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Florida baseball’s dominant bats and arms failed them in the College World Series

The Gators fail to repeat as national champs.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arkansas vs Florida Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Florida’s baseball shop spent most of the college baseball season ranked No. 1 overall by major college ball news outlets. Florida indeed earned the No. 1 overall national seed on Selection Monday leading up to the NCAA baseball tournament, and they handled business in the Gainesville regional and super regional rounds to earn the program’s second-straight trip to Omaha for the College World Series.

Florida boasts two first round MLB draft picks in third baseman Jonathan India and large adult hurler Brady Singer. Both went in the top 20 of this year’s major league crop.

The Gators won this tournament a year ago after sweeping LSU in the final round’s best-of-three series, and the Gators will not get a chance to defend their title. After taking a 5-2 loss to Arkansas on Friday night in Omaha, the Gators are headed home to watch the rest of the proceedings from a seedy couch in Gainesville, Florida.

Too many things went wrong for Kevin O’Sullivan’s club in Omaha.

One can weight these reasons fairly equally: the Gators’ bats fell asleep and their elite pitching staff failed to show in the bracket round opener against Texas Tech last Sunday. India — a .355 hitter — knocked just one hit that landed in the game. It was a triple, but those behind him couldn’t pull through. Gator ace Singer got beat up for nine hits and five earned runs.

Florida lost that one, 6-3, but came back to top the Red Raiders on Friday, 9-6, on the exact two-year anniversary of losing to them for the second-straight time in the CWS. Things seemed to be looking up.

Still, the Gators carried one loss in a double elimination bracket game against an undefeated Arkansas club into Friday night’s elimination game, and they ran up against SOOIE hurler Isaiah Campbell, who routinely touched up into the mid-90s on his fastball and low 90s with his cutter. Campbell was literally un-hittable for long into his start, and Arkansas’ power hitting backed him up in the early and middle going to jump out to a four-run lead.

Florida fought valiantly, but Arkansas was too much for the Gators on both sides of the ball this time.

The Gators plated two in the fifth to match the Razorbacks’ effort in the top of the frame, but Arkansas crossed another in the next window to draw the score to 5-2. From there, Arkansas’ bullpen mopped up batter after batter and Florida couldn’t break through.

Starter Singer looked good facing his first batter, throwing strike, strike, ball, then swinging strikeout to Arkansas’ leadoff man, but his very next pitch grounded hard into left field and the Razorback onslaught was on. He held on for five innings, giving up seven hits and four earned runs, a testament to just how well and hard this Arkansas club can lace balls all over the yard.

Florida’s bats fell quite asleep, as well. India registered just a single hit. JJ Schwarz didn’t hit anything all night. Trusty hitter Nelson Maldonado did his job with two hits and two RBI, but nobody else showed up to help out. In the end, Arkansas’ pitching staff and pen put these Gators to sleep, and SOOIE is off to the final round of the 2018 College World Series.

It’s tough to repeat as national champs in college baseball, and Florida learned that lesson the hard way in Omaha this year.