After 24-4 Florida Win, Both Teams Have To Have Short Memories

Jay Johnson says his LSU team has done a lot more right than wrong, and will stick to their preparation heading into game three of the College World Series final. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network

OMAHA, Neb. – On the prairies, where the wind blows free, the outfield fence wasn’t much of an enclosure for the Florida Gators in game two of the College World Series final Sunday afternoon.

With a steady 20 mph wind blowing toward center field, the Gators took advantage, clubbing six home runs in the 24-4 rout of Louisiana State, getting two from Jac Caglianone, a pair from right fielder Ty Evans, and one each from BT Riopelle and Wyatt Langford. Add in LSU’s lone homer from Brayden Jobert, and the seven homers are the most ever hit in a College World Series game at Charles Schwab Field.

But that said, If Thursday night’s game between LSU and Wake Forest was a best picture nominee, Sunday’s game was a low-budget slasher film aired on a UHF station, with LSU playing the roles of the victims. 

The Gators took a bite out of the Tigers in the third, batting around and putting up six runs, capped when Ty Evans came up with two outs and the bases loaded and hit a fly ball down the right field line. The steady breeze shifted, giving the ball a lift both over the wall and into fair territory for a grand slam and a 7-3 Florida lead. 

“Honestly, I thought I was sent off the bat probably just like everyone else,” Evans said, “but I started just kind of jogging it out and I looked up at Luke and he was, like, spinning around in circles.”

And for the Tigers, it only got worse. With the bases loaded in the third, Tommy White grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning, and the Tigers would never threaten again. 

Asked when he thought the game went off the rails, Tigers head coach Jay Johnson said, “At 8-3, we went to Bryce [Collins] because he pitched well against him last year, and it was largely the same lineupI… he was good in his first inning, wasn’t good in his second, and then it just kind of snowballed from there.”

As the innings went on, the Gators death-rolled LSU, adding one run in the fourth, five in the sixth, two in the seventh, four in the eighth, and four more in the ninth, giving them ownership of the record for most runs in a College World Series game.

Collins, who came out of the Tigers bullpen for the fifth, gave up four runs on five hits in one inning of work, failing to retire a batter in the sixth. 

Langford and Caglianone hit back-to-back homers for Florida off Collins in the sixth and Langford’s, which landed in the next-to-last row of the left field bleachers, didn’t need any help from the wind to get out.

As the game got out of reach, the thousands of LSU fans – Tigers fans travel en masse – headed for the gates early, hoping that they could at least win the party and the Jell-O Shot Challenge at Rocco’s Pizza across the street from the ballpark if not game two.

With game two finally and mercifully over, both teams now have to put it behind them. 

Following the game, Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan sat by himself in the dugout for a moment, collecting himself after his charges evened the best-of-three final.

“It’s really hard to unwind, to be honest with you,” O’Sullivan said. “You know, you lose a game like last night, and it’s just really, really hard to kind of let it go. But you have to, and that was the message last night. And then just to flip the switch and the whole story, and the whole narrative changes… it’s emotional. You just kind of take it in.”

It’s all a matter of perspective.  They’ll be back here on Monday, to play one more time. 

“I think the more you talk about things the more you know maybe uptight they might get and relax. They don’t need a raw-raw speech tomorrow,” O’Sullivan said. “I mean, we’re playing a very good LSU team, and the winner’s going to have the opportunity to be national champion. So have them enjoy it tonight, and wake up tomorrow and stay in our routine.”

In the other clubhouse, the man in the coach’s office has, essentially, the same thought.

“We’re 53-17. And if you’re 53-17, you’ve done a heck of a lot more right than wrong,” said Johnson. “And so we’re going to stick to how we prepare and roll it out tomorrow and give it everything that we have. One game for the national championship.”

And we’ll see you on Monday night.

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