For the first time in history, the Florida Gators are the national champions of the college baseball world.
Florida finished off its all-SEC sweep of the LSU Tigers in the College World Series championship Tuesday with a 6-1 victory at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. The game was much closer than the final score indicated, as the Gators added four insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth to what was a tightly fought 2-1 contest.
The team underscored just how long it has been, while SportsCenter shared a celebration 103 years in the making:
Florida appeared to be in control from the early going with runs in the first and second innings off RBI singles from JJ Schwarz and Deacon Liput. Starting pitcher Tyler Dyson cruised through six scoreless innings and was charged with just one earned run when Zach Watson singled off him in the seventh and scored on Josh Smith's double off Michael Byrne.
The Tigers missed multiple opportunities from there when the tying run was sent back to third base later in the inning because of runner interference at second while Florida was trying to turn a double play. LSU also failed to score in the eighth despite having runners on first and third with nobody out, thanks largely to Schwarz throwing Kramer Robertson out at home from first base.
The Gators blew things open with a four-spot in the bottom of the frame—two of which scored on Liput's single—and clinched the long-awaited championship.
Gators Baseball passed along more of the celebration from the team:
ESPN Stats & Info pointed to the break from the usual for the two programs, who are accustomed to reaching this level but leaving with different results:
Reporters Kailey Mizelle and Erin Andrews looked at things from a fan's perspective:
Paul Myerberg of USA Today and Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press noted the company Florida joined with the victory:
Teddy Cahill of Baseball America praised the Gators' ability to overcome setbacks and finish the season as champions:
Nothing stood in Florida's way throughout the season, including a showdown with a formidable LSU team that beat the No. 1-seeded Oregon State Beavers twice in a row to reach the championship series.
The Gators won the best-of-three series in two games and ended a long stretch of close misses on college baseball's biggest stage.
"Just a gritty group, that's all I can say," Florida manager Kevin O'Sullivan said of his team after the win, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "There are other teams that may be bigger and stronger, our starting pitching has carried us the whole year, but we got some timely hits."
On the other side, LSU manager Paul Mainieri called the Gators "a very deserving national champion," per the AP.
Mainieri also praised Dyson for his efforts, per Mike Malloy of the Miami Herald: "He was overpowering us. Seems like every pitcher Florida has throws mid-90s with a good breaking ball."
One of the critical moments of the contest came when Schwarz threw Robertson out at the plate, and Florida catcher Mike Rivera said, "Thank God he threw a dart," per Malloy.
Schwarz knew what was coming with Robertson at third, per Malloy: "Knowing Kramer, I knew he was going to be aggressive. I made a good throw and Mike made an unbelievable tag."
Rivera played a critical role in the clutch out and then had the opportunity to celebrate after Schwarz caught the ball at first base on the final groundout in the ninth to end the contest.
"Once I saw JJ catch the ball, I freaked out and started crying," Rivera said, per Malloy.
He and the rest of the Gators earned the right to drop those tears.