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Florida beats LSU to win College World Series


    Florida players celebrated after defeating LSU to capture the College World Series.

OMAHA, Neb. >> Florida scored four runs in the eighth inning to pull away from LSU, and the Gators beat their Southeastern Conference rival 6-1 tonight to complete a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals for their first national title in baseball.

The Gators (52-19) posted the eighth sweep in the 15 years of the best-of-three finals format, and first since 2013. LSU (52-20) lost for the first time in seven appearances in a championship game.

Freshman Tyler Dyson (4-0) limited the Tigers to three hits in six innings in only his second start, and the Gators capitalized on LSU errors in the first and second innings to go up 2-0 against Jared Poche (12-4).

Things got interesting after Michael Byrne relieved Dyson in the seventh. LSU pulled to 2-1 and would have tied it if not for Jake Slaughter being called for runner interference at second base for sliding into shortstop Dalton Guthrie’s leg as he was throwing to first to turn a double play. Josh Smith, who had run home, was sent back to third, and Beau Jordan flew out to end the inning.

Kramer Robertson punched a single into right field leading off the eighth and took second on a wild pitch. The Tigers had runners on the corners when Cole Freeman beat Byrne’s throw to first for a bunt single. After Byrne struck out Antoine Duplantis, Jackson Kowar, who would have been Florida’s starter in Game 3, came on to face Greg Deichmann.

Deichmann grounded Kowar’s first pitch to first, and JJ Schwarz threw out Robertson at the plate on a play that stood after a video review. Zach Watson, the Tigers’ hottest hitter in the CWS, then flew out to end the inning.

The Gators scored four times in the bottom of the eighth. LSU reliever Zack Hess hit a batter with the bases loaded, Liput hit a two-run single and Schwarz had a sacrifice fly.

Kowar pitched around a single in the top of the ninth, with the championship locked up when Beau Jordan grounded out to second, prompting the Gators to empty their dugout and start dogpiling.

Florida was in the CWS for the 11th time and previously had made it to the finals in 2005 and 2011, getting swept each time.

Kevin O’Sullivan, the Gators’ 10th-year coach, had brought the Gators to six of the last eight College World Series. Last year was supposed to be his best chance to win it all. The Gators were the No. 1 national seed for the NCAA Tournament, and they had eight players who were taken in the first 10 rounds of the 2016 Major League Baseball draft. They went two games and out.

Florida this year brought back one of the nation’s top weekend rotations in CWS Most Outstanding Player Alex Faedo, Brady Singer and Kowar and a reliever in Byrne who led the country with a school-record 19 saves. Complementing the pitching was a defense that ranked in the top 10 in the country.

All that was missing was consistent offense. The Gators came into this game with no everyday player hitting .300, and they were ranked 227th out of 300 teams with a .258 batting average.

The pitching overshadowed all shortcomings. Faedo, the Detroit Tigers’ first-round draft pick earlier this month, was the national leader in strikeouts and Singer ranked 11th. Coming into Tuesday, the pitching staff had combined to strike out at least 11 batters in eight straight games. Singer set a CWS finals record with 12 Ks in a 4-3 win Monday.

Florida went 19-7 in one-run games on its way to its sixth 50-win season in program history, four coming under O’Sullivan in 2011, ‘15, ‘16 and ‘17.

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