CWS: Gators set for rematch with Virginia

The frustration was easy to sense after the Gators dropped Monday’s game to Virginia.

Florida played well enough to win but struggled to figure out Virginia starting pitcher Brandon Waddell. When they did have chances, the Gators couldn’t come up with the big hit. With runners on first and third and no one out while trailing 1-0 in the eighth inning, Harrison Bader lined one up the middle that bounced off the pitcher’s glove and kept a run from scoring.

Florida hitters struck multiple other balls well that would’ve been home runs at McKethan Stadium but the spacious outfield of TD Ameritrade Park kept them in play for outs.

The Gators fell to the losers’ bracket with a 1-0 loss to Virginia.

But that didn’t hurt their confidence.

When Florida got back on the practice field Tuesday, nothing changed. They were preparing for Wednesday’s Miami game, the first time all season Florida has faced a situation where one loss would end its season. Kevin O’Sullivan wanted to make sure his team was loose during practice and understood that the coaching staff still had plenty of confidence in them.

That’s exactly how the team played on Wednesday.

“I was really pleased with how we responded from a tough loss on Monday night,” O’Sullivan said. “We were very relaxed, came out with a purpose.”

The players wanted to make sure they weren’t fueled by frustration. Even though the players thought they swung the bat better than the two-hit shutout showed, they wanted to stay with the same approach that has worked throughout the postseason.

That will be the same plan against Virginia on Friday at 3 p.m. No anger, no frustration and no thoughts of revenge. If the Gators continue to play the way they have in the postseason, outside of the previous game against the Cavaliers, they like their chances. But it all comes down to staying loose and ignoring the pressure.

“We got to this point playing loose but doing everything with a purpose,” Florida left fielder Harrison Bader said. “Practice was exactly the same. The biggest thing was a fresh start. You’re fighting for your life, so you have to lay it out there. That’s what we did and it worked out for us.

“Everything has to be done with a purpose. The purpose wasn’t anger or anything like that. It was just about getting the job done. We did that.”

Florida will start ace Logan Shore (10-6, 2.55 ERA) on Friday. Virginia will start left-hander Nathan Kirby (5-2, 2.28 ERA), who has missed the last two months with a lat injury. He was taken in the supplemental first round of the MLB Draft earlier this month, but it’s unknown how long he would be able to pitch considering it would be his first start back from injury.

Video compliments of the NCAA

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