After finishing as last year’s runner up in the CWS, Florida won’t even have a chance to play for the title this year. Despite rallying, the Gators squandered chances and fell to the Golden Flashes 5-4 today in Omaha, eliminating them from the postseason.
KSU got on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. George Roberts laced an RBI single to bring Jimmy Rider home. The Flashes could’ve taken an even bigger lead, but they left two runners stranded.
They added more runs in the bottom of the second, though. Jason Bagoly singled, then reached second on a sac bunt from Alex Miklos. Miklos ended up getting to first thanks to a Gators error. Derek Toadvine laid down a sac bunt of his own to advance Bagoly to third.
Rider knocked an RBI single to bring Bagoly home, and David Lyon followed suit to make it 3-0 Flashes. Roberts got a base hit to bring Rider home before a ground out ended the inning. They left two men stranded again, or they could’ve really blown the game open.
Florida got on the board in the third, when Mike Zunino singled to bring Josh Tobias home. Tobias had been hit by a pitch to lead off the inning.
Kent State tacked on their final run in the bottom of the fourth. Rider doubled, went to third on a wild pitch, and came home on a second wild pitch to make the score 5-1.
The Gators added a run in the sixth, when Justin Shafer doubled to right center to bring Daniel Pigott in. The Flashes had a chance to pad their lead in the bottom of the seventh, but couldn’t capitalize and again left two men on the bases. UF then stranded two men in the top of the eighth, and they looked to be all but done in Omaha.
With the score 5-2 in favor of KSU, the Gators mounted a bit of a rally in the seventh inning. With the bases loaded and no outs, Zunino laced an RBI single to get Taylor Gushue home and make it 5-3. Brian Johnson then grounded into a double play, but Fontana was able to score, bringing UF within one.
Down to their final three outs, Florida made a valiant effort at either tying or taking a lead. Preston Tucker and Zunino had back to back walks to lead off the inning, then Cody Dent laid down a sac bunt to advance the runners. Pigott was hit, which loaded the bases with just one out. Kent State reliever Josh Pierce worked out of the jam, though, and got Casey Turgeon to strike out and Shafer to fly out.
Pierce earned the save, his third of the year. Starter Ryan Bores got the win and improves to 10-3. He pitched six innings and allowed only two runs on six hits. issued two walks and struck out one batter.
Florida starter Hudson Randall lasted only one inning and left with a heat-related issue. He was clearly struggling on the mound, was given an IV and took a shower before returning to the dugout in shorts and a t-shirt. He also took the loss and falls to 9-3. Jonathan Crawford, Greg Larson, and Austin Maddox combined to handle the pitching duties for UF.
The Flashes outhit the Gators 12-10, and Florida recorded two errors compared to Kent State’s one. UF was uncharacteristically sloppy during the whole game, and they never seemed to be fully clicking individually or together. Zunino, usually rock solid behind the plate, had trouble handling balls and allowed a few to get away from him.
This was Kent State’s first-ever CWS victory. They’ll take on South Carolina Wednesday night at 8 ET in an elimination game. The winner will play Arkansas.