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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Gators fall short to LSU in College World Series finale

The Tigers won their seventh national championship Monday

Florida infielders Cade Kurland and Josh Rivera embrace during the Gators' 3-0 win against Florida A&M Friday, June 2, 2023.
Florida infielders Cade Kurland and Josh Rivera embrace during the Gators' 3-0 win against Florida A&M Friday, June 2, 2023.

OMAHA, Neb. — The 66 Florida baseball players who laced up their cleats each weekend knew it was for a purpose. The countless hours spent practicing, the long film studies and even the losses throughout the year came with purpose. 

Everything the Gators went through in the 2023 season was a necessary ingredient toward molding them into a championship-caliber team. Anything less than making it to the College World Series finals felt like a disappointment for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and his team.

“I think we’d all be sitting here right now if we were not in this position, I think we’d scratch our heads and say, ‘What a disappointment,’” O’Sullivan said after the Gators clinched a ticket to Omaha, Nebraska, June 10. “Because we’ve got a really good collection of players.”

The Florida Gators (54-17, 20-10 SEC) perished against the Louisiana State Tigers (54-17, 19-10 SEC) 18-4 Monday in game three of the College World Series championship. Florida’s talent-filled roster fell just short when it met arguably the most able lineup in the nation.

“Glad we had the opportunity to come back and compete for a national championship,” O’Sullivan said. “And I would expect us to be back in the same spot next year.” 

The lights shined too bright on the mound for Florida two-way player Jac Caglianone. His inability to locate the strike zone quickly ended his outing.

He put LSU senior second baseman Gavin Dugas in scoring position in the second inning with a walk and wild pitch. The senior crossed the plate after a pair of singles.

Caglianone loaded up the bases, plunked LSU designated hitter Cade Beloso and walked Golden Spikes Award winner Dylan Crews. The Tigers went up 3-2 and UF skipper Kevin O’Sullivan made his way toward the mound, signaling Caglianone’s day was over.

“Don’t really know what happened besides we lost control of the strike zone,” O’Sullivan said. 

Florida’s bullpen struggled just as much as its predecessor. Freshman left-hander Cade Fisher entered the game and allowed all three runners to reach home before he ended the inning. 

Fisher was replaced by sophomore right-hander Ryan Slater an inning later. Slater surrendered five hits and was pulled for sophomore righty Tyler Nesbitt. Florida trailed 10-2 once the top of the fourth inning ended. 

Any chance of a miracle was shut down by the Tigers’ pitching staff. Right-handed starter Thatcher Hurd began the outing and held the Gators scoreless after he gave up a two-run shot to junior outfielder Wyatt Langford in the first frame.

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UF went five innings without a hit at the hands of Hurd. 

Florida tacked on a run with a solo home run from sophomore outfielder Ty Evans in the sixth, and freshman second baseman Cade Kurland added another score with a solo shot the next inning. 

LSU added eight more runs in the final three innings including a no-doubt homer from outfielder Brayden Jobert in the ninth inning to put the cherry on top of ring number seven. 

Tigers freshman right-hander Gavin Guidry tossed the final three outs of the game and struck out third baseman Colby Halter to clinch the national championship. 

“I wouldn’t choose anyone else to go to war with but my brothers,” UF shortstop Josh Rivera said.

Florida baseball won’t play its next game until the 2024 NCAA baseball season begins.

Contact Luke Adragna at Follow him on Twitter @lukeadrag.

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Luke Adragna

Luke Adragna is a third-year journalism student and the Florida Gators football reporter at The Alligator. He is a cat ethusiast and completes the NYT Daily Mini in less than a minute each day.

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