‘Just one of those days’: Crushing loss ends Gators’ season

Florida pitcher Christian Scott (14) prepares to pitch against Tennessee in the seventh inning of an NCAA college baseball game during the Southeastern Conference tournament Saturday, May 29, 2021, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

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Posted June 7, 2021 | By Eric Olson, AP Sports Writer

Florida pitcher Christian Scott (14) prepares to pitch against Tennessee in the seventh inning during the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament on May 29 in Hoover, Ala. The Gators lost that game 4-0. The Gators entered the College World Series on home turf in Gainesville, but were quickly eliminated. [AP Photo/Butch Dill]

It was a good day for the nationally seeded Southeastern Conference teams in the NCAA Tournament — well, for all except Florida.

No. 1 Arkansas, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 Vanderbilt, No. 7 Mississippi State and No. 12 Mississippi all won Saturday.

As for No. 15 Florida, the team that started the season as the consensus No. 1 ended it with an embarrassingly fast exit from the NCAA Tournament.

South Alabama beat the Gators 19-1 in the Gainesville Regional on Saturday, the most runs scored against Florida in 15 years. The Jaguars of the Sun Belt Conference had 21 hits, with 10 coming in succession.

The Gators, who lost 5-3 to South Florida on Friday, went two games and out for the first time since 2014, when they also went 0-2 in Gainesville.

The 18-run margin of defeat was the largest for an SEC team in NCAA Tournament history, according to ESPN.

“It’s just one of those days,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Unfortunately, it’s the last game of the year for us. That’s something we got to live with.”

Arkansas advanced to its fourth straight regional final with a 5-1 win over Nebraska. Matt Goodheart led off the bottom of the first with a home run and Kevin Kobbs worked four shutout innings for the save.

Tennessee’s Liam Spence and Luc Lipcius each homered twice in a 9-3 win over Liberty, Jack Leiter struck out 11 in six innings as Vanderbilt beat Georgia Tech 4-3, Mississippi State broke open a 16-4 win over VCU with a nine-run sixth inning, and Doug Nikhazy tied the school record with 16 strikeouts in a 4-3 win over Florida State.

LSU, a No. 3 regional seed, kept coach Paul Mainieri’s career going for at least one more day. Giovanni DiGiacomo’s bases-loaded single up the middle in the bottom of the 10th inning gave the Tigers a 6-5 win over Central Connecticut State in an elimination game. Mainieri, the active career wins leader, announced last week this would be his final season.

“We get to play another day and take them one game at a time,” he said, “and I’m just happy that I get to keep working.”

Florida came into the season ranked first in every poll after returning seven of eight position players and 16 of 18 pitchers. But the Gators were up and down all season, losing their opening series to Miami at home and finishing third in the SEC East behind Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

South Alabama led 4-1 before stringing together 10 straight hits in a 10-run sixth inning, which prompted volunteer assistant Lars Davis to put pencil to paper while the Gators were waiting out a long rain delay in the seventh.

“I think he came up with like a 1 in 934,000 chance for 10 consecutive hits like that, considering their individual batting averages,” O’Sullivan said. “Credit their hitters. We didn’t walk anybody. We didn’t make any errors that inning. It’s just one of those crazy things about this game that makes it so good.”

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