Here's what Florida coach Mike O'Sullivan, catcher Mike Zunino and right fielder Preston Tucker had to say after Monday night's 5-4 loss to Kent State that eliminated the Gators from the College World Series. (Courtesy ASAP Sports)
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Great game by both teams. It came down to the last out, and something you would expect in an elimination game. I'm awfully proud of our guys and the way they battled back.
We got thrown a curveball there with Hutch in after the first, and kind of overheated and turned to Jonathon. I've got to credit Kent State hitters. They did a nice job there in the second with two strikes and two outs. They battled and separated themselves.
But I was awfully proud of our team the way we battled back. It's an unfortunate way to end the season, but I think Kent State deserves a lot of credit for the way they played today. Hung in there, got a big strikeout at the end, and our guys hung in there right to the last out.
So we have nothing to be ashamed of, but Kent State just did a little bit more today and deserve the win.
Q. Mike, you were on second base, you had the outside 3 1 pitch, and then the check swing?
MIKE ZUNINO: He was getting my secondaries. I mean, Phil was great back there the whole game. He made the right call. On the check swing he didn't get to see it. I was getting my secondary inside away. My first gut instinct was hoping it was going to be ball four. They appealed, and it wasn't. I thought the umpire did a great job the whole game. So I thought they were good calls.
Q. Coach, what was the process with Hudson? Had he indicated before the game that he wasn't his best, and when did you make the decision to take him out?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: He looked fine before the game. I could tell he was laboring a little bit. I went out to give him a little breather to catch his breath. Then when I went out there, it was obvious he was having a little trouble breathing. So we brought the trainer out, and kind of slowed things down. Then I asked him in the dugout if he was okay to go back out. Be brutally honest with me. Our option was to go with Jonathon and switch roles and have him start on Wednesday. He looked me in the eye, and I could tell he wasn't ready to go back out. So that's why we made the switch.
Q. Kevin, coming into this series, your pitching and defense were both really great in the previous rounds, but it seems both were shabby here at times. I wonder if you could assess how they did out here in Omaha?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: It's two games. We made three areas the first night. We made two today, and they ended upcoming back to haunt us a little bit. But our pitching defense has been great all year. I'm not going to blame the pitching and defense for the two losses out here.
We've had plenty of opportunities and the other team has played better, it's as simple as that. I'm not going to point fingers at one thing or the other as why we lost.
Q. Mike and Preston, it looked like at some point in the inning there you had a huddle in the middle of the dugout. Do you think that helped your team respond and fight back in the my middle innings?
PRESTON TUCKER: It just helped us relax. In our lineup, we had plenty of chances to get guys on. That was the message. We had three or four at bats left. We could have done a lot of things with it. We did put together a couple hits and got guys on base. Unfortunately, it didn't work out at the end.
MIKE ZUNINO: We knew we were down four and our panel was going to keep us where we were at. We just came up a couple batters short though.
Q. Can you talk about was there a feeling of disbelief when the last out was made that this season was over?
MIKE ZUNINO: I mean, I think there always is. I've been able to make it out here three times and all three times I've been just as disappointed. It's one of those you put in so much hard work and get so close to the guys. It's one of those things where you don't want it to end.
It's going to take a while to hit me. I'm sure it hit the other people. But it's disappointing at the time. I'm sure it will hit harder later.
PRESTON TUCKER: Like Mike said, it hasn't sunk in yet. We've played so many games day in and day out. In the end, it's just another ballgame. But it's my last, and obviously I'm not going to get another chance.
Q. Kevin, in the ninth, why put Cody in to bunt? What did you tell him once the count got full there?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: I bunted him because I didn't want him to get into a double play. In the pen, Austin looked really sharp. I wanted to put two guys in scoring position and potentially score a run without getting a hit. So that's the answer to that.
As far as what did I tell him with two strikes relax. Have outer half coverage. Either he's going to walk or bunt him over, and not to be too fine with the third baseline, and I had all my confidence in him.
Q. When you could think this was decided by the umpires, do you not take that approach?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: The game was not decided by the umpires. The game was decided by both teams playing. We made a couple errors in the first and second, and they capitalized and got two runs there in the bottom of the second. That was the difference in the ballgame. Simple as that. The umpires had nothing to do with it.
Q. So much has been expected of this group of players for three years now. You've accomplished a lot. I understand you wanted to accomplish more, but how do you put it all in perspective? I know it's hard 10 minutes after the game, but when you look at what this team has accomplished, how do you evaluate it?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: I think I need a little time to put it in proper words. They've been very successful. They've been great players; but more importantly, they've been a great representation of what we want in this program. I think they've done the right thing both on and off the field. They've worked awfully hard, but with the game just ending, I don't think I would do it justice.
I've been awfully proud of the way they've played and the way they've represented our program. They've set a standard that following teams will have to live up to.
I'm awfully proud of what they've been able to do. I don't know that I can answer that right now.
Q. Can you talk about the fight that your team put up through the very last pitch, and just how they've done that throughout the entire season?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: Yeah, I didn't expect anything different. We were not going to lay down today. Not very often do you go into a game and have every expectation of your number one starter getting taken out first, and then it just changes the whole complexion.
That's not the reason we lost, but I thought our team battled through some adversity today, and I thought they did a nice job battling back in the middle innings.
I think we had the meeting with four innings left, and they did a nice job. They battled. The only thing you can ask of your team is to play hard, and battle and compete, and my team did that today.
Q. Mike or Preston, can you guys remember a game where the first two innings went like that, the hit and run that didn't work, that you guys were both involved in the 1 4 6 3 double play? Kind of the errors that you all made. Can you remember a game in the last couple of years where it started off on that much of a wrong foot?
MIKE ZUNINO: Not in particular, but that does happen. It's happened numerous times this year, and we've got to battle. It doesn't always happen to us. It happens to teams playing against us. That doesn't really need to change momentum. We did what we needed to do. We got guys on base, got guys in scoring position, and unfortunately, we just came up short.
PRESTON TUCKER: Yeah, regardless of what went wrong in those early innings, I thought we had plenty of opportunities to come back, and we almost did. But it was one of those where we missed some opportunities that we could have put a dagger too. It's extremely disappointing, but we were able to recover from those early innings, but just not enough.
Q. Coach, I believe it was the eighth inning, Justin Shafer up to bat. I know he's hot. You had him swing away. Can you explain your thought process in that?
COACH O'SULLIVAN: You just said it yourself. He was hot. I thought we had a chance to have a big inning, at least try to attempt that. We were in the bottom half of the order, too. It's not like I had Preston, Mike and Johnson coming up.
So I felt like I wanted to take advantage of him swinging the bat really well. He was seeing the ball all day long.