Gators eliminated from CWS by Kent State
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- The curse of the No. 1 seed continued at the College World Series. Florida is out after a 5-4 loss to Kent State in a game in which the Gators couldn't seem to catch a break.
Starting pitcher Hudson Randall left after the first inning because of heat-related symptoms. The defense, which committed three errors in a loss to South Carolina on Saturday, was charged with two more against the Flashes.
And when it looked like the Gators might capitalize on CWS newcomer Kent State's shaky relief pitching in the ninth, they couldn't get the call they needed from the umpire.
"It's an unfortunate way to end the season, but I think Kent State deserves a lot of credit for the way they played today," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "They hung in there, got a big strikeout at the end, and our guys hung in there right to the last out."
Florida (47-20), which lost to South Carolina in last year's finals, came to Omaha as the favorite. But the Gators went 0-2 and became the 13th straight No. 1 seed to leave without the championship.
The Gators gave up four unearned runs and another on a wild pitch while falling behind 5-1. They loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Kent State relievers Michael Clark and Josh Pierce.
Pierce fought back from a 3-0 count to strike out Casey Turgeon when Turgeon couldn't check his swing and got called out on an appeal to the third-base umpire. Justin Shafer flew out to right to end the game.
"I've been able to make it out here three times and all three times I've been just as disappointed," said catcher Mike Zunino, the Dick Howser Trophy winner as the national player of the year. "You put in so much hard work and get so close to the guys. It's one of those things where you don't want it to end. It's going to take a while to hit me."
The Gators came to Omaha seventh in the nation in fielding then made five errors.
George Roberts drove in runs each of the first two innings for Kent State after shortstop Nolan Fontana and third baseman Josh Tobias committed errors.
Florida scored in the sixth and added two more runs in the seventh to make it 5-4.
Three outs away from a pulling the upset, Clark walked Preston Tucker on four straight pitches to start the ninth. He was 2-0 against Zunino when Kent State coach Scott Stricklin called on Pierce, who also struggled with his control and put Zunino on.
After pinch hitter Cody Dent moved over the runners with a sacrifice, Pierce hit Daniel Pigott in the shoulder to load the bases.
Pierce fell behind 3-0 to Turgeon before throwing a strike. It looked like Turgeon would walk -- TV replays indicated strike two was outside -- but he couldn't hold back on his check swing on the next pitch and third base umpire Jeff Henrichs called him out.
Shafer put a good swing on Pierce's next pitch, but Sutton was able to chase down the fly to end the game.
Ryan Bores (10-3) got the win for Kent State (47-19) and Pierce earned his third save.
It was 95 degrees at the start of the game, making it the warmest first pitch at the CWS since June 11, 2001. Before Monday, Kent State hadn't played a game in weather warmer than 82 degrees all season.
It was Florida's Hudson who was bothered by the heat and humidity. At one point in the first inning, Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan made a mound visit and athletic trainers brought water to Hudson.
Hudson finished the inning with one unearned run scored against him. O'Sullivan wouldn't let him come out for the second because it was apparent he was ill.
"He looked fine before the game," O'Sullivan said. "I could tell he was laboring a little bit. I went out to give him a little breather to catch his breath. I asked him in the dugout if he was OK to go back out -- be brutally honest with me. He looked me in the eye, and I could tell he wasn't ready to go back out."