Florida puts away LSU and captures the national title
Gators sweep the College World Series finals, defeating a rival from the SEC.
OMAHA — Maybe this isn’t Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s best team. It is, however, his first national championship team.
The Gators scored four runs in the eighth inning to pull away from Louisiana State and beat their Southeastern Conference rival 6-1 on Tuesday night to complete a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals for the 103-year-old baseball program’s first national title.
Florida (52-19) posted the eighth sweep in the 15 years of the best-of-three finals format.
“Just a gritty group, that’s all I can say,” said O’Sullivan, the 10th-year coach who had brought the Gators to Omaha six of the last eight years. “There are other teams that may be bigger and stronger. Our starting pitching has carried us the whole year, but we got some timely hits.”
Florida was in the CWS for the 11th time and previously had made it to the finals in 2005 and 2011, getting swept each time.
“They’re a very deserving national champion,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I’m happy for Kevin. He works hard, and he has had several teams that maybe were even better than this team and sat up here as disappointed as I am right now.”
Freshman Tyler Dyson (4-0) limited the Tigers (5219) to three hits in six innings in only his second start, and the Gators capitalized on LSU errors in the first and second innings to go up 2-0 against Jared Poche (12-4).
Things got interesting after Michael Byrne relieved Dyson in the seventh. LSU pulled to within 2-1 and would have tied it if not for Jake Slaughter’s being called for runner interference at second base for sliding into shortstop Dalton Guthrie’s leg as he was throwing to first to turn a double play. Josh Smith, who had run home, was sent back to third.
Kramer Robertson punched a single into right field leading off the eighth and took second on a wild pitch. The Tigers had runners on the corners when Cole Freeman beat Byrne’s throw to first for a bunt single. After Byrne struck out Antoine Duplantis, Jackson Kowar came on to face Greg Deichmann.
Deichmann grounded Kowar’s first pitch to first, and J.J. Schwarz threw out Robertson at the plate. Zach Watson, the Tigers’ hottest hitter in the CWS, then flied out to end the inning.
The Gators scored four times in the bottom of the eighth. LSU reliever Zack Hess hit a batter with the bases loaded, Deacon Liput hit a two-run single and Schwarz had a sacrifice fly.
Florida this year brought back one of the nation’s top weekend rotations in Alex Faedo, Brady Singer and Kowar and a reliever in Byrne who led the country with a school-record 19 saves.
Complementing the pitching was a defense that ranked in the top 10 in the country.
Faedo was named the most outstanding player after two strong starts against Texas Christian. Faedo gave up five hits and no runs and struck out 22 in 141⁄3 innings against TCU.
NICK HORVATH, top, adds himself to the pile of Florida players celebrating the Gators’ first national title in baseball. Florida capitalized on LSU errors in taking an early lead, then scored four times in the eighth.