Saturday, June 6, 2015

2015 Super Regionals: #4 Florida Romps FSU in Game 1

The #4 Florida Gators absolutely dominated the Florida State Seminoles with a 13-5 victory tonight! Do not let the final score fool you, this was a Gator blowout till FSU pushed across some runs in the late innings. The Gators take a 1-0 lead in the Super Regional and now just need one more win to return to the College World Series for the first time since 2012!

In the first Super Regional meeting between the Gators and 'Noles since 2005, the Gators hit the scoreboard early as they put up four runs in the first inning, two in the third, one in the fifth, and four again in the seventh. The heart of the lineup, composed of Buddy Reed, Josh Tobias, and JJ Schwarz in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th spots in the lineup, respectively, all had two hits in this game.

Six different Gators had at least one RBI. Senior third baseman Josh Tobias and freshmen catcher Mike Rivera led the team with three RBI's a piece. True freshman JJ Schwarz continued to wow the Gator faithful as he hit a bomb to deep left center for his 17th home run of the year. This was Schwarz's third career home run against the Seminoles. JJ also scored a team-leading three runs tonight. Right behind Schwarz was junior left fielder Harrison Bader and sophomore first baseman Peter Alonso, who both scored two runs each.

On the mound, sophomore ace Logan Shore threw a gem to notch his ninth win of the season. In 5.2 innings, he gave up no runs on just four hits. He walked just two and struck out five Seminoles. He threw 102 pitches and earned himself a well-deserved rest after a crucial opening game victory.

After Shore left, the Gators would use five pitchers out of the bullpen to seal the victory. FSU was able to put up five runs against the bullpen, but it was not enough to climb out of the uber deep hole they had dug themselves into.

Two crucial factors hurt the Seminoles tonight. First, they made four errors in the game. In their 14-8 loss to Florida on March 17th, the Seminoles made five errors. This game was in Gainesville as well. After reviewing both these game, I have come to the conclusion that the Gators' home field advantage in McKethan Stadium does indeed play a role as FSU has made nine total errors in its last two games there.

Second, FSU's starting pitching was terrible! Boomer Biegalski, their ace who was heralded for his performance in the ACC Tournament, got absolutely lit up by this potent Gator offense for five runs on six hits. After that, Florida would slowly continue to add on runs off of the bullpen.

I am not here to say what FSU needs to do to win this Super Regional. In fact, I pointed these two areas out to contrast them with Florida. The Gators are masterful on defense. In fact, they are on pace to set a record for fielding percentage as they sit at .985%. The record is currently .985% and has been held by the San Francisco Dons since 2011. I know these numbers are the same but there are more intricate decimal numbers that give the Gators the higher fielding percentage.

Giving the opposing team extra outs, especially in the postseason, hurts teams tremendously. For the Gators, this has not been a problem as they have been errorless through four games thus far in the NCAA Tournament. By simply making the easy plays, it is no wonder why Florida is a favorite to win the National Championship this year.

The other area where Florida exceeds FSU is starting pitching. Florida's ace came out and got the job done while FSU's ace fell victim to a powerful Gator lineup. Bullpen-wise, these two teams I would say are somewhat similar with a slight edge going to Florida. Most of the reason (besides the fact that Florida is just plain better) why FSU's bullpen gave up eight runs was due to errors in the field.

Florida's bullpen is usually lights out, but there are some times when nobody can throw a strike! When this happens, head coach Kevin O'Sullivan does not mess around! If he sees a reliever struggling, he gets that guy out of the game as soon as possible and replaces him with somebody else who can throw strikes.

I know Sully is going to have no patience with relievers who cannot hit their spots, especially as the games get bigger. Take Kirby Snead and Frank Rubio for example. Snead walked the bases loaded and could not throw strikes, Sully got him out of there. Rubio came in and gave up a two-run home run and three straight hits, Sully got him out of there. Sully is a pitching guy and because of this he knows when to give his pitchers the hook. It is a quality within him that I really respect and admire.

Looking ahead, the #4 Gators now just need ONE more win to get back to Omaha. I know Game 2 will not be a rout like tonight. FSU is going to come out with a revenge mindset and throw everything they got at Florida to avoid getting swept. However, the Gators will counter the feisty 'Noles with A.J. Puk. This 6'7 lefty has been on fire since getting arrested in April and will look to outdo teammate Logan Shore as he toes the rubber in a potential clincher.

Game time is set for 5 p.m. tomorrow on ESPN 2. It's the Gators! It's the 'Noles! There is a spot in Omaha on the line! This is going to be a great Game 2!

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