OMAHA, Neb. — It might be the silliest plan ever concocted.
LSU fans outnumbered Gators fans in Omaha this week. Out of the more than 26,000 on hand to see the Gators win their first College World Series on Tuesday, it’s safe to say around 20,000 of them were wearing purple and gold.
Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan anticipated this happening. So he gave his players some last-minute advice that worked surprisingly well in helping the Gators win the College World Series.
“Sully came up to us before the game and said, ‘Let’s just kind of use that as motivation,'” designated hitter Nelson Maldonado said. “Instead of hearing them say, ‘LSU’ just picture them saying ‘We Love You.’ We took that into account and we played with ease and we were just relaxed the whole series.”
No, really. That was O’Sullivan’s brilliant plan. Ten years at the helm of the Florida baseball team and O’Sullivan’s best advice to drown out a pro-LSU crowd was to pretend that people chanting “LSU” were instead chanting “We Love You.”
And here’s the crazy part: It worked.
“Yeah it did work,” Florida catcher Mike Rivera said. “The whole time it felt like we were playing against Baton Rouge. The whole city. Instead of hearing ‘LSU’ we heard ‘We Love You, We Love You.’ Whenever the crowd got louder, you breathe more. It worked and we won.”
LSU fans are rowdy, and they remained invested in the game until the very end. But using O’Sullivan’s tactic worked for some. Others, like starter-used-as-a-reliever Jackson Kowar, relied on the adrenaline of a game to drown out the noise.
“Once you get out there, you don’t really notice anything else,” Kowar said. “I pitched in Jacksonville last year, which I think 14,000 people were there or something. I’ve been in a situation where the stadium kind of feels like it’s on you. But once you take a deep breath and look at the glove, it’s all about executing pitches.”
Kowar admitted that feeling out the crowd for the first time before you enter the game is nerve-wracking. But he fed off of O’Sullivan’s intensity. When Sully handed him the ball to finish off the eighth inning, Kowar snapped into action. And Kowar used that, saying after the game he was happy to be able to come through for his coach.
In other words, Kowar loves his coach exactly as much as the Florida baseball players pretended the LSU fans loved them.