Florida Falls Short Against the Noles

OMAHA, Neb. - A terrific season for Florida baseball wrapped up on a sour note at the College World Series. Florida became the first team eliminated from the eight team field, falling 8-5 to rival FSU.

"We're disappointed," said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. "We obviously didn't play like we have all year."

"Our goal was not only to get here but to win," said first baseman Preston Tucker. "Anything less than that is a disappointment."

The Gators actually got out to the lead early, scoring a run in the top of the first on an Austin Maddox single. There was the potential for more, as Seminoles starter Brian Busch walked the first two men he faced, but catcher Mike Zunino struck out with men on first and third to end the inning. That failure to deliver with runners in scoring position would become a trend, as Florida left 11 on base during the course of the game.

FSU tied things up with a Tyler Holt homer off Florida starter Hudson Randall in the bottom of the first and then took the lead for good on Mike McGee's three-run blast off Randall in the third. Gainesville native Holt scored on a sacrifice bunt by McGee in the fourth to make it 5-1 Seminoles.

The Gators did fight back, with Jonathan Pigott homering in the fifth to draw them within three. They had chances in each of the final three innings. Tucker came to the plate with two on and two out in the seventh and worked it to a full count, but popped up to end the inning.

The Seminoles expanded their lead in the bottom half of the inning, with Stephen Cardullo crushing reliever Brian Johnson's pitch to dead center to make it 6-2. Holt added another RBI single to make it 7-2. The Gators had runners on the corners again in the eighth, but Tyler Thompson was picked off on the "fake to third, throw to first" play to end the inning.

Preston Tucker's three run double in the ninth narrowed the margin for the Gators to 8-5. A single and Matt den Dekker being hit by a pitch loaded the bases and brought potential go ahead run Zunino to the plate. He lined a hot shot up the middle that was snared by Cardullo, who doubled the runner off second to end the game.

O'Sullivan was naturally disappointed with the outcome, but "awfully proud of our team the way we battled all the way back."

"We felt real confident with Mike coming to the plate with the bases loaded," said Tucker. "He hit the ball hard off the bat but unfortunately it was right at him. There's nothing you can do about it."

Florida was in new territory, with an extremely young team making its first appearance on the national stage. O'Sullivan downplayed the impact of that on their performance, but acknowledged it may have been part of the issue.

"I don't want it to be the focus that we weren't used to playing in this type of a crowd."

"We're a much better pitching team and defensive club than this, and we just need to get better... hopefully we'll be fortunate enough to get to come back next year."

The Gators finish the season at 47-17 and will return the core of this team next season. They're expected to be among the contenders for the No. 1 ranking heading into 2011.

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