Hours before Tuesday’s College World Series game, University of Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan was thinking the wisest thing would be to rest right-hander Jackson Kowar in case he was needed as a potential Game 3 starter.
But Kowar, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, didn’t want conventional wisdom to get in the way of the Gators sweeping LSU for the national championship. So before the game he told O’Sullivan that if the circumstances warranted it Tuesday, he was more than ready to come out of the bullpen.
“I was feeling really fresh the past couple of weeks. I knew I could get a couple of outs today and start tomorrow if necessary,” Kowar said.
Turns out Kowar was needed in Game 2, getting the last eight outs to earn a save in a 6-1 win for the Gators’ first CWS title. Florida won Game 1 on Monday, 4-3.
“When we got to the ballpark today, Jackson said he had a couple of innings in him if I needed him,” said O’Sullivan. “I didn’t really think about it until he said something to me.”
With one out in the eighth and LSU runners on the corners in a one-run game, Kowar got the first batter he faced, Greg Deichmann, to hit a sharp grounder to first baseman JJ Schwarz. Schwarz fielded the ball and quickly threw home to prevent Kramer Robertson from scoring the tying run for the Tigers
“Our defense has done that all year for us,” said Kowar, who surrendered just one hit. “They’ve really given our pitching staff the most confidence in the world.”
It was the second consecutive inning LSU squandered a chance to tie the score.
In the seventh, an interference call at second forced Josh Smith to return to third and that’s where he remained. But before all that drama, the Tigers at least pushed across a run when Smith’s double scored Watson to make it a 2-1 contest
After those missed opportunities in the seventh and eighth, the Tigers (52-20) wouldn’t get another chance. By the time they got around to batting in the ninth, the Gators were on cruise control after pushing across four more runs in the bottom of the eighth on three hits, two walks and a hit batter..
While Kowar put the finishing touches on UF’s historic win, it was freshman Tyler Dyson who got the Gators (52-19) in position with six strong innings. He improved to 4-0 on the season while making what was just his second career start.
“He was good tonight. He sunk the ball and trusted his defense,” said O’Sullivan of Dyson, who scattered three hits over six innings while striking out two and walking two.
The game didn’t begin well for LSU and its starter Jared Pouche, who surrendered unearned runs in the first two innings because of sloppy defensive play.
“The whole game was kind of bizarre,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Jared goes out and the first batter, routine ground ball to first and we don’t make the play and it leads to a run, and then we pick a runner off and we don’t — we weren’t able to throw them out at second base and then they get a base hit.
“So you feel like Jared’s pitching really well, and yet you’ve given them two runs.”
LSU entered the showdown between the two Southeastern Conference co-champions with a 6-0 record when playing for the CWS title while Florida was 0-2 when reaching the championship stage.
Note: Florida became just the fourth school to win a national title in baseball, basketball and football, joining UCLA, Michigan and Ohio State.