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Florida Gators have a familiar path to the College World Series

Untitled designby:Nick de la Torre06/07/24

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CLEMSON, S.C. — In 2023 the Florida Gators dropped game two of a Super Regional to a Big 12 team only to come out of the loser’s bracket to face a team from South Carolina. This year, the Gators dropped game two in the Stillwater Regional to a Big 12 team and, once again, will face a team from South Carolina with a ticket to the College World Series on the line.

Last season it was Texas Tech and South Carolina, this year Oklahoma State and Clemson. Florida hopes the serendipitous set of circumstances has the same result as last year.

The trip to Clemson also serves as a homecoming for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and pitching coach David Kopp. O’Sullivan got his start at Clemson when legendary manager Jack Leggett gave a young O’Sullivan the chance to be Clemson’s pitching coach. Kopp pitched for Clemson with O’Sullivan as his coach.

“it’s a bit surreal to be back in Clemson after 17 years of not coming back,” O’Sullivan said on Friday. “We know we are playing a really good team in Clemson, looking forward to tomorrow.”It’s hard to put into words right now. This is literally the first time I’ve been back; I didn’t even stop by here yesterday. Really just focused on our own team. I don’t want this to be about me. Obviously there will be a lot of talk about me and Jack and Eric of course. But the focus is really about our team right now.”

The Gators weren’t supposed to be here depending on who you asked. It took a road series win over a top-25 Georgia Bulldogs team to even get Florida to a record good enough to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Ultimately, their strength of schedule and RPI were enough, but the team did see what some on the outside were saying.

“Looking at all the tweets and stuff that we shouldn’t have been in (the NCAA Tournament) it just made winning that regional in Stillwater a lot sweeter,” junior Jac Caglianone said Friday. “Proving everybody wrong, that’s kind of our mojo and what we’ve been riding.”

Florida Gators playing for each other

The last month of the season is sweet for college baseball players. Most of Florida’s roster doesn’t take summer classes because they spend the summer playing in college baseball leagues across the country. After finals week, they live a life similar to a professional player. There are no classes, assignments or tests, just wake up and play baseball.

It’s also the last ride for a lot of the players on the team.

“It makes this run so much more special. After we lost that one game in Stillwater, I didn’t really get the feeling that it was going to be my last time wearing the jersey for the next couple days. I knew what this team had in it and what we went out and did was really good for peace of mind. Once we got here, obviously nothing’s happened yet but I’m feeling really good about it.”

Kevin O’Sullivan interview

Opening Statement

“Just excited to have the opportunity to play this weekend. Obviously, it’s a bit surreal to be back in Clemson after 17 years of not coming back. We know we are playing a really good team in Clemson, looking forward to tomorrow.”

Q. What are the feelings being back at Clemson?

“It’s hard to put into words right now. This is literally the first time I’ve been back; I didn’t even stop by here yesterday. Really just focused on our own team. I don’t want this to be about me. Obviously there will be a lot of talk about me and Jack and Eric of course. But the focus is really about our team right now.”

Q. What have you told your outfielders about the warning track here?

“We did talk about it. We spent quite a bit of time in practice about it. It’s not as steep as I thought it was going to be, as it used to be. We took the outfielders in three different groups and threw them up the hill and then we took some balls off the machine, then we did about 15 minutes of live defense. I feel like they are a bit more prepared than I thought they would be coming in because it used to be a bit steeper, so I think it should be fine.”

Q. What’s the confidence of your team after leaving Oklahoma State with a victory? 

“Yeah, I mean Oklahoma State was outstanding. They ran arm after arm after arm out there. They have probably three or four hitters in their lineup that will probably play in the big leagues. It was a hostile environment, but we played three games in about 28 hours and I think it’s been well scripted that we’ve maybe have underachieved quite a bit this year but we played obviously a really difficult schedule… I mean you look up and down our schedule, there’s quite a few places that are really difficult to play and I feel that probably prepared us for last weekend.”

Q. Where do you feel you made the most progress on the mound last weekend?

“Honestly I think it probably started with Liam Peterson trying to figure things out. We finally found one guy that can get us into the 6th or 7th inning. So now you’re not over-extending your bullpen. Guys are being asked to do what their capable of doing, but when you have starts that are three and two-thirds or four and a third and you’re going to your bullpen too early on a Friday night, that effects Saturday and obviously effects Sunday. I think it all starts with Liam to extend the game on that Friday night, first start.”

Q. What do you see when scouting Clemson?

Obviously they’re older, they’re athletic, they got some length to their lineup. I’ve known Jimmy for a long time and all of his staffs have always thrown strikes and had the ability to throw multiple pitches for strikes. They can slow the ball down in fastball counts and obviously their playing with a lot of energy, I know they’ve had like maybe 25 come-from-behind wins this year. Team chemistry from the outside looking in looks as good as it can be, and they don’t beat themselves. It should be a fun series, both teams I think are going to play fundamentally sound. Like anything else, it will come down to a pitch here, an at bat here, and whoever has the opportunity to rise in those certain situations is probably going to end up being the winner. It should be a well-played series for sure.”

Q. How much has Fisher Jameson been a reliable arm out of the bullpen?

“He’s our unsung hero on the mound. It’s easy for people to overlook him, but in my eyes, I trust him. Obviously, his last outing on Monday was as good as he’s ever pitched, facing ten hitters and retiring all ten. You can just see his confidence level was different last Monday. For me personally, he’s been our most reliable pitcher all year long.”

Projected Pitching matchups/schedule

Saturday | 2 ET (ESPN)Sunday | 2:30 ET (ESPN)Monday | TBD | If Necessary
FloridaRHP Liam Peterson (3-4, 5.61 ERA)TBATBD
ClemsonLHP Tristan Smith (2-0, 3.88 ERA)RHP Aidan Knack (5-1, 2.96 ERA)TBD
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