Found June 18, 2012 on Fox Sports Florida:
OMAHA, Neb. They came here to conquer. Conquer all those expectations. Conquer the close calls of the past. Conquerany lingering doubt that this is the most talented group of players to form asingle University of Florida baseball team. The Gators had a mission to complete and a legacy to define. "I wanted it to be a World Series champion," senior outfielderPreston Tucker said. Tucker's words came shortly after a 5-4 loss to Kent State on Monday in aCollege World Series elimination game. The reality of the situation had notquite set in. As Tucker spoke in the immediate aftermath of his final game in a Floridauniform, junior catcher Mike Zunino stood nearby taking similar questions. Tucker and Zunino have been two of the main faces of head coach KevinO'Sullivan's program since he took over the Gators five years ago. In that time the Gators have won more games than any other time in theprogram's history. They made three consecutive trips to the College WorldSeries, finished national runner-up a year ago and wanted so desperately toclimb up the final step on the CWS ladder in 2012. That dream was dashed with back-to-back losses, a 7-3 defeat to South Carolinaon Saturday and Monday's nail-biting loss to the upstart Golden Flashes. The Gators were knocking on the door in the top of the ninth, trying to extendtheir stay in Omaha. It ended with the bases left loaded. The players looked dazed as they headed toward the bus for the short trip backto the team hotel. O'Sullivan wandered a hallway outside the clubhouse stilltrying to grasp what had happened. "It's going to take a while to hit me," Zunino said. That's probably true for most of the Gators. They came to Omaha as the No. 1overall seed and the favorite to finally win the program's first national title.They had the deepest pitching staff in the country, a lineup loaded withexperienced hitters and they played exceptional defense. The Gators had their moments during this CWS, but not enough to avoid aheartbreaking finish to another exceptional season. "Unfortunately we didn't bring our A-game, Tucker said. We didn't playthe best we could. Obviously if you are not playing well and other teams areplaying well you are not going to win." The Gators made five errors in the two games. They left too many men on base.They didn't get as many clutch hits as they needed. The pitching staff gave uptoo many hits. All those factors caught up to them Monday when they fell behind early to KentState 4-0 and were never able to come all the way back. "It came down to the last out," O'Sullivan said. "I'm awfullyproud of our guys and the way they battled back. "It's an unfortunate way to end the season, but I think Kent Statedeserves a lot of credit for the way they played." The team that O'Sullivan will field next year will be without many familiarfaces, including seniors like Tucker and reliever Greg Larson. Several juniors are likely to sign professional contracts as well, creating abig void on next year's team. But what a run the Gators had ... a run like no other for those in orange andblue. The Gators won 100 games the past two seasons and 189 the past four. Theprogram is considered one of the nation's most established because of playerslike Zunino, Tucker, starter Hudson Randall and a large cast of others. The freshmen class includes several key contributors as well, including four third baseman Josh Tobias, second baseman Casey Turgeon, first baseman TaylorGushue and outfielder Justin Shafer in the starting lineup on Monday. This team's run is over but the program's dash toward the top appears not toofar from the starting line. "There is a good mixture of talent and experience on this team,"Tucker said. "Coach O'Sullivan is going to keep doing that. We see newfaces in here every year. There is so much talent. Our team next year is goingto expect nothing less than a World Series title." O'Sullivan tried to put this group's run in perspective in his postgame news conference,but he admitted he may need more time to do it justice. "They've been very successful," he said. "I've been awfully proudof the way they've played the game and the way they've represented our program.They've set a new standard that following teams will have to live up to."That sounds about right. The Florida baseball program has a new identity. The Gators still don't have anational title, but they expect to challenge for one every season now. Zunino is proud to have been a part of that transformation. "I hope that his first few recruiting classes did what he wanted,"Zunino said of O'Sullivan "We didn't win the national championship, but Ihope we laid the ground work for what he wants to have in years to come." There is no question this group of players conquered that challenge.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

2013 Football Recruiting: Max Staver Commits To Florida; Gators Get Their Quarterback

The Florida Gators were looking for a quarterback during the 2013 recruiting cycle, and they finally found one. Max Staver committed to the Gators on Monday ($), becoming the 18th member of Florida’s 2013 class. The 6’5″, 235-pound Staver hails from Brentwood, TN (Brentwood Academy) and is widely considered to be a three-star prospect, although ESPN gives him a fourth star...

