Sunday, June 14, 2015

2015 College World Series: #4 Florida Blasts #5 Miami in Opening Round

The #4 Florida Gators absolutely obliterated the rival #5 Miami Hurricanes as they cruised to a 15-3 victory in the opening round of the College World Series. Miami took an early 2-0 lead after a pair of sacrifice flies from third baseman David Thompson. In the bottom of the third inning, Florida would score on a balk to cut the lead to 2-1. Then, the floodgates opened up in an absolutely monster fourth inning for Florida.

In the fourth inning, the Gators sent 16 batters to the plate and tied a CWS record as they plated 11 runs in the frame. Here is how it all went down. Senior Josh Tobias started the inning by drawing a walk. Then, freshman JJ Schwarz came up and hit a ball towards the shortstop that was misplayed and poorly thrown to first base. With Schwarz and Tobias now on second and third, sophomore Buddy Reed came up and singled to centerfield to tie the game at two.

Next up was sophomore Peter Alonso. He hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Schwarz and give the Gators a 3-2 lead. With one out now, freshman Mike Rivera came to the plate and smacked a single to right field to advance Reed to third. Rivera himself would advance to second after the throw to third base. Following Rivera was fellow freshman Dalton Guthrie, who also singled into right field to score Reed and advance Rivera to third. Like Rivera, Guthrie went to second base on the throw. It was now 4-2 Gators.

Up next was sophomore Ryan Larson, who hit the third consecutive Gator single into right field to score Rivera and send Guthrie to third. It was now 5-2 Gators. After Larsen's hit, Miami pulled ace Andrew Suarez from the game and went to the bullpen.

Now at the top of lineup and facing a new pitcher, junior leadoff man Harrison Bader struck out for the second out of the inning. It was now first-rounder Richie Martin's turn to bat. The junior worked a four-pitch walk to load the bases. The Gators had now batted around as Josh Tobias came up to bat for the second time in the inning. He worked the count full before singling into left field to plate two more runners and extend the lead to 7-2. He also took second on the throw to home.

JJ Schwarz was up again, and laced his second hit of the game to right field for another single to score both Martin and Tobias. It was now 9-2 Gators. At this point, Miami changed pitchers again hoping to get the final out and stop the Florida rally. Buddy Reed stepped in against the third Hurricane pitcher of the inning and hit a single to advance Schwarz to second. Then, Peter Alonso came up and nearly left the yard at TD Ameritrade Park as he doubled off the top of the left field wall to score both Schwarz and Reed and push the lead to 11-2.

Alonso would indeed come in to score as Mike Rivera singled to centerfield to make it 12-2. After Dalton Guthrie was hit by a pitch, Ryan Larsen grounded out to mercifully put an end to the inning. The entire country was shocked at what had just occurred. Florida had beaten teams like FAMU and Stetson pretty badly during the regular season, but it was unfathomable to think they could dish out this kind of punishment against the Miami Hurricanes! Especially at the College World Series of all places!

For good measure, Florida would tack on three more runs to solidify a 15-3 shellacking of their in-state rival. JJ Schwarz, Buddy Reed, and Mike Rivera all had two hits a piece while Dalton Guthrie led the team with three hits on the night. All four of them scored twice and combined for five RBIs as Schwarz knocked in two of them. Josh Tobias also scored twice and tied Peter Alonso with a game-high three RBIs. Five other Gators scored at least once and, as a team, the Gators banged out 14 hits tonight.

A 10-run lead made things a whole lot easier for Florida's sophomore ace Logan Shore. After giving up two runs early, Shore settled down and threw five solid innings. He gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits, struck out six, and walked no one. After pulling Shore in the sixth, Florida used relievers Danny Young, Aaron Rhodes, and Dane Dunning to shut the door. Collectively, the junior and two sophomores gave up four hits, struck out two, and walked just one as they finished off the blowout.

The Florida Gators started off their College World Series run in the best possible fashion after embarrassing the arch rival Hurricanes in Omaha. Going back to regionals, the Gators have outscored their opponents from the state of Florida by a margin of 68-15! They have been on an absolute tear, and their beat down of Miami tonight shows how Florida is on a whole different level right now.

Early in the game, the Florida defense was not itself as second baseman Dalton Guthrie botched a potential inning-ending double play in the top of the first inning. The next batter would hit a sac-fly. Then in the third inning, catcher Mike Rivera misjudged a foul pop up that would ultimately cost Florida another run on another sac-fly later in the inning. Fortunately for both Guthrie and Rivera, they made up for their gaffes with their bats and played sound defense the rest of the game.

Florida has been a great defensive team all year. Now, on the biggest stage in college baseball, they are going to need their defense to be at its absolute best if they want to win the first National Championship in school history.

Now in the winner's bracket, #4 Florida (50-16) will shift its focus to the Virginia Cavaliers (40-22) in their second game in Omaha. Virginia was in the CWS Finals last year, and will definitely present a formidable challenge to the Gators. However, if the Gators play like they did tonight, then the Cavs will be Gator Bait! It also helps Florida that sophomore lefty A.J. Puk will be getting the start on the mound this game. Game time is at 8 p.m. on Monday, June 15th, on ESPN2.

As for the #5 Miami Hurricanes (49-16), they are now in the loser's bracket and will be fighting for their season as they take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (40-24) in an elimination game. Game time is set for 3 p.m. on Monday, June 15th, on ESPN2. The winner of this game's opponent is yet to be announced.

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