Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Playing Hard Put Bite into Gators

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Playing Hard Put Bite into Gators

Article excerpt

OMAHA, Neb. -- Florida senior catcher Eric Castaldo understood

the finality of Thursday's 2-1 College World Series loss to LSU.

Castaldo, the only fourth-year player in the program, fought

unsuccessfully to control his emotions at the postgame news

conference. After regaining his composure, he captured the

essence of Florida's second-winningest season, under secondyear

coach Andy Lopez.

"I think we've left a legacy that these young guys realize that

if you work hard and play hard, you win ballgames," Castaldo

said. " Let's face it, we're not the most talented team in the

world out there and we know that. But we played hard every day

and that's really all it takes to be successful; just generally,

belief in each other and in yourselves.

"I really believe the young guys have seen that and know that

now."

And there were plenty of young guys -- 26 newcomers in all --

on a team that finished 50-18 and tied for third at the College

World Series.

Lopez called the CWS experience "the greatest education in the

world in terms of college baseball. There is no higher arena for

a college athlete at the college baseball level.

"I have the type of guys who will have gathered some

information from this experience."

Count junior second baseman David Eckstein among that group.

The All-SEC and Academic All-American is already looking ahead.

"It's a great feeling to come out here and play for the

national championship," Eckstein said. "It just puts you in a

mindset for next season. We have a great shot to come back and

actually get it done, with all the players we have coming back."

While the Gators will certainly lose a few players to the draft

and graduation, there is a solid nucleus of returnees in place,

of which Eckstein and freshman sensation Brad Wilkerson are the

cornerstones.

For those who won't be back, such as Castaldo, the CWS

experience will leave lasting memories of what this team

accomplished during an incredible two-season turnaround under

Lopez's direction.

"If I had to pick a place to end my career it would have been

here," Castaldo said. …

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