Thursday, June 29, 2017


For the first time in program history, the Florida Gators are NATIONAL CHAMPIONS in the sport of baseball! With their 6-1 victory over the rival No. 4 LSU Tigers (52-20) in Game 2 of the College World Series Finals last night, No. 3 Florida (52-19) completed their improbable journey with the most unlikely team.

I must warn you, what you are about to read may be the most detail-oriented ZKS article ever formulated. So come with me now as I tell you how the Florida Gators FINALLY WON the College World Series!

Making his second-ever collegiate start, freshman right-hander Tyler Dyson (4-0, 3.23 ERA) delivered an outing that will forever live on in Gator lore. Throwing a career-high six innings, Dyson held the Tigers to one earned run on three hits with two strikeouts and two walks.

After Zach Watson hit a soft single to lead off the seventh inning, Dyson was pulled with Florida up 2-0. He had thrown a career-high 75 pitches and would be in line for the biggest win in program history if the bullpen could hold on.

When sophomore closer Michael Byrne came in, LSU starting showing signs of life. Watson proceeded to steal second base and then six-hole Josh Smith hit a ball that landed right in front of a diving Ryan Larson in right center field. It would be a double for Smith and Watson would come around to score to make it 2-1 Florida with no outs.

Jake Slaughter then singled into left field and put runners on first and third. Listening to the radio at this point, I recall Florida commentator Jeff Cardozo saying that "LSU will probably tie the game here". To be honest, I agreed with him 100%. I saw no scenario where Florida would get out of this inning with the lead intact. Then, the most improbable/fortuitous sequence of events occurred.

With Michael Papierski up to bat, he hit the second pitch he saw to Deacon Liput at second base. Liput fielded the ball cleanly and flipped it to shortstop Dalton Guthrie, who then made a great throw to first base for the double play.

So now there were two outs, but the game was tied at 2-2. Or was it? Moments after the second out was recorded, home plate umpire Troy Fullwood made Josh Smith go back to third base. The reason was because when Slaughter slid into Dalton Guthrie at second base, he blatantly tried to take out the Gator shortstop.

This act then invokes the "Force-Play Slide Rule" which under Section C of the 2017 and 2018 NCAA Baseball Rules states:

Actions by a runner are illegal and interference shall be called if: 1) The runner slides or runs out of the base line in the direction of the fielder and alters the play of a fielder (with or without contact); 2) The runner uses a rolling or cross-body slide and either makes contact with or alters the play of a fielder; 3) The runner’s raised leg makes contact higher than the fielder’s knee when in a standing position; 4) The runner slashes or kicks the fielder with either leg; or 5) The runner illegally slides toward or contacts the fielder even if the fielder makes no attempt to throw to complete a play. 

Thus, the penalty of said actions would be:

With less than two outs, the batter-runner, as well as the interfering runner, shall be declared out and no other runner(s) shall advance.

As replay clearly showed, Slaughter made NO ATTEMPT to slide into the bag and intentionally tried to take out Dalt. From a baseball perspective, it made no sense for him to do this as the game would have been tied regardless. The LSU majority at TD Ameritrade Park were not happy at all in response to the call. They started booing and throwing trash on the field, prompting a slight delay in the game.

Slaughter taking out Guthrie at second. (Photo Credits: Brendan Sullivan/The World-Herald)

So moving forward, it was now two outs with Florida still up 2-1 and the runner returning to third base. With the count 0-2 on Beau Jordan, the junior hit a liner to center field. Making one of the biggest plays of his career, Nick Horvath came crashing in and made a beautiful sliding catch to end the inning and preserve the lead!

Heading into the eighth, the score remained 2-1 as Byrne trotted back out to the mound. Again, LSU put their leadoff man on base as Kramer Robertson hit a soft single into right field. With Cole Freeman up now, LSU opted to bunt Robertson to second.

However, Byrne spiked a pitch past catcher Mike Rivera and now Robertson was at second base with no outs. LSU went with the bunt again, and Freeman beat Byrne's throw to put runners on the corners. It was a bad break for Florida, as replay had shown that Freeman was out by half a step.

Byrne would keep his poise and strike out three-hole Antoine Duplantis before exiting the game with one down and LSU still threatening. In for his first relief appearance of the season was sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar.

Kowar's name had been floated out there as the probable Game 3 starter, but it looked like Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan was trying to end this series tonight. On Kowar's first pitch out of the pen, cleanup man Greg Deichmann hit a grounder to first base.

JJ Schwarz backhanded the ball and threw a strike to home plate to cut down the potential tying run in Kramer Robertson. LSU head coach Paul Maineri would come out to argue the call, but it was to no avail. Florida catcher Mike Rivera had put a perfect tag on Kramer and replay did show that the LSU shortstop was indeed out.

Mike Rivera's game-saving tag on Kramer Robertson.

