Florida’s College World Series run in 2015 is over.
Virginia sets up a rematch from last year’s CWS final with Vanderbilt with a 5-4 win over Florida in Omaha on Saturday night.
It was a long and winding road in 2015 for the Florida baseball team. Expectations were blurry given how young the team was but this group proved to have loads of talent. The Gators fought hard in the postseason, winning the SEC Tournament and grinding all the way to the College World Series. But Florida met its match in Virginia as the Cavaliers take two of three from the Gators in the tournament semi-finals.
It was a hard fought battle, Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan was proud of the way his club fought.
“There’s only going to be one team standing at the end of the year that’s going to be the champion. And I’m not going to lie to you, you know, I felt like if we had a chance to play in the championship round, I liked our chances. But obviously we won’t be getting that opportunity. But it’s just we’ve got a great bunch of guys. They worked extremely hard. I don’t even know how many games we won, but we played a difficult schedule. We seemed to answer the bell every time we needed to when our backs were against the wall. Tonight just didn’t work out for us. But I’m awfully proud of them.”
The game went back and forth on Saturday. Gator coach Kevin O’Sullivan elected to start Dane Dunning the mound rather than AJ Puk on short rest. After a solo homer gave Virginia a 1-0 lead, Florida’s Peter Alonso hit the first ever home run hit to center field at TD Ameritrade park during a CWS game to give UF a 2-1 lead. Virginia scraped back to make it a 2-2 game but Harrison Bader broke the knot with a solo shot of his own making it a 3-2 game.
In the fifth, Virginia’s Kenny Towns hit a two run double off of reliever Kirby Snead to give UVA a 4-3 lead.
The Gators tied it in the sixth on an RBI hit by Mike Rivera but the bullpen could not keep the lead. A sacrifice fly by Towns plated the eventual winning run in the seventh inning.
Florida’s Harrison Bader talked about the tough loss after the game and finishing his career at UF.
“No crying in baseball. I just — I just want to go on record and say there’s just so much that kids have poured into this program outside of what you see on the field. And it’s just been an absolute honor to play under Sully and Brad and Craig and all the assistant coaches I had.”
Florida will lose three everyday players in the lineup heading into next year but Kevin O’Sullivan knows the future is bright.
“There’s a lot of disappointed players in that locker room right now. But there are some things we can improve on moving forward and these guys are resilient. We’ve got a great club coming back. I’m obviously really proud of the juniors and seniors. They’ll be moving on. But we’ve got an awfully good bunch coming back, and we’ve got some newcomers that are coming in; they’ll help us right away, and we’re looking forward to hopefully getting back here next year.”
Florida finished the year 52-18 marking one of the best years in Florida baseball history. The Gators will return to next season still looking for the first ever national title in school history. They will have to follow up in 2016 with what was the second most wins they have had in a single season in school history.
Sound from the game:
Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan
Florida Left Fielder Harrison Bader