded without a National Championship as No. 1 Florida (52-16) lost to the No. 5 Texas Tech Red Raiders (47-19) by a score of 3-2 yesterday.

In his final start as a sophomore, Alex Faedo (13-3, 3.18 ERA) threw about as well as any Gator fan could have wanted. He tossed 7.2 innings, allowed two earned runs on seven scattered hits, walked none, and struck out nine Red Raiders on 107 pitches.

Faedo's one mistake came in the top of the fourth inning. With two outs and a man on third base, he gave up a two-run bomb to Big 12 Player of the Year Eric Gutierrez. After the homer, Faedo proceeded to retire eight straight batters before Gutierrez tagged him for a single in the seventh inning.

After Faedo's departure, Scott Moss came in with two outs in the eighth inning. Needing eight pitches, the sophomore lefty induced a ground ball to end the Tech threat.

In the ninth, Dane Dunning came in for what would be his final collegiate appearance. Tech hit nothing but ground balls off of Dunning, yet somehow was able to up their lead to 3-0. Their only hit off of him came via a swinging bunt that was right down the third base line to start the inning.

After Florida failed to turn a double play on another grounder, Tech had a man on first base with one out. What followed is something that has been engrained in my memory probably forever.

A grounder was hit to third baseman Jonathan India. The freshman was behind the bag when he fielded it, so he had no choice but to go to first with the throw. Rearing back, India fired a rocket to Peter Alonso that short hopped and ricocheted off the extending first baseman's mitt.

Seeing this, Tech runner Tyler Neslony took off towards third base. Alonso saw him the whole way and left his feet as he made a hasty throw back to India. Alonso's throw skipped past the Gator third baseman and Neslony came in to score a crucial insurance run for Tech. Who hit the ball that started this fiasco? Eric Gutierrez of course.

After the errors from India and Alonso, Faedo hit a batter and Florida failed to turn yet another double play before the inning ended with a groundout to second baseman Deacon Liput. Dunning's last college outing was indeed a chaotic one.

Offensively, Florida squandered their chances in this game.

Don't let a 3-2 score fool you. For seven innings, the Gators had no response to Tech starter Davis Martin (10-1, 2.52 ERA). The freshman was phenomenal as he tossed seven shutout innings of three-hit ball, fanned three Gators, and walked three.

Florida had three legitimate chances to score off of Davis in this game.

In the bottom of the first with a runner on first base and two outs, JJ Schwarz hit a shot to left center field. It had the potential to be a home run, but was definitely going to be extra bases if it landed. Sadly, it never touched down as Tech center fielder Tanner Gardner made a sensational grab and banged into the wall to end the inning.

The play was eerily similar to the catch that Buddy Reed did not make as Coastal Carolina plated what would be the inevitable game-winning run in the College World Series opener.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Gators had runners on first and second before Danny Reyes grounded into an inning-ending double play. Their next opportunity would come a couple innings later in the bottom of the sixth.

With the score 2-0, Jeremy Vasquez led off the inning with a pinch-hit single from the nine-hole. Next, leadoff man Dalton Guthrie drew a walk to set up first and second with nobody out. Looking to avoid another double play, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan had Buddy Reed sacrifice bunt to move the runners over. It worked. Now it was one out with runners in scoring position and the big bat of Peter Alonso coming up.

Tech would have none of it. They intentionally walked Alonso to get to clean-up hitter JJ Schwarz. This was not an unfamiliar spot for the sophomore, as he hit one of the biggest home runs in program history with the bases loaded in super regionals.

The count quickly went to 3-0, and Florida was on the cusp of ending the shutout. A taken pitch and big hack later, it was 3-2. With the crowed on pins and needles, Davis delivered and JJ... grounded right back to the pitcher.

Davis fielded the come backer and threw to Tech catcher Tyler Floyd for the force out at home. Floyd then threw to first base for the final out. However, Floyd's throw was errant and sailed past the first baseman down the right field foul line.

