Gators Ousted from NCAA Tourney

The Florida Baseball team was playing their best ball heading into this weekend's Super Regional, but they ran into a Southern Miss team that may have had destiny on its side. Long-time Southern Miss skipper Corky Palmer announced his retirement from his alma matter earlier in the year, and his players responded by getting the school's first ever appearance in the College World Series.

Southern Miss (40-24) came back after trailing the Gators by five runs to sweep Florida in the best of three Super Regional and can now pack their bags for Omaha. Florida finishes a season that exceeded expectations, and despite the loss, has an optimistic outlook for the future.

The Gators scored right away when super frosh Preston Tucker took Southern Miss starting pitcher Todd McInnis deep with a solo shot in the top of the first. But the Golden Eagles tied it up quick when leadoff hitter Bo Davis hit a blast off Nick Maronde over the trees beyond the left centerfield wall to make it 1-1. Maronde settled down, though, and retired the next nine Southern Miss hitters, striking out three in the process.

Florida took a 2-1 lead in the second with another solo shot from Brandon McArthur, and then they appeared to blow the game open in the third. After a Mooney walk, Avery Barnes doubled and Tucker was intentionally walked to load the bases. Josh Adams extended his 13-game hitting streak with a single to right, scoring Mike Mooney. Matt den Dekker hit a sac fly, knocking in Barnes, and then McArthur singled to knock in two more. With Maronde cruising through three, the Gators took a 6-1 lead to the fourth.

With two outs in the top of the fourth, Barnes singled and Golden Eagles hurler McInnis walked the bases loaded. But he was able to strike out Adams in a big moment in the game, and Southern Miss came back strong in their half of the inning.

James Ewing singled to lead off the bottom of the fourth before Maronde walked Kameron Brunty and gave up an RBI single to Corey Stevens. Maronde was lifted for Greg Larson who gave up an RBI double to Joey Archer. Tony Davis relieved Larson, and in what could have been a turning point in the game, Kyle Maxie flied to shallow right field with the bases loaded and one out. Jonathan Pigott threw out Stevens at the plate who was tagging from third. Stevens was ejected after going in high against Gators' catcher Buddy Munroe, but the Golden Eagles cut the Gator lead to 6-3.

Southern Miss tacked on another run in the bottom of the fifth when Ewing hit a solo shot down the left field line off of Davis. But overall, Davis pitched well out of the Florida bullpen, allowing just the one in 3 2/3 innings pitched.

Leading 6-4, Coach Kevin O'Sullivan took a calculated risk by bringing in closer Billy Bullock in the eighth for a potential six-out save. But Bullock, who hadn't pitched in more than a week, hit the first Golden Eagle to the plate, Davis, and then walked Erving. Pinch hitter Adam Doleac singled sharply to left, loading the bases. Archer then singled to left, knocking in two runs to tie the game at 6-6. Tyler Koeling then grounded into what appeared to be a taylor-made double play, but Mooney's relay to first was short and Tucker couldn't scoop it up allowing the go-ahead run to score. Southern Miss led 7-6 heading into the ninth.

The Golden Eagles turned the game over to their closer Collin Cargill, who wrapped up yesterday's game. Pigott led off the inning with a ground out to short. Tucker singled through a big hole on the left hand side of the infield that was created by a defensive shift by the Golden Eagles. Adams then hit a chopper to third, setting up a 5-4-3 double play to end the Gators' season and send Southern Miss to the College World Series.

The Gators finish the season 42-22.

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