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It did not start well, and it most certainly was not pretty, but No. 1 Florida Gators baseball fulfilled the first part of its mission Monday night by defeating the Florida State Seminoles 7-0 and therefore advancing to the 2016 College World Series.
Florida came back from a Game 1 loss to beat Florida State on consecutive nights in the Gainesville Super Regional, shutting out the visitors 5-0 on Sunday and 7-0 on Monday. The Gators’ surprising 3-0 loss on Saturday marked the first time they had been shutout at home in NCAA Tournament history.
Instead of getting down, Florida rallied behind head coach Kevin O’Sullivan to advance to the CWS for the second straight season, fifth time in the last seven years and 10th time in program history.
Beginning Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska, the Gators will attempt to win their first national title after so many close defeats in recent years.
But first, it’s important to note how they earned the opportunity.
On Sunday, junior right-handed pitcher Logan Shore improved to 13-0 on the year with his 30th career win after striking out nine on 114 pitches over eight-plus shutout innings.
Junior left-hander A.J. Puk was not as effective in his Monday start, particularly in the first inning when 11 of his first 25 pitches were balls. Puk, however, matched his six walks with six strikeouts, got himself out of numerous self-inflicted jams and kept the scoreboard clean over his 3.2 innings of work before UF’s relievers came on to keep FSU quiet.
Stellar in two relief outings was junior RHP Dane Dunning, who played a big role in the Gators shutting out the Seminoles over the final 22 innings of the Super Regional.
It was the power hitters in Florida’s order that really came through in the clutch over the last two nights, particularly junior first baseman Peter Alonso, who followed up a three-double, two-RBI performance Sunday with clutch hitting and a solo shot on Monday.
Game 3 belonged, though, to sophomore designated hitter JJ Schwarz whose fifth-inning grand slam (UF’s first since March 2014) pushed the hosts ahead 6-0 and brought back an air of confidence to a Gators team that had been grinding all weekend.
With Monday’s win, Florida improved to 6-1 all-time when hosting a Super Regional, 3-0 when Florida State comes to town and 12-4 in the 16 Super Regional games played at McKethan Stadium. UF has also beaten FSU seven times in eight meetings dating back to 2015.
The Gators will face Cinderella darling Coastal Carolina, which shocked LSU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional, in its first game of Bracket 1 on Sunday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.
— Only Gators .com (@onlygators) June 14, 2016
— Anthony DeSclafani (@ADeSclafani) June 14, 2016