Why Jackson Kowar almost didn’t get the last out of the CWS

Jun 27, 2017; Omaha, NE, USA; Florida Gators pitcher Jackson Kowar (37) reacts after defeating the LSU Tigers in game two of the championship series of the 2017 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports OMAHA, Neb — After two years Jackson Kowar knows that he belongs in Orange and Blue but in June of 2015 Kowar’s world was turned upside down. If not for one decision Kowar would have been watching the game at home tonight and who knows if the Florida Gators would have been on the screen.

“It’s crazy how stuff works out. I was pretty much set, my whole life since my sophomore year in high school was set,” Kowar told Gator Country after the game. “I was going to go play for Clemson and Coach (Jack) Leggett. He’s a hall of fame coach, an unbelievable guy.”

Kowar had been committed to Clemson since his sophomore year of high school. He dreamed of wearing purple and orange rather than orange and blue. A disappointing season in Clemson led to the surprising firing of Jack Leggett after 22 years. Leggett gave a young Kevin O’Sullivan a job in 1999 and was a mentor to the Gators’ manager.

With Leggett getting let go just months before Kowar was set to enroll at Clemson Kowar and his family didn’t know what to do. He was a highly sought after prospect, there was the potential to sign and go pro out of school. When he wasn’t selected until the 40th round that option was void.

Florida’s recruiting class was decimated that year. They lost Kyle Tucker, Thomas Szapucki, Jacob Woodford and Michael Zimmerman, all big arms that would have played in Gainesville. That left a spot for Kowar but the lanky right-hander with a mid 90s fastball didn’t know anything about O’Sullivan or Gainesville.

He didn’t even know if he had any other choice but to go to Clemson and play for a brand new coach he had never met.

“I had already signed and I didn’t know if I was going to get released,” Kowar said. “I was really set on playing for Coach Leggett. I loved his style. I loved the pitching coach. They were awesome. I talked to them and told them I didn’t want to go to Clemson without them there. They recommended Sully. They didn’t lead me wrong.”

Kowar did get a release from the Tigers and made the decision to enroll at Florida. He was late; he didn’t join the group until the fall semester.

Kowar’s wild ride wasn’t over. A condition he developed in high school caused his lung to collapse midway through his freshman year. He was hospitalized and missed the rest of the season. He was relegated to watching Florida go 0-2 in Omaha.

“It was pretty devastating,” he said.

Kowar put on weight in the offseason and came back better in 2017. He came to Omaha this year not just a midweek starter or a role player but a 12-0 Sunday starter […]