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May 31, 2014
Gators swept out of hometown regional
The NCAA Gainesville Regional will carry on into Sunday, maybe even an "if necessary" final game on Monday. It will do so without its host team. No. 2 overall national seed Florida was bounced from its own corner of the NCAA Tournament Saturday, losing 5-2 to North Carolina, the No. 3 seed in its region.
Similar to Friday night's loss to College of Charleston, Florida's Saturday tilt was delayed for more than three hours when a severe thunderstorm hit McKethan Stadium. This time, the weather arrived with the Tar Heels batting in the bottom of the third inning.
Gators junior left-hander Bobby Poyner had handled pitching duties up until the lightning came and had done so stranding runners in scoring position in both the first and second innings.
Luck ran out when Florida went with freshman left-hander Kirby Snead after the weather cleared and the field was dried. Inheriting runners on first and second, Snead forced a pop-up from his first batter before giving up four consecutive RBI hits, two of them back-to-back doubles to right-center.
Five runs in the third inning was more than enough to sink a Gators squad that failed to create any form of offense in its two postseason losses. Florida's four runs on the weekend were not enough to muster any kind of hope.
The Gators were not the only national seed to fall on Saturday. No. 5 national seed Florida State lost 6-5 to Alabama after dropping its opener Friday night 7-0 to Georgia Southern. It was the first time in college baseball history two national seeds have dropped out of their own regionals 0-2.
-- PLAYER OF THE GAME --
It wasn't overpowering or masterful, but relief pitcher Reilly Hovis did enough after the Tar Heels offense got hot to pin the Gators down. Coming in following the rain delay, Hovis worked four innings while allowing five hits and one run coming on his final batter. He struck out three and walked three but didn't allow Florida to creep back into the picture. Hovis was credited with the victory.
-- BIGGEST MOMENT --
After a lengthy rain delay Friday night, College of Charleston surged out of the gates by getting its first five batters on base and securing a lead that would stand for the rest of the game. McKethan Stadium had a familiar feel Saturday as North Carolina took all the momentum in the aftermath of a long delay. Four straight RBI hits were all hit solidly into the outfield, with three heading toward the gap.
-- KEY STATISTIC --
The stat that haunted Florida the most in its first loss reared its ugly head again Saturday. Early in the season during initial struggles, the Gators were pitiful with situational hitting. They finished the NCAA Tournament going 4 for 22 with runners in scoring position and stranding 24 baserunners. Saturday, that included four strikeouts with runners in scoring position. They allowed runs in just two of 18 innings played but that was enough to sink the home team.
-- QUOTABLE --
Kevin O'Sullivan on the elimination: "To be honest with you, I didn't see it coming. I felt very good going into the weekend, I did. It was a weird weekend altogether. Logan Shore hasn't been hit like that all year. (CofC) was ready and they got some balls up. I think it put us all back on our heels a little bit. We relied on him so much this year. He had been so good. But I thought we settled in. Then today, North Carolina did the same thing to Kirby Snead."
O'Sullivan on a season of surprises: "I don't want these last two games to be a reflection of what this team is about. They accomplished a lot. I know in this day in age, you're always judged on how you do in the postseason and I understand that. But as far as the people in that locker room and the coaches and the staff and the people involved with our program, we're awful proud of what we accomplished this year. We're disappointed. We're shocked. But at the end of the day, we accomplished a lot."