OMAHA, Neb. — The Florida baseball team spent a good chunk of the season ranked No. 1 and held that spot in the seeding entering the College World Series.
That makes the Gators' latest elimination even more stunning.
The curse of the No. 1 seed continued at the CWS on Monday as Florida left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and failed to score, ending a 5-4 loss to CWS debutant Kent State at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. UF is the 13th straight No. 1 seed to leave without the title.
Florida starting pitcher Hudson Randall left after the first inning because of heat-related symptoms. The defense, which committed three errors in Saturday's loss to SEC rival South Carolina, was charged with two more against the Golden Flashes, the MAC champions.
And when it looked like the Gators might capitalize on CWS newcomer Kent State's shaky relief pitching in the ninth, they couldn't get the call they needed from the umpire.
"It's an unfortunate way to end the season, but I think Kent State deserves a lot of credit for the way they played," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "They hung in there, got a big strikeout at the end, and our guys hung in there right to the last out."
Florida (47-20), which lost to South Carolina in last year's final, came to Omaha as the favorite. But the Gators went 0-2 and became the 13th straight No. 1 seed to leave without the title.
The Gators gave up four unearned runs and another on a wild pitch while falling behind 5-1. But they chipped away at their deficit and loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Kent State relievers Michael Clark and Josh Pierce.
Pierce fought back from a 3-and-0 count to strike out Dunedin's Casey Turgeon when Turgeon checked his swing. He was called out on an appeal to the third-base umpire. Justin Shafer then flew out to right to end it.
"I've been able to make it out here three times and all three times I've been just as disappointed," said catcher Mike Zunino, the Dick Howser Trophy winner as the national player of the year.
George Roberts drove in runs each of the first two innings for Kent State (47-19) after shortstop Nolan Fontana and third baseman Josh Tobias committed errors.
Florida scored in the sixth and added two in the seventh to make it 5-4.
Clark walked Plant High grad Preston Tucker on four straight pitches to start the ninth. He was 2-and-0 on Zunino when coach Scott Stricklin called on Pierce, who walked Zunino.
Tucker closes his career as the NCAA's active career leader in games played (265), home runs (57), total bases (596) and RBIs (258). He ranks third in hits (340) and doubles (70) and second in at-bats (1,032).
It was 95 degrees at the start, the warmest first pitch at the CWS since June 11, 2001.
ARKANSAS 2, SOUTH CAROLINA 1: Ryne Stanek and Barrett Astin combined on a four-hitter and Arkansas ended the Gamecocks' record NCAA Tournament winning streak at 22. The Gamecocks (46-18) must beat Kent State on Wednesday to keep alive their hopes of a third straight national title. The Razorbacks (46-20) earned two days off.
USF BASKETBALL: The nonconference schedule for 2012-13 is complete, with home games against Bradley, Youngstown State, Bowling Green and George Mason announced. The Bulls, coming off of their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 20 years, also play at Stetson. "This is possibly one of our best non-conference schedules, especially when you look at the amount of attractive home games on the schedule," coach Stan Heath said. The full nonconference schedule: Nov. 10 vs. UCF, Nov. 16 vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, Nov. 17 vs. Western Michigan, Nov. 18 vs. Loyola-Chicago, Nov. 20 vs. Bradley, Nov. 26 at Stetson, Nov. 30 vs. Georgia, Dec. 5 at Oklahoma State, Dec. 18 vs. Youngstown State, Dec. 21 vs. Bowling Green, Dec. 29 vs. George Mason and Jan. 2 at UCF. The Big East schedule will be released later.
MEYER CONTRACT: Ohio State is paying football coach Urban Meyer a minimum of $4 million annually — more than ousted predecessor Jim Tressel — and detailing what he must do if an NCAA rules violation occurs under his watch. The school's board of trustees is expected to approve the contract this week. Meyer, who won two national championships at Florida before a one-year retirement, was hired in November to rebuild a program which is under a one-year bowl ban for NCAA rules violations committed during Tressel's tenure. Meyer's deal guarantees at least $4 million annually — up from Tressel's $3.8 million — not including bonuses, youth camps and other compensation.
WILLIAMS DEAL: Former Bucs quarterback and executive Doug Williams, in his second stint as Grambling State coach, has a new three-year deal worth at least $250,000 annually.
JURISPRUDENCE: Arkansas offensive lineman Jason Peacock pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft and was sentenced to 10 days in jail. The senior was arrested March 16 for allegedly taking a fellow student's debit card and using it to buy $35 worth of gas.