Gators confident despite facing elimination in College World Series
The No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA College World Series will take the field this afternoon facing elimination from the championship tournament.
No. 1 Florida will play Kent State at 5 p.m. in Omaha, with the loser going home.
The Gators fell into the loser's bracket following Saturday night's 7-3 loss to CWS nemesis South Carolina. The Gamecocks defeated the Gators twice to win the national title last season, and have now lost three straight to the Gamecocks in Omaha. In Saturday night's game, the Gators left nine men on base and had three errors.
Now, with their season on the line, the Gators are focused solely on today's game.
"I'm not going to look too far ahead,'' Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We got a game (today). That's all I'm concerned about. We got Hudson (Randall) and we got a lot of our pen left. And then we'll take it one game at a time. Once you're in the loser's bracket you can't look too far ahead. Obviously we'll just concern ourselves with Monday.''
Florida will start Randall (9-2, 2.61 ERA), the Gators' reliable pitcher who has been stellar in postseason play - with a school-record five NCAA Tournament victories. In nine career starts in the NCAA Tournament, Randall is 5-1 with a 2.50 ERA. He is 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA in this year's tournament, beating Georgia Tech and N.C. State on the road to Omaha.
The Gators said they feel confident with Randall and the rest of their pitching staff, and still believe they can win it all coming from the loser's bracket.
"Obviously you have to have pitching in this tournament to win ballgames, I think that's one thing our team has,'' senior Preston Tucker, a Plant alum, said. "Obviously it's going to be tough but it's been done before. And I think if anyone can do it we can. I think we've got a great bullpen. We've got guys we trust. And I think that we got a good shot if we go out there and pitch the way we know we can.''
The Gators will face a Kent State team that is coming off an 8-1 loss to Arkansas and still feels it has something to prove.
"I told the guys to look around: We're in Omaha,'' Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. "That's the positive. This team has battled so hard and no one expected us to be here. I mean, we hoped to be here. But I don't think one guy, before the season, would have said we're going to be here. And so I think that's the positive that we're in Omaha. We have an opportunity to show the world we're a really good baseball team.
And I know our guys are disappointed that we had a lot of people watching, a lot of people came out here, and we want to play well for those people. We want to play for the people back home and the ones that made this trip. So our guys take a lot of pride in what we do. And it never tastes good to lose. And especially when you didn't play your best game. We knew we'd have to play our best to win. . . We've earned the right to be here, and we feel like we belong here. And we just want to make sure we play a little cleaner. If we do that, we'll have an opportunity to win.''
The game will be televised live nationally on ESPN2.
[Photo: University of Florida]