OMAHA, NE (WAFB) - The Florida Gators are the 2017 National Champions after a 6-1 win over the LSU Tigers in game two of the College World Series Finals.
Senior Jared Poche' pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up 2 runs (0 earned), 7 hits, 1 walk and 3 strikeouts in his last start for LSU.
The Tigers could not overcome three fielding errors, a base running interference that cost LSU a run in the 7th inning and Kramer Robertson being thrown out at the plate in the 8th inning.
Florida added four runs in the 8th inning to seal the victory.
In a game in which there was little to no room for error, LSU looked out of character and out of sorts early on against Florida. The defense made mistakes, the offense couldn't find a hole, and the rough three innings by Poche' to start the game, although he did settle in eventually, all added up to a heart wrenching loss in the College World Series Finals.
"Bunch of opportunities, weren't able to capitalize," said senior second baseman Cole Freeman. "When you've got a couple of opportunities in tight games like that, in this type of situation, you've got to make the best of it and we weren't able to do that tonight."
"We just put in so much time and effort and energy to everything here and just to come up short sucks," said junior pitcher Alex Lange. "I don't know if it's better to lose in the first round of the regionals or the national championship. It's just terrible. My heart breaks for this team."
The weight of the moment was incredibly hard to carry as guys were disappointed, in disbelief, and emotional after the game, heading into the locker room, and onto the bus as the realization set in that the 2017 LSU baseball season is over.
Head coach Paul Mainieri took this setback really hard after the contest. He reflected back on last summer in Baton Rouge, that summer from hell, so to speak, and what LSU wanted to accomplish this season.
"And, I remember my wife saying to me last summer, she said, 'Man, wouldn't it be great if you could go out and win the national championship this spring to give something to kind of unify the community and give them something to be happy about and be proud of?'" Mainieri said. "And, I never forgot that she said that."
"It sucks; it sucks," said junior catcher Michael Papierski. "There's no other words to describe it, but, it sucks. You don't want to come out this way. But, someone's got to win; someone's got to lose. And, you know what? We were on the wrong side of it, so it's going to happen. It's going to happen."
Papierski started to choke up at the end of that interview and he is one of the tougher guys on the team, which shows what an emotional moment like this can do. He went around to every player after the game and shared words with them. He also gave each of them a big hug.
For the first time in LSU baseball history, the Tigers reached the finals and were unsuccessful. They won't be able to add to The Intimidator in right field of Alex Box Stadium, but without a doubt, this was an amazing season for this baseball team. It accomplished so much. It hurts now, but in years to come, the players should reflect on this season with great pride.
1st Inning: Florida 1-0
3 straight singles for Florida to start the inning, but a great catch by Greg Deichmann and a strikeout by Poche' limit the damage,
allowing the Gators only 1 run.
2nd Inning: Florida 2-0
After Nick Coomes' second error of the game, this one with two outs, Florida steals a run to go up 2-0. Tigers have 3 errors so far.
7th Inning: Florida 2-1
Zach Watson infield single, stole 2nd base
Josh Smith double to right, Watson scored
Jake Slaughter single to left
Michael Papierski hit into a double play, Slaughter called for interference, Smith sent back to third
8th Inning: Florida 6-1
Gators add four more runs