The enormous disappointment of the Florida Gators’ early exit from the College World Series is unmistakably still there. That goes with the territory of being the favorite to win it all for the first time.
The plan was to get by the relatively unheralded Cinderella known as Coastal Carolina in the first game. From there, Florida could use their pitching depth to get to the championship round. With days off in between, the major league-caliber arms of Logan Shore, A.J. Puk, Alex Faedo and Dane Dunning could recycle and plow their way to a title.
The Miami Hurricanes felt the same way. They had enough quality pitching to believe they could come out of the other bracket to face the Gators in the best of three championship finals. Their first opponent was Arizona, a program with a proud tradition, but a surprise qualifier for the final eight.
Both Coastal Carolina and Arizona had to win their regionals and super regionals on the road to make it to Omaha. The Gators and Hurricanes looked to put them in their place.
After Arizona dumped Miami, they had to later win two straight against Oklahoma to make it to the championship round. The Wildcats now look to bring their fifth championship trophy back to Tucson.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has not been near a College World Series championship trophy, but it is now only two wins away. After shocking the Gators, the Chanticleers also needed two wins against TCU to earn the right to face Arizona.
While Florida and Miami are not involved, some Florida players play significant roles for Coastal. Shortstop Michael Paez from Miami is a powerful leadoff hitter with 15 home runs on the season.
Center fielder Billy Cooke of Maitland is hitting .329 and leads the team with 27 stolen bases. Freshman Cameron Pearcy of Bradenton is a reserve infielder.
Arizona has no players on its roster from the state of Florida, but these westerners do have fun on the bench. Some good-natured shenanigans have caught the eye of fans and television cameras throughout the series.
Game 1 of the championship series begins Monday at 7:00 p.m. If the baseball isn’t entertaining, ESPN can turn to the Wildcat bench.