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Gators' season over as rally falls short

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 06:10 PM
OMAHA, Neb. -

Florida starting pitcher Hudson Randall left Monday's College World Series game against Kent State after one inning because he wasn't feeling well.

Three hours later his teammates knew exactly how he felt.

Kent State worked out of a bases-loaded ninth-inning jam to beat the Gators, 5-4, and eliminate the NCAA tournament's top overall seed and preseason favorite to win the national title.

"(It was a) great game by both teams," said Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. "I'm awfully proud of our team and the way we battled back. It's an unfortunate way to end the season, but I think Kent State deserves a lot of credit for the way they played today."

The Flashes (47-19) took a 5-1 lead after four innings but had to hold on in the elimination game.

With Florida trailing by a run, Preston Tucker (Plant High) and Mike Zunino led off the Gators' ninth with walks. Pinch-hitter Cody Dent bunted the runners over and Daniel Pigott was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Casey Turgeon got ahead in the count 3-1 against reliever Josh Pierce. After a called second strike, Turgeon tried to check his swing on the next pitch but was called out on appeal to the third-base umpire.

Justin Shafer then flied out to right to end the game and Florida's season. UF (47-20), which was making its third consecutive CWS appearance and reached the championship series last season, went 0-2 in Omaha this year.

"This game was not decided by the umpires," O'Sullivan said when asked about the ninth inning. "The game was decided by both teams playing. We made a couple of errors in the first and second and they capitalized."

The Flashes got help from a Nolan Fontana error to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Jimmy Rider reached on the high throw, went to third on a single by David Lyons and scored on a single by George Roberts.

Mindful of the intense Omaha heat, O'Sullivan visited Randall on the mound during the inning. "He looked fine before the game. I could tell he was laboring a little bit. ... When I went out there it was obvious he was having a little trouble breathing. Then I asked him in the dugout if he was OK to go back out. He looked me in the eye and I could tell he wasn't ready to go back out. So, that's why we made the switch."

Jonathon Crawford replaced Randall (9-3) to start the second inning, when the Flashes made it 4-0 with the help of more shaky Gators defense. Jason Bagoly singled up the middle and went to second when Alex Miklos' bunt was misplayed by Gators third baseman Josh Tobias. Derek Toadvine sacrificed both runners over.

Crawford struck out Campbell, but Rider, Lyons and Roberts had consecutive two-out singles.

Zunino and Shafer had two hits apiece for Florida.

"(The players) battled," O'Sullivan said. "The only thing you can ask of your team is to play hard and battle and compete, and my team did that."