So with two down now and runners on first and second, five-hole Zach Watson came up to bat. On a 1-0 count he drilled a pitch to center, but Nick Horvath was right there to glove it. For the second straight inning, Florida had prevented LSU from tying the game with a runner on third and no outs.

After a four-run offensive explosion in the bottom of the eighth, Jackson Kowar came out in the ninth with a comfortable 6-1 lead. He induced a line out to left field from Josh Smith for out No. 1 and then gave up a pinch hit single to Chris Reid.

Brennan Breaux would pinch run for Reid and advance to second without a throw. Michael Papierski was up now, and Kowar got him to groundout to Dalton Guthrie for the second out of the inning. Florida was now one out away from a national championship with nine-hole Beaux Jordan settling in and Breaux on third.

Kowar's first offering to Jordan was hit as a chopping ground ball out to second base. Moving to his left, Deacon Liput gloved the ball threw it to JJ Schwarz for the final out of the ballgame. It was all over! Finally, the Florida Gators had obtained their long awaited national championship in the sport of baseball!

Everyone gets in on the dog-pile as the Florida Gators celebrate their first-ever National Championship!

The rest of the team came swarming out of the dugout and gloves went flying into the night sky as the Gators dog-piled near the mound. Their arduous and remarkable journey was complete. In their 103rd season of existence, the Florida Gators would finally be the last team standing in Omaha.

For Tyler Dyson, he would be awarded the fourth win of his freshman campaign. For the man at the bottom of the dog-pile, Jackson Kowar, he would earn his first-ever collegiate save.

The Florida Gators capitalized on some LSU miscues and very timely hitting to generate enough offense in the clincher. Recording double-digit hits for the first time all College World Series, Florida banged out 10 base knocks while scoring six total runs. They scratched across one run in each of the first two innings and then broke out for four in the eighth to put this game out of reach.

In the first inning, Deacon Liput reached on an error by Tiger first baseman Nick Coomes. Dalton Guthrie would single to move him over to third and create an early scoring opportunity for Florida. JJ Schwarz was now up, and with the count 2-0 he smoked a single through the left side to plate Liput and make it 1-0 Florida.

The Gators would fail to capitalize on anymore scoring chances in the first. Nelson Maldonaldo moved the runners over with a fly ball to right field that Greg Deichmann was fortunate to even catch as he leapt in the air. Soon after, Jonathan India struck out on three pitches and Austin Langworthy flew out to end the frame.

In the second inning, Nick Horvath picked up his first hit of the College World Series with a two-out single to left field. After an errant throw from Nick Coomes on a pickoff attempt, Horvath was now on second with Deacon Liput up.

The error would hurt LSU, as Liput singled up the middle to score Horvath and increase the lead to 2-0 Florida. Dalton Guthrie would then reach base via an error, but JJ Schwarz would ground out to end the inning.

Florida's offense would then go dormant until the eighth inning. They would get base hits before then, but they wold not translate into runs. That would all change when Jonathan India doubled down the left field line to kick off Florida's potential final at-bat of the season.

Austin Langworthy was up next and drew a walk to bring up Mike Rivera. Florida's captain was asked to bunt and he got down a beautiful sacrifice to put India and Langworthy in scoring position.

Senior Ryan Larson was up next, but he was denied his final collegiate at-bat as Christian Hicks pinch hit for him. The move panned out as Hicks would be intentionally walked. Freshman Andrew Baker would come on to pinch run for him.

With the bases loaded now with one out and Florida clinging to a 2-1 lead, Nick Horvath was up in the nine-hole. He had a chance with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, but had popped up to end the frame. Now was his chance for redemption.

With the count 1-0, Horvath geared up and took a ball right off the shoulder. It was the best situation imaginable! LSU's star freshman closer Zack Hess (who had been in since the sixth inning) had hit Horvath to force in a run!

It was now 3-1 Florida with the bases still loaded and the top of the lineup coming to bat. With the count again 1-0, Deacon Liput singled into center field to score both Langworthy and Baker to make it 5-1 Florida! Dalton Guthrie was up now, and he singled on an 0-2 pitch to again load the bases!

With a chance to put LSU out of grand slam territory, JJ Schwarz jumped on the first pitch he saw and drove it to center field. It would be good for a sacrifice fly as Horvath scored and Liput advanced to third.

JJ had extended Florida's lead to 6-1 and at this point their championship gear was slowly making its way to the field. Nelly would fly out to end the inning, but a five-run lead would take the pressure off for the ninth.

Offensive Performers
The Gator offense made sure they would not have to face LSU ace Alex Lange by jumping on left-handed starter Jared Poche' (12-4, 3.17 ERA) in Game 2. Three Gators had multiple hits in the clincher!

In the leadoff spot, Deacon Liput went 2-5 with a team-high three RBI's and a run scored. Behind Liput in the two-hole and presumably playing his last collegiate game, Dalton Guthrie went 2-5 with a pair of singles.

In the five-hole, Jonathan India put his College World Series woes way behind him as he went 2-4 with a double and run scored. He would be the only Gator to record an extra-base hit in the contest.

