Gators hunting baseball title as gap between UF and others widens
The Florida Gators advanced to the finals of the College World Series where they will face SEC foes, LSU in a best-of-three series starting Saturday. (AP IMAGES)

Gators baseball
Already leading the way among college baseball programs in the area, the Florida Gators stand 2 wins away from a national championship.

The Florida Gators have advanced to the championship round of the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Florida will face Louisiana State University in the best-of-three series starting Saturday.

It will be the fourth time in the finals for the Gators, who won the national championship in 2017 after finishing as runners-up in 2005 and 2011.

It has already been a big school year in Gainesville with men’s golf and men’s outdoor track and field winning national championships this spring. Florida has only once won three national championships in the same calendar year. That was in 2017 when men’s track and field, women’s tennis, and baseball squads won titles.

There is a rivalry between the Florida schools. Of course, the rivalry’s roots lie in football, but all-sports bragging rights are a big deal for the athletic departments, especially when it comes to donor money for sports other than football.

Let’s assume that Florida State has the edge in football right now. The Seminoles are expected to be a Top 10 team in the preseason polls. Miami has the edge in men’s and women’s basketball based on the Hurricanes’ performance in the NCAA tournaments. Past that, three national championships in the span of a few months boost the cause for folks in Gainesville to boast.

Florida’s run to the finals comes in just the third season in the new Condron Family Ballpark, now the best college baseball facility in the state and one of the best in the nation.

So how does Florida capitalize on this year’s success?

They are already at the top of the heap in college baseball in the state. Florida State is trying to recapture its previous glory. Head coach Link Jarrett is starting to turn things around in Tallahassee while Miami is looking for leadership after Gino DiMare stepped down on June 8. The University of Central Florida is joining the Big 12, which should elevate the program, but it leaves the Knights well behind the Big Three.

Perhaps it should be the Big One.

Not only does Florida lead in on-field success right now, but the Gators have the newest and best facilities in the state and are ahead of the pack with their name, image and likeness campaign that has attracted more of the state’s top players. The Gators have also been able to lure some top transfers, including three players since the transfer portal opened on May 30.

If the Gators bring home the College World Series championship, the gap will only widen.

Cole Pepper

Cole Pepper has covered professional, college and high school sports in Florida since 1996. Originally from the Kansas City area, Pepper came to Jacksonville to launch a sports radio station, the first step in a career that has included work in radio, television, and online reporting. He was the studio host for the Jaguars radio network for 15 seasons and now consults for JAX USL, the group bringing professional men's and women's soccer to northeast Florida. You can reach Cole at [email protected] or on Twitter @ColePepper


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