OMAHA, Neb. -- Winning a game for the first time at the College World Series isn't supposed to easy.
Just ask Kent State.
The Golden Flashes survived shaky relief pitching to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning and beat Florida 5-4 on Monday. The loss eliminated the top-seeded Gators, who made it to the finals a year ago.
"It wasn't the prettiest thing in the end," Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said. "It was gut-wrenching no matter who you were rooting for. Even if you weren't rooting for anybody, that was tough to watch. But we found a way. That's what this team has done all year long, and we're still here."
The Flashes bounced back from an 8-1 loss to Arkansas to post what Stricklin called the biggest win in program history.
"We belong here," he said. "That's the most important thing that we wanted as a team, as a program and as a university was to make a statement that we belong here. We're not a fluke. We're a really good baseball team."
Kent State scored four unearned runs and another on a wild pitch, then held on as Florida chipped away at the lead with a run in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh.
The Gators loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Michael Clark and Josh Pierce.
Pierce fought back from a 3-0 count to strike out Casey Turgeon when Turgeon couldn't check his swing and got called out on an appeal to the third-base umpire. Justin Shafer flew out to
"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," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "They 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."
The Gators (47-20) committed five errors in two games after coming to Omaha seventh in the nation in fielding.
Their pitching plans were upset when Hudson Randall (9-3) left after the first inning because of heat-related symptoms.
It was 95 degrees at the start of the game, making it the warmest first pitch at the CWS since June 11, 2001. Before Monday, Kent State hadn't played a game in weather warmer than 82 degrees all season.