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Bad hitting and worse pitching send Gators home from CWS

It was interesting at the end, but Florida was knocked out of the College World Series today by Florida State, losing 8-5. In their two games in Omaha, UF was outscored 19-8.

The Gators had a chance to win in the 9th inning against the Noles. Trailing 8-2 to start the inning, Preston Tucker hit a bases-clearing double to make it 8-5. Tucker advanced to third on a hit by Austin Maddox and Matt den Dekker was hit by a pitch to load the bases again. But Mike Zunino lined into a double play, ending the game.  It was the second time in the game Zunino had lined into a double play.

Florida starter Hudson Randall had another poor outing against FSU, lasting only 2.2 innings and giving up four runs. UF tried to stop the bleeding with third starter Brian Johnson entering in relief, but he was only slightly better. He allowed two runs in 3.1 innings. FSU starter Brian Busch was not great, but kept UF from scoring. In 5.1 innings, he allowed four walks, but only two runs on two hits. 

Good pitching always beats good hitting, which was true in both of Florida's CWS games. But UF allowed runs in 13 of 17 innings played. No matter how good you hit, it is impossible for the offense to be clicking when the pitching is so dismal. The blame for this performance lies squarely on the young shoulders of the staff. Under the heat of Omaha, they wilted. This isn't being critical, but the facts. When your best pitchers are sophomores and younger, and have never played in the CWS, expecting them to get beyond the first week was a dream too far. Talent is not a replacement for experience. UCLA was an old team and FSU has been hardened by tournament play. Youth also played a part in how the Gator batters worked. Even on the biggest stage, they still waste at-bats and lack the on-base percentage of a team of this quality.

As bad as it might all sound, the Gators have nothing to be concerned about. The mistakes they made were those of a young team. If they were juniors and seniors, that would be a problem. For Florida to win the SEC in 2010 with a completely new lineup and two freshman starting pitchers was tremendous. They will just have to wait another year to see if they learned from the experience of two losses in Omaha.