Florida Has Experience With Heartbreak
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Florida Has Experience With Heartbreak

OMAHA, Neb. – With its back against the wall, the Gators grew together during Super Regionals. After facing a gut wrenching walk-off loss to Mississippi State, the Gators rebounded to take the third game and advance to the College World Series. After losing a one-run game in extra innings during the first game of the championship series to South Carolina, the feeling for the Gators is similar.

The loss to Mississippi State caused some soul searching. Players were down after experiencing a walk-off loss in their own stadium, and it sparked head coach Kevin O'Sullivan to call a team meeting on Saturday night following that loss.

This one hurts the team a little bit more.

Four outs away from taking a 1-0 in the national championship series, the Gators allowed South Carolina to tie the game in the eighth and win it in extra innings. The faces in the post game press conference were similar to the way they looked in Gainesville after the Mississippi State loss—down and frustrated.

If there's one positive they will cling to, it's that they have experienced this before.

"We experienced this against Mississippi State," Florida designated hitter Brian Johnson said. "It's far from over. We just have to put it behind us and go after it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day."

The Bulldogs beat Florida on a walk-off home run from Nick Vickerson against Steven Rodriguez, leaving the Gators standing on their own feel while Mississippi State celebrated.

Instead of pouting and feeling sorry for themselves, the team got together after that game and put it behind them. The team vented frustrations and went into the series finale with a new mindset.

That's the challenge after Monday's loss to South Carolina. The team is forced to forget quickly, which is tough to do after coming so close to a commanding 1-0 lead in the series.

"It's a two-out-of-three series and we're used to that," Florida starting pitcher Hudson Randall said. "We've been playing like that all season long. We're geared up for that, and I think we're going to bounce back from it."

South Carolina knows that this win doesn't affect Tuesday's game. The Gamecocks have plenty of respect for the Gators.

"I think momentum is important if the other team isn't as good as you are," South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. "That's not the case here. So momentum is just a perspective on an inning or a couple of innings here or there."

KOUMAS DOMINATES AGAIN: It was a familiar scene for South Carolina starting pitcher Forrest Koumas. He hadn't pitched in a while and would break that trend against the Gators. And for the second time in that situation, he was dominant.

Koumas went 5.2 innings, allowing three hits, one run and one walk while striking out four hitters. In two starts against the Gators this season, Koumas has gone 11.2 innings, allowing five hits, one walk striking out nine hitters.

"He was able to mix his fastball and breaking ball in there effectively and threw just enough change-ups to left-handers," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We tried to stay through the middle of the field. I thought our swings got a little bit big. I thought we were starting to press a little as the game went on. Forrest did a heck of a job, especially being a freshman."

The change-up was the equalizer. His hard breaking ball kept right-handed hitters from barreling up the fastball, but any advantage left-handers should have had was eliminated by the change-up. Koumas threw it early in the count to left-handers, keeping them off balance and away from sitting on a fastball.

It was the freshman's first start in Omaha, but he stayed calm and executed.

"I just tried to take the crowd out of it," Koumas said. "I just focused on the mitt and hit my spots the best I could."

EXTRA BASES: South Carolina's win gives it a 15-game winning streak in the NCAA Tournament, matching the all-time record held by Texas in 1983-84. The Gamecocks have also won ten straight games at the College World Series, joining USC (1972-74) and LSU (1996-98) as the most ever… Monday night was Florida's first loss of the season in 47 games when leading after seven innings… The Gators are lost their first of 29 games this season when holding the opponent to at least two runs… Florida committed three errors in its first three games of the CWS before committing three on Monday.