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Gators have what it takes to win it all

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To say the Florida Gator baseball team is on a roll just doesn’t seem to fully describe what they are doing to opponents – quality opponents – during the postseason. Their 15-3 mauling of the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday at the College World Series (CWS) in Omaha is just the latest example.

To get to baseball’s Elite 8, they twice smacked down arch-rival Florida State in the Super Regional by combined scores of 24-9. During the Gainesville Regional, they won three straight against Florida A&M, South Florida and Florida Atlantic by a combined margin of 29-3.

Saturday’s game provided Miami with some hope they could play with Florida. The Hurricanes held a 2-1 lead (aided by an uncharacteristic Gator error) before a hurricane of offense turned a tight game into a rout.

Florida sent 15 men to the plate and scored 11 runs in that fateful fourth. Since it is seemingly easier to hit a home run in Yellowstone Park than Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park, the Gators followed a couple of Miami miscues with an awesome display of small ball. While the game was not officially over, it was over.

Miami Coach Jim Morris learned precisely how Florida State Coach Mike Martin felt the week before. Both agree with Captain Obvious that Florida is clicking on all cylinders. The 12-run margin of defeat was the largest postseason defeat in Hurricane history.

“The fourth inning says everything about the game,” Morris told the media after the game. “Everything that could go wrong went wrong. A game like this is never much fun.”

Florida (50-16) will now play the ACC’s Virginia Cavaliers, last year’s runner-up, on Monday night. The winner will be in the bracket finals, meaning someone will need to beat either Florida or Virginia twice to advance to the CWS final.

Morris and the Hurricanes are comforted by the fact that despite the size of the loss, it is still just one loss. Someone will need to beat Miami again before they are sent home.

Miami (49-16) seeks to avoid being the first team sent home from Omaha. To stick around in this bracket comprised of ACC and SEC teams, they need to beat Arkansas on Monday afternoon. If they are successful, the ‘Canes earn the right to face the loser of Florida/Virginia in another elimination game on Wednesday.

Florida, as the number 4 national seed and the highest seed remaining in their bracket, is favored to advance to the championship game. The only CWS team seeded higher than Florida is LSU, which is in the lower bracket.

Defending national champion Vanderbilt is also in the bracket with LSU (TCU and Cal State Fullerton are the other two). Florida defeated Arkansas, LSU and Vanderbilt in last month’s SEC Tournament, the first three wins of Florida’s current 10-game post-season winning streak.

This year marks Florida’s best chance to win their first national championship. Not only do they pitch well and hit well, no team in the country – let alone the CWS – plays better defense.

As they say, in a short series anything can happen and that is especially true of the College World Series. The prediction here is the Gators in the final against either Vanderbilt or LSU.

We will let that play out before making a championship prediction.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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