The Gator baseball season is over. The Gators lose 5-2 Sunday to North Carolina to drop them from their own NCAA Regional. Dating back to their 2012 College World Series appearance, Florida has now lost its last six NCAA Tournament games.
As was the case Friday when Florida lost 3-2 to College of Charleston, this game was delayed by more than three hours by a rain delay, and after the delay, Florida’s opponent caught fire.
In a scoreless game, UNC’s Adam Pate laid down a bunt followed by an Alex Raburn single to center field, putting men at second and third for the Tar Heels in the second inning. The game was delayed after UNC’S Michael Russell was hit by a pitch, loading bags with two down.
According to NCAA rule, in the event that blood is drawn the team has 10 minutes to decide if it wants to substitute the player. A decision was reached to pull Russell in favor of Zach Daily. It was a potential big loss for the Tar Heels losing Russell, who hit .344 out of the leadoff spot and leads the team with 26 extra-base hits.
Russell later received stiches but never lost consciousness. The inning came to an end with three runners stranded.
Josh Tobias started off the third inning for the Gators with a double ripped down the left field line and advanced to third off of a ground ball from Richie Martin.
With two outs and men on the corners, Harrison Bader was hit by a pitch from UNC right-hander Benton Moss. Moss was issued a warning for the hit batter, which in turn could have been a warning to Gator starter Bobby Poyner for hitting Russell. One Taylor Gushue walk later, Zack Powers went down looking, leaving the bases loaded.
That set the stage for the fateful third inning. Poyner allowed a single and then Josh Tobias committed an error at third to put the first two runners on before the rain delay. Lefty Kirby Snead entered the game for Florida on the mound after play resumed and got the first out.
Alex Raburn knocked an RBI single to center field to plate Lassiter. A wild pitch, two doubles and a single later, the Tar Heels gained a 5-0 advantage.
Florida Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan says that he didn’t expect North Carolina to hit Snead like they did.
“He’s been throwing the ball really well and we felt good during the rain delay that we were going to start him. We had a 1-2 count to Myers and they were getting towards the bottom half of the order and we felt good about that. We talked about if we gave up a run or two that we were still going to have to score if we wanted to win. I felt good about it. He had thrown about 10 or 11 pitches and the damage was done already,” explained O’Sullivan.
The Gators had an opportunity to turn things in the seventh inning after loading the bases. Casey Turgeon drew a walk and Martin singled to right center. With two outs and the bases loaded, Zack Powers hit an RBI single. But Martin tripped rounding third and was tagged out at the plate to end the inning with just one run being scored.
Florida tacked on another run in the eighth inning after Turgeon singled to right field to plate Buddy Reed, narrowing the gap to 5-2.
But that would be all the runs Florida would score during a weekend in which it had trouble scoring overall. With the four bases loaded opportunities in two games, Florida only produced one run in those situations, leaving many runners stranded.
O’Sullivan says that their hitting just didn’t fall into place this weekend.
“We have come accustomed to coming up with those two-out RBIs and those clutch two-strike hits when we need them. We’ve done that a majority of the year and, for whatever reason, the last couple of days we just weren’t able to do that and that’s just baseball,” said O’Sullivan.
The Tar Heels (35-26) advance to face the loser of Saturday’s winner’s bracket game between second-seeded Long Beach State (33-24) and fourth-seeded College of Charleston (42-17) Sunday at 1 p.m. The Gator season ends with a record of 40-23, and 23-13 at McKethan Stadium.
O’Sullivan says sometimes things just don’t go as planned and you have to look at the bigger picture.
“The ball sometimes bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. For whatever reason, we did not play our best two games here at the end but I don’t want to take anything away from the College of Charleston or North Carolina. They both played really well. But, obviously we did not play up to our capabilities the last two games. There’s a lot to be proud of. I’m pleased to have had these guys as our team this year, they worked really hard. I don’t want these last two games to be a reflection of what they’ve accomplished this year,” says O’Sullivan.
To hear audio from Coach O’Sullivan and Casey Turgeon click below: