The Magic Ends: Gators Finish Second In CWS

Texas secured its sixth Division I NCAA Baseball Championship with a 6-2 victory over Florida in Omaha, Nebraska Sunday afternoon. A four-run sixth inning, highlighted by David Maroul's three-run home run was the margin of difference. For Florida, it was the first time in the national championship game.

NOTE: The baseball team will be flying into Gainesville airport Monday afternoon around 2-2:30pm -- feel free to welcome them back home!

Game two mirrored game one of the series, as Texas scored all of their runs before the Florida offense could generate any run production of their own. Perhaps most surprisingly, for the second straight game, Texas used the long ball to provide the winning margin. With two more home runs Sunday, the Longhorns finished the season with a mere 56 homers. The unexpected help from the offense was all the Texas pitchers needed. Their staff just got better with each game of the College World Series. In postseason play, Texas posted an ERA of below 1.25.

Texas (56-16) received another strong pitching performance from sophomore Kyle McCulloch. The hard throwing righthander pitched 6.2 innings in which he allowed only five hits and two earned runs. McCulloch (12-4) struck out eight and walked only one.

Closer Brent J. Cox secured his 19th save of the season as he shut the doors on the Gators. Cox threw 1.2 innings of hitless baseball. He walked one and struck out two. It marked the second consecutive day that Cox held Florida scoreless.

First baseman Chance Wheeless led off the second inning with a single to left off Florida starter Bryan Ball. He moved to second on Taylor Teagarden's sacrifice bunt and two batters later, Maroul ripped a single to left to score Wheeless.

Teagarden singled up the gut in the fourth for the Longhorns and later scored from first base when left fielder Gavin Dickey misplayed Maroul's line drive. That staked Texas to a 2-0 lead and primed the Longhorns for their sixth inning explosion.

Ball (7-6), pitching on three days rest, allowed six hits and two earned runs through 5.1 innings in a gutsy performance. The junior from Punta Gorda only gave up one walk but never received the run support that he needed. He was lifted after giving up a solo homer in the fifth to Wheeless.

The homer by Wheeless brought on senior sidearmer Connor Falkenbach, who had limited the Longhorns to three hits in 3.2 innings Saturday evening. Falkenbach didn't have the same magic Sunday, though. He gave up a leadoff double to Teagarden on the first pitch. He then walked Carson Kainer on a 3-2 pitch, before Maroul stuck the proverbial horn through the Gators heart with his three-run blast to left center.

Maroul was outstanding. The Benbrook, Texas native went six for eight (.750), belted two home runs, and ripped six RBI's in the two games against the Gators. The Longhorns scored ten runs in the two games.

The Gators scored two runs in the seventh. Third baseman Brandon McArthur bounced a one out single up the middle. Two pitches later right fielder Brian LeClerc hit a two-run blast over the wall in left-center that cut the Texas lead to four, 6-2.

Any chances the Gators had of a comeback floundered in innings seven through nine when the Gators left five men on base.

It was a tremendous accomplishment for the Florida baseball team to reach the national title game. Everybody associated with this program, from the team to the fans paying the bills should be very proud of their success. Florida finished the season 48-23 and it can easily be argued that this is the best Gator baseball team in school history.

With six sophomores and one junior returning as position players, including national home run leader Matt LaPorta, the future looks good for Gator baseball in 2006. Ball will be returning as a starter along with bullpen ace Darren O'Day. If Coach Pat McMahon and his staff can develop some pitching it wouldn't be out of the question for the Gators to make another run at the College World Series next year. The future for Florida baseball under Coach McMahon looks very bright.

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