Gators turn to ace with season on the line

OMAHA, Neb. -- Less than 12 hours after losing their opening game at the College World Series, the Gators were back on the field on a warm Sunday morning. About a mile away from TD Ameritrade Park, the Gators took batting practice, fielded ground balls and did what they normally do at practice during a workout at Creighton University. That's not entirely true. The Gators added...

Florida Gators Catcher Mike Zunino Wins Dick Howser Trophy

File this directly under “things we didn’t get around to last week, but are happy to discuss now.” Florida Gators’ catcher Mike Zunino was named this season’s recipient of the Dick Howser Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate baseball player. Zunino is the first Gator to ever win the award and joins the likes of Robin Ventura, Todd Helton, J.D. Drew, Mark...

Loss to Flashes ousts No. 1 seed Gators from CWS

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...

The Florida Gators Baseball Season Ends; Does My Disappointment Mean I’ve Become A Fan?

Sports have their way of making us extremely overjoyed, or equally sad. Unfortunately, we are sad more often than not. Disagree? Then tell me how you think New England Patriots fans felt after the 2007 NFL season. 18 moments of happiness; one of pure, utter, stomach-punching heartbreak. Think those 18 wins made up for that one loss? They didn’t. Not even close. It doesn’t mean...

Kent St. eliminates top-seeded Gators

Kent State scored four unearned runs and another on a wild pitch, then held off Florida's comeback bid in the ninth to eliminate the top-seeded Gators from the College World Series with a 5-4 victory Monday. The Gators loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against shaky relievers Michael Clark and Josh Pierce. Pierce fought back from a 3-0 count to strike out Casey Turgeon...

Florida Gators Video Of The Day: Danny Wuerffel Tribute

The Gators Video of the Day (GVOD) features, you guessed it, videos relating to the Florida Gators. They could be Gators athletes or homemade videos made by fans like ourselves. If you have any suggestions for GVOD, email me at evandagator@gmail.com or TBG at onegameback@gmail.com. We will try our best to live up to the “of the day” part of the title. Many of you miss “Danny”...

VIDEO: Gators Look to Stay Alive

After falling 7-3 Saturday night to familiar foe South Carolina, the Florida Gators now stare down elimination, and a feisty Kent State squad Monday. Behind the arm of their ace, Hudson Randall, they look to avoid. FightinGators' Cody Jones explains plan of attack through the bracket.

Florida Gators To Face Georgetown Hoyas On Aircraft Carrier In 2012; Yes, That’s Cool

The Florida Gators basketball team is scheduled to face the Georgetown Hoyas on an aircraft carrier during the upcoming season. The two will play each other on November 9, 2012 off the coast of Jacksonville, FL. It is not yet clear whether they will play on an active or a retired ship. This isn’t the first time (Michigan State and North Carolina played in the first Carrier Classic...

Baseball Recap: Kent State 5 – Florida 4; Gators Eliminated From College World Series

The team that started the 2012 season ranked No. 1 will not finish it that way. The top-ranked Florida Gators were eliminated from the College World Series on Monday night after a 5-4 loss to the Kent State Golden Flashes. Toward the end of games, my mind goes over the various ways I can start recap posts. It usually lands on something like you read above. The teams are mentioned...

Gators Hoping to Rebound on Monday

OMAHA, Neb. – A run through the loser’s bracket depends on one thing—pitching. The Gators have plenty of it. At the podium after a 7-3 loss to South Carolina on Saturday night, there wasn’t much optimism shortly after defeat. The offense needs to improve after scoring two of its three runs on a misplay in the outfield, but even with a short start from Brian Johnson, there’s...

NBA Execs Express Concern About Beal's Shooting Ability

Bradley Beal shot just 33.9 percent from long range during his lone season at Florida.

Gators eliminated from CWS by Kent State

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Kent State scored four unearned runs and another on a wild pitch, then held off Florida's comeback bid in the ninth to eliminate the top-seeded Gators from the College World Series with a 5-4 victory Monday. The Gators loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against shaky relievers Michael Clark and Josh Pierce. Pierce fought back from a 3-0 count to...

Ninth Inning Breeds Hope, Misfortune

OMAHA, Neb. – Florida had the group it wanted coming to the plate down one run in the ninth inning. Three veterans, three All-Americans. What looked like a promising end turned into disaster and a heartbreaking end of a trip to the College World Series. The Gators left the bases loaded in the ninth inning after Casey Turgeon struck out and Justin Shafer flew out to end the No. 1 seed’s season.
All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.