WHAT HAPPENED: The Gators won their first national championship, that’s what. Florida scored a pair of runs early, then escaped trouble in the seventh and eighth innings to preserve a one-run lead, before exploding for four runs in the bottom of the eighth to defeat Southeastern Conference rival LSU, 6-1, for the 2017 College World Series trophy, sweeping the Tigers in two games in the best-of-three championship series.
PLAY OF THE GAME: The Gators led 2-0 in the seventh when LSU’s Zach Watson led off with a single. Exit UF starter Tyler Dyson, and enter closer Michael Byrne. Josh Smith greeted Byrne with an RBI double to trim the lead to 2-1 and put the tying run on second base. Jake Slaughter followed with a single to put runners on first and third. Up stepped Michael Papierski, who grounded into a 4-6-3 double play as Smith crossed the plate with the tying run. Not so fast. Umpires ruled that Slaughter’s slide interfered with UF shortstop Dalton Guthrie at second base. Per NCAA rules, a runner cannot advance on an interference play, resulting in Smith having to stay at third. Byrne then retired Beau Jordan on a fly ball to center field and the Gators escaped the inning with a one-run lead.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Dyson got the start in Game 2 and did he ever come through. The freshman right-hander allowed only one run and three hits in six innings, taking advantage of an early 2-0 lead and settling in to win the biggest game of his life. Dyson walked two, struck out two, and needed only 75 pitches (50 strikes) before being replaced by Byrne with one on and nobody out in the seventh.
STAGGERING STATISTIC: In winning the first NCAA baseball title in school history, Florida became the only school in the country over the last 50 years with national championships in football, basketball and baseball — and the Gators have one in each over the last 10 years.
UP NEXT: Back to the Sunshine State for a party. The Gators are scheduled to leave Omaha late Wednesday morning and will arrive back on campus late-afternoon, with a championship celebration at McKethan Stadium set for 4:30 to 6 p.m.