GAINESVILLE, Fla. – First baseman Peter Alonso and so many of his Florida teammates vividly remember leaving Omaha empty-handed last season.
That oh-so-close feeling of losing two one-run games to eventual national champion Virginia has stuck with them since.
It’s provided motivation. It’s kept them focused. It’s helped them maintain the No. 1 ranking for most of this season.
Getting back to the College World Series and winning the program’s first national title has been the goal from Day 1. So losing to rival Florida State in the NCAA’s super regionals is not even an option.
The Seminoles are just the next obstacle in Florida’s road to redemption.
“We’ve won a lot of games and we think we deserve to be” in Omaha, Alonso said. “The goal at the beginning of this year was to win a national championship. I certainly believe we all just belong there. I know like we’re not there yet, but that’s the goal.”
The Gators (50-13), the overall top seed in the tournament, begin the next step Saturday against Florida State (40-20) in a best-of-three series.
Florida swept all three meetings against the Seminoles during the regular season and has won five in a row and 10 of the last 12 in the series. Two more would send the Gators back to Omaha for the fifth time in the last seven years.
“I love it,” Florida reliever Dane Dunning said. “FSU-Florida, it’s one of the biggest rivalries that we have and just to be able to play and hopefully end their season, it’s a great feeling. … It’s going to be a blast.”
The Seminoles haven’t had a lot of fun against Florida lately. The Gators have outscored Florida State 41-13 in the last five meetings, including 13-5 and 11-4 in two super regional games in Gainesville last year.
“They took advantage of every mistake and beat our eyes out,” Seminoles coach Mike Martin said. “There’s no excuses. If we made a mistake, they cashed it in.”
The winning streak, along with a 31-4 record at McKethan Stadium this season, has the Gators feeling confident. Coach Kevin O’Sullivan has tried to temper that a bit, reminding his team that the postseason is all about matchups.
“I do know this: The more you knock on the door, the more you give yourself the opportunity,” O’Sullivan said. “Percentages say that at some point you’re going to end up winning it all. I don’t want this team to feel like it’s destiny and that if we don’t win it all it’s a failure. … Everybody wants to get there in the worst way.
“There’s way too many things to worry about right now to think about destiny or last game of the year.”
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