For the remainder of the Gator lineup, JJ Schwarz went 1-4 with two RBI's and a sacrifice fly. Behind him, Nelson Maldonaldo went 1-4 with a walk. He served as the team's designated hitter for the second straight contest.

Also playing his final collegiate game, Mike Rivera went 1-2 with a sacrifice bunt and a walk. Rounding out the lineup was the best surprise of Game 2 in Nick Horvath. He went 1-2 with an RBI, a team-high two runs scored, and the most significant hit-by-pitch in the history of Gator baseball.

For the fifth straight game, Florida played without an error. Couple that with the Nick Horvath sliding catch in the seventh and the JJ Schwarz throw to home in the eighth, and it should be no surprise the Gators were able to pull this one out.

Florida did have much help from LSU though, as the Tigers shot themselves in the foot three times. Had the Gators not scored those two unearned runs and went into the eighth down 1-0, it would be hard to say if Sully would have brought in Jackson Kowar or not.

Final Takeaway
It is still so surreal to me. In my final week up here in Gainesville, I got to witness my favorite sports program from my alma mater win their first ever national championship! For someone who follows the team as closely as I do, it means so much.

Not only that, to say I ushered 16 of the 38 home games and attended 19 of them in the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON is something I will hold on to forever. Before getting into even more detail about how much this victory means to me, let me do my last ever tidbits on a Gator baseball game.

So here they are, my final tidbits on Florida's clinching win for a national championship:

  • Florida is now 19-22 all-time in the College World Series and 2-4 all-time in the championship series!
  • With their national championship, No. 3 Florida becomes the first national seed since 2011 (No. 4 South Carolina) to win it all! Ironically, the last time it happened was against the Gators!
  • The Gators conclude their title run with a 10-3 postseason record and a 5-1 mark in Omaha!
  • Florida finishes the year with 52 wins for the third consecutive season, just narrowly missing the school record of 53. It's okay, I will easily take the national championship over a wins record.
  • Florida finishes this year 4-1 against LSU and ups their all-time record in the College World Series to 2-4 against the Tigers. They are the first team in seven tries to defeat the Tigers for a national championship.
  • Florida's combined 10 runs and 16 hits in the championship series are their most ever among their three appearances.
  • This was Deacon Liput's 15th, Dalton Guthrie's 23rd, and Jonathan India's 16th multi-hit game of the year.
  • India's double was his 15th of the year and he finishes the season as Florida's leading man in this offensive category!
  • JJ's sac fly was his sixth of the year and ties him for the team lead with Dalt!
  • Mike Rivera's eighth inning sac bunt was his third of the year. Ryan Larson also laid down his second sac bunt of the season in the sixth inning. It would be his final collegiate at-bat.
  • Just hours after one of the biggest games of his life, Deacon Liput celebrated his 21st birthday!
  • Alex Faedo was named the Most Outstanding Player for the 2017 College World Series. His stat line includes 14.1 scoreless innings pitched, 22 strikeouts, and two wins in two starts.
  • In addition to his MOP award, Faedo was named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team along with Austin Langworthy and Brady Singer.
  • 26,607 fans were in attendance and again the majority were for LSU. That wouldn't bother Florida though.

Lasting Legacy
To me personally, this is the most significant Florida Gator national championship in school history. After losing to the eventual National Champion in the two previous seasons, Florida finally broke through! With this being my final season closely covering the team, I can't help but feel like I am also going out as a winner.

I can't finish up this article without paying my respects to Kevin O'Sullivan. In his 10th year at Florida, he has already solidified an impressive legacy by winning the program's first national championship.

This was long overdue for Sully, and I am so happy for him, his family, his coaching staff, and his players. To show just how good of a coach he is, keep the following in mind: Not a single one of his players finished the season with a batting average of .300. Yet, they outscored LSU 10-4 between the two games and are National Champions!

Sully is finally a National Champion!

A national championship trophy will now forever reside at the Mac. The 2017 Florida Gator baseball team, though not as talented as many other squads that Sully has brought to Omaha, will forever be remembered as the team who successfully closed out the season. This isn't just for them though, it's for every Gator team in the previous 102 seasons who did not reach the promise land.

It's for the 1998 team that went in the loser's bracket and couldn't make it out. It's for the 1991 and 1996 teams that both had their seasons end with semifinal losses to LSU. It's for the 1998, 2010, 2012, and 2016 teams that went 0-2 in Omaha. It's for the 2015 team that came within one win of the College World Series Finals. Maybe most of all, it's for the 2005 and 2011 teams who got swept in the College World Series Finals.

I am blessed to have been a part of the Gator Nation and to have watched this program during my three and half years of school up here. This victory makes it all the more sweeter as I head out to Baton Rouge for three years of law school. Not including the season recap, this is my final Florida Gator baseball recap article and I am happy to conclude it by saying:


Enough said.

*All stats accredited to


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.