Credit the Red Raider defense for making some huge plays and freshman pitcher Davis Martin (10-1) for keeping the Gator bats at bay, but this is a scenario we have seen too many times this season.
Florida sophomore starting pitcher Alex Faedo (13-3) would like to have one pitch back. In the top of the 4th in a scoreless game, he let a fast ball ride a little higher than he wanted and over the plate for the Red Raiders’ Eric Gutierrez who rode the ball over the left field wall for a 2-0 lead. Faedo was aggressive and great the rest of the day setting a CWS school record nine strikeouts in his 7.2 innings pitched.
“They’ve got a good lineup, and I thought Alex pitched great,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “Just one mistake, in unfortunately a one-run game, it tends to get magnified. But he pitched great. That's probably as good as he's pitched all year long
The Gators had a great chance against Martin in the sixth inning loading the bases for sophomore designated hitter J.J. Schwarz. Schwarz would hit a soft dribbler to Martin who would come home with the ball for the first out. Red Raiders’ catcher Tyler Floyd would step out to throw Schwarz out at first. Instead, the ball hit Schwarz and a run would score. However, the umpire called runner interference as Schwarz was barely on the grass when the ball hit him and the end result was a double play and end of inning without a score.
The score remained 2-0 until the ninth. Redshirt sophomore Scott Moss replaced Faedo with two outs in the eighth and got out of the inning unscathed. Junior Dane Dunning would take over the ninth inning which turned into an adventure for the usually reliable Gator defense.
Gutierrez would strike again on a sharp hit grounder to Jonathan India at third, off-balance, India threw to first and after bobbling the ball, Alonso threw back and off-balance to India as Tyler Nelsony was advancing to third, the ball got away and Nelsony scored.
O’Sullivan wasn’t ready to blame the loss on the double error.
“To be honest with you, it looks like it's a difference, but we had a lot of opportunities to drive in runs early in the game or sometime during the game, and we didn't,” he said. “We've been playing great defense, and that's just part of it.
“Probably nine out of ten times he makes that play, and Pete probably tried to do too much, and then we don't bite, don't keep in front. But at the end of the day, we didn't lose the game because of that.”
Buddy Reed led off the bottom half of the ninth with a blooper single to center field before Alonso stepped up and hit his monster shot to make it a one run game and no outs. The terrific 2016 season would end on a two-out double attempt by freshman Jonathan India. India hit the ball to left field where Nelsony would field and throw a rope to second in a bang-bang play that saw India called out.
“Going in your last three outs it's just desperation, do everything you can to knock it out and get on base and find a way to scratch a run across,” Alonso said about the big shot in the ninth. “Thankfully he gave me a fastball up and ran into one. JJ's up to the plate. He's fully capable of running one out of the yard and tying it up.
“It gave us hope. And India having a really good swing, rattling the ball around the corner, just the guy made a good throw. We definitely had a really good chance to win.”
“We fell a little short,” said O’Sullivan. “But I certainly am proud of the way we played this year. It's not easy to get to this point. Obviously we're all disappointed right now. But the fact of the matter is we had a hell of a year. And I'm sad to see some of these guys move on.”
“And the hustle play by Jon there at the end, I would say that that's what you need to do, 100 out of 100 times. And left fielder just made a hell of a throw, and it was a perfect throw. And that's kind of maybe it's a fitting way to end our season. It was a hustle play and it was an all-out play and he tried to do everything he could to get to second base to get to scoring position to tie the ballgame.
“I'm just proud of my team, and it's going to be a tough couple of days for these guys moving on. We've had some really, really good juniors, guys that are going to play for a long time… a few seniors that have been great leaders.”