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Gators, LSU to meet in College World Series finals again

Meet these Palm Beach County Gators playing for national title
Florida Gators celebrate walkoff win against Virginia Cavaliers in College World Series, June 16, 2023
Posted at 7:06 AM, Jun 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-24 07:06:57-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — When Florida faces LSU in the best-of-three College World Series finals this weekend in Omaha, Nebraska, it will be a rematch of the 2017 championship series.

The Gators defeated the Tigers 4-3 and 6-1 in the first two games to claim their first national championship in baseball in school history.

But Florida hasn't been back to Omaha since.

Will history repeat itself this weekend?

Although both teams are members of the Southeastern Conference, Florida and LSU didn't meet during the regular season.

The Gators, who earned the No. 2 national seed entering the NCAA tournament, have won eight straight games since losing to Texas Tech in the Gainesville regional. They played their way out of the loser's bracket to beat Texas Tech twice and stave off elimination. Then they swept South Carolina in the best-of-three Gainesville super regional to advance to the College World Series.

Florida has defeated Virginia, Oral Roberts and TCU to punch its ticket to the championship series unscathed. This will be Florida's fourth championship series appearance since the College World Series moved to a best-of-three format in 2003. Florida was 0-2 against Texas in 2005 and 0-2 against South Carolina in 2011 before winning the 2017 title.

Florida Gators celebrate with national championship trophy after winning 2017 College World Series
Florida players celebrate with the national championship trophy after defeating LSU to win the College World Series, Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in Omaha, Neb.

Head coach Kevin O'Sullivan has led the Gators since 2008.

LSU, which is the No. 5 national seed, has won six national titles since 1991. The Tigers came close to winning a seventh in 2017 until the Gators got in the way.

This is the first trip to Omaha for Jay Johnson, who took over for Paul Mainieri in 2022. But Johnson is no stranger to Omaha, as he led Arizona to the College World Series in 2016 and 2021.

The Tigers went 3-0 in the Baton Rouge regional and 2-0 in the Baton Rouge super regional to get to Omaha. After losing to No. 1 national seed Wake Forest earlier this week, LSU eliminated Tennessee and then had to defeat the Demon Deacons in back-to-back evenings to advance to the championship series.

LSU has three players on its roster who hail from the Sunshine State (outfielder Dylan Crews, catcher Brady Neal and third baseman Tommy White), although none are from South Florida.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of Florida's roster is comprised of in-state players, including three with ties to Palm Beach County.

Carsten Finnvold
Position: Pitcher
Class: Sophomore
Hometown: Boca Raton
High School: American Heritage (Delray Beach)

Florida Gators pitcher Carsten Finnvold warms up before game, May 2, 2023
Florida pitcher Carsten Finnvold warms up before a game against rival Florida State on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla.

The left-handed pitcher has yet to play at the College World Series but made six appearances last season, including one start on the mound. He earned his first career win in 2022 with two scoreless, no-hit innings at North Florida.

His lone appearance of the 2023 season came in March against Miami. A bullpen implosion led to Finnvold getting a chance to pitch, but he loaded the bases without recording an out and gave up a run on a sacrifice fly in a 14-6 loss.

Finnvold's father, Gar Finnvold, was a pitcher at Florida State and later for the Boston Red Sox. He is now a real estate agent in Delray Beach.

Fisher Jameson
Position: Pitcher
Class: Sophomore
Hometown: Lake Worth
High School: Park Vista

Florida Gators pitcher Fisher Jameson warms up before game, June 2, 2023
Florida pitcher Fisher Jameson warms up before a game against Florida A&M on Friday, June 2, 2023, in Gainesville, Fla.

The right-handed pitcher has made 20 appearances in two seasons with the Gators.

Jameson is 1-3 on the season with a 13.89 ERA in 10 appearances this year.

In his most recent performance during an 11-6 loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament, Jameson struck out two batters in 1.1 innings of relief.

Blake Purnell
Position: Pitcher
Class: Redshirt Sophomore
Hometown: Boynton Beach
High School: St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale)

After sitting out the 2021 season, Purnell pitched in a team-leading 36 games out of the Florida bullpen last year.

But Purnell fell out of the weekend bullpen rotation this season and struggled to return to his 2022 form.

Still, Purnell had a career game against Florida State in May, striking out eight batters over five innings to earn the win.