One-run games never get old as long as you’re winning — and Florida is doing plenty of that right now.
Florida reached the College World Series finals with a 3-2 victory over TCU on Tuesday, making the Gators the fourth team in history to win their bracket with three straight one-run wins.
“It’s not easy to get to this point. It’s just not,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I know I overstate it and say it over and over, but we just played three one-run games and they’re all nail-biters down to the end.”
Cade Kurland, who had struggled at the plate in the CWS, reached on an infield single to drive in the tiebreaking run in the ninth. Michael Robertson, who scored the winning run as a pinch runner and stayed in the game to play center field, ran down Brayden Taylor’s deep fly to make a dazzling catch at the wall to end the game.
“There’s a lot of things that have to go right,” O’Sullivan said.
Florida joined Eastern Michigan in 1976, South Carolina in 1977 and Texas in 2002 as the only teams in the 76-year history of the CWS to win their first three games by a single run.
The Gators’ run started Friday with a walk-off 6-5 win over Virginia after they erased a two-run deficit in the ninth. Then on Sunday, they survived Oral Roberts’ inside-the-park home run, O’Sullivan’s mound-visit rules violation that forced their closer out of the game and anxious moments in the last two innings to win 5-4.
The Gators have won eight in a row since facing elimination in the regional they hosted. They’re hot at the right time, and TCU’s Taylor could see it Wednesday.
“Florida is going to be the team to win this thing,” he said.
The Gators (53-15) will play No. 1 national seed Wake Forest or LSU in the best-of-three championship series starting Saturday. Wake Forest would advance with a win over the Tigers on Wednesday night. An LSU win would force a second bracket final Thursday.
Florida is in the finals for the fourth time, and first since it won the national championship in 2017.
TCU (44-24) staved off elimination twice to get to Wednesday’s game, and it finished the season with wins in 21 of 25 games.
“Obviously ran up against a great Florida team and just came up one run short,” Horned Frogs coach Kirk Saarloos said. “But like I told them, just the story and the journey that they took us on this year will never be forgotten. I think it completely changes our program in terms of what they did from the middle part of the season until now. It just stinks that it’s over.”
Florida led 2-1 after the first inning, and neither team scored again until TCU tied it in the bottom of the eighth when Tre Richardson singled and came home on Anthony Silva’s deep fly to left-center that bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double.
Tyler Shelnut doubled off the right-center wall leading off the Florida ninth against Ben Abeldt. Garrett Wright relieved, and pinch hitter Dale Thomas popped out trying to bunt before Colby Halter’s deep flyout allowed Robertson to take third.
Robertson scored when Kurland’s grounder to short pulled Silva to his right. Silva bounced a throw to first that was far too late to get Kurland, who had been 1 for 14 in the CWS.
“A lot of times in baseball things may not go your way, but I think baseball always has a way to come back around,” Kurland said. “It’s really important to stay in the moment for when you do get the opportunity. He got me 0-2 quick, and I just knew he wasn’t going to get me out. I wasn’t going to go down.”
Florida two-way star Jac Caglianone was shaky over 4 1/3 innings in his first start since June 2. He had walked three, hit three batters and gave up three hits when he left.
Josh Rivera, the Gators’ shortstop, hit a two-run homer in the first inning and made a perfect relay throw home to prevent TCU from scoring the tying run in the fourth.
TCU freshman Kole Klecker, starting on four days’ rest for the first time, allowed two runs on six hits in five innings.