It looked like Florida would at the very least score a run if not tie the game! But this was all for not. The umps ruled that it was runner's inference on JJ for running out of the base path. The inning was over and a huge scoring opportunity had been lost.

Florida would not make anymore offensive noise until the final frame against Tech closer Hayden Howard. Leading off the inning, Buddy Reed collected his final collegiate hit as he singled to lead off the ninth. Then, on a 2-2 count, Peter Alonso blasted a 425-foot dinger to left field and cut the lead to 3-2. It was his 14th homer of the season and his second hit of the contest in three at-bats.

With a little bit of life, Florida needed to string together just a couple more hits to force extras and save the season!

Next up was JJ Schwarz, who followed up his bases-loaded groundout with a four-pitch strikeout. Sophomore catcher Mike Rivera was next, and he popped up to second base on a 2-2 count. Now down their final out, Florida's hope rested in Jonathan India.

Down 0-2 in the count, India took a ball and fouled off two pitches before roping a hit into left field. It took some time for Tech's left fielder Tyler Neslony to get the ball, so India tried to get into scoring position and take second base.

Unfortunately for India and Florida, Nelsony made an incredible throw and gunned out India to end the game and Florida's season. Fittingly enough, both the players involved with the game's decisive scoring play took part in the game's final out.

Final Takeaway:
For a student/fan who has been following the Gators closely since Opening Night, went to 23 games (one being on the road against Miami), watched nearly every game on TV or my computer, and has served as this team's unofficial beat writer, this is a real disappointing end to a great season.

Before I elaborate more on this season, here are my final tidbits on the Texas Tech game and the College World Series as a whole:

  • Peter Alonso, Buddy Reed, Jeremy Vasquez, and Jonathan India conclude the College World Series as the only Gators to record a hit in both games.
  • This is the fourth time in school history (1998, 2010, 2012), that Florida has gone 0-2 in Omaha.
  • This is the second time in school history (2012) that Florida has earned the No. 1 overall seed and failed to win a single game in Omaha. 
  • As a team, Florida went 13-61 (.213) with three walks and 11 strikeouts in the CWS. The Gators left eight total men on base between both games.
  • Florida was just one victory away from tying the single-season school record (53). The team's 16 losses are the fewest ever among all 10 of the Gator teams that have made it to the CWS.
  • This is the first time in his college career that Alex Faedo has lost back-to-back starts.
  • Speaking of Alex Faedo, he now holds the school record for strikeouts in a single CWS game after his 9 K effort against Texas Tech. 
  • Both of Jeremy Vasquez's base knocks in the CWS were pinch-hit singles.
  • Florida continues to make it into teams' record books as their loss today was Texas Tech's first ever CWS victory. Keep in mind they were Coastal Carolina's first CWS win as well.

This feeling is all too familiar for Gator fans like myself. In 2011, Florida had an incredible team that finished runner-up in the College World Series. The next year in 2012, everybody in the country expected the Gators to win it all hands down. Florida received the No. 1 overall seed and was out of Omaha in two games.

History has indeed repeated itself. Florida was a win away from playing for a National Championship in 2015, came back even better in 2016, got the No. 1 overall seed, and was out of Omaha in two games.

I could not be more proud and disappointed in this team at the same time. They had the makeup of a championship-caliber squad, but just couldn't put it all together when it mattered the most. The best pitching staff in America, eight MLB draft picks, and a top-ranked recruiting class still wasn't enough to push Florida over the top.

In the upcoming weeks, I will be writing my final recap of the 2016 Florida Gator baseball season. This will be one of my final articles about the baseball team as I prepare to dedicate more time to studying for the LSAT I will be taking in September.

The ending to the 2016 campaign wasn't pretty, but it was a great ride throughout the entire season. I am proud of my Gator boys. This will truly be a season I will never forget.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. As for No. 5 Texas Tech, they will be taking on Coastal Carolina (50-17) in another elimination game for the right to play TCU (49-16) in the semifinals. Game time is at 8 p.m. on June 23rd and it can be seen on ESPN2.

*All stats accredited to

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