Monday, June 20, 2016

2016 College World Series: Coastal Carolina Upsets #1 Florida

The No. 1 Florida Gators (52-15) are now one loss away from elimination after losing 2-1 to the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (50-16) in the opening round of the College World Series.

Despite attacking the Chanticleers with ace pitcher Logan Shore (12-1, 2.31 ERA), the Gators ran into trouble as Coastal plated runs in the third and sixth innings. Both runs were charged to Shore as he scattered five hits across five innings, fanned seven Chants, walked two, and threw 84 pitches in his first loss of 2016.

Every hit that Shore allowed in the game was for extra bases. Two of them came off the bat of Chanticleer third baseman Zach Remillard. Doubling and tripling off of Florida's ace, Remillard finished 2-4 while driving in both of the Chants' runs in the contest.

After Remillard's triple in the top of the sixth with no outs, Shore was pulled from the game. From there, things got a little more chaotic as Florida tapped into their bullpen. With a runner on third, lefty specialist Kirby Snead entered in the sixth inning and threw just one pitch as he plunked designated hitter G.K. Young in the back.

After Snead's second hit batsman of the season, Dane Dunning came in and reestablished a sense of order. He induced a ground ball and caught Chanticleer third baseman Zach Remillard in a rundown between third and home. After a brief pickle, Remillard was out and Coastal had runners on first and second.

After striking out second baseman Tyler Chadwick, the first round draft pick ended the inning in dramatic fashion when he picked off G.K. Young at second base. It was a well executed trick play as Dunning was not on the mound and acted as if he was recomposing himself. While this was happening, Young unknowingly strayed too far off the bag and Dunning turned around and fired a bullet right to shortstop Dalton Guthrie for the third out.

Dunning threw the most of any Gator reliever tonight as he went 2.2 innings, allowed no runs on three hits, and struck out three. After Dunning's brilliant performance ended with him hitting a batter, Kevin O'Sullivan surprised us all and went with A.J. Puk for relief in the top of the eighth inning. This was the first time Puk made an appearance out of the bullpen since April 21, 2015, against Bethune-Cookman.

The shock and awe of the sixth overall pick's arrival into the game would wear off instantly, as he nailed Tyler Chadwick in the head on the fourth pitch of the at-bat. Thankfully, Chadwick was fine after taking 97 miles per hour to the dome. After nearly killing a man, Puk was out of the game after one batter and closer Shaun Anderson was called upon to hold off another potential Chanticleer rally.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Anderson induced an inning-ending ground ball to keep the deficit at 2-1. As always, Shaun was on point. In 1.1 innings, he allowed no runs on just one hit with two strikeouts.

Offensively, Florida had seven hits in the game and plated their only run in the fifth inning. The Gators' temporary tying run came when Deacon Liput doubled with one out and scored on an RBI single from pinch hitter Jeremy Vasquez. Liput's double was the only extra base hit of the game for Florida. No Gator had more than one hit.

Despite Florida's anemic offensive performance, a bunch of credit needs to be given to Coastal's ace Andrew Beckwith (13-1, 2.02 ERA). Switching between both over-the-top and submarine angles in his pitching delivery, the Chants' junior was unhittable as he threw his first complete game of the season on 98 pitches.

He struck out seven Gators and produced 15 ground ball outs. I can't help but tip my hat off to Beckwith for his incredible performance on the biggest of stages against the No. 1 team in the country.

Final Takeaway:
Needless to say I am shocked at tonight's result. I thought Florida would handle Coastal Carolina with ease, but boy was I wrong. Before previewing the Gators' elimination game, here are my final tidbits on tonight's opening round loss:

  • The first replay review in College World Series history occurred in the top of the third inning when a foul ball call on a Zach Remillard hit down the line was overturned and ruled a fair ball. The result was a Remillard double and Coastal's first run of the ball game. In all honesty the Chants deserved to have two runs score on the play, but this misjudgment from the umpires would not hurt Coastal in the long run.
  • This was Logan Shore's first losing decision since May 24, 2015, when the Auburn Tigers defeated him at the Mac. He had won 17 straight decisions prior to tonight.
  • A majority of the hits off of Shore were indeed well hit, but bad positioning played a role. The outfield got burned twice (with Buddy Reed making a rare mistimed jump at the wall), Ryan Larson ran back on a fly ball that was 40 feet in front of him, and Coastal did a good job at putting balls down the right field and left field lines for extra base knocks.
  • The Gators grounded into two double plays tonight.
  • This is the sixth time in school history that Florida has lost their opening round game in the College World Series. In elimination games immediately following a first round loss, Florida boasts a 2-3 record.
  • This is Coastal Carolina's first College World Series victory in school history.
  • Since the eight national seeds were established in 1999, the 12 No. 1 overall seeds who have made it to Omaha have a record of 7-5 in the first round. Florida is the only No. 1 seed to lose in the first round twice with the first instance occurring in the 2012 College World Series.
  • With Florida's loss, they become the final of Omaha's three national seeds to enter the loser's bracket.

As I have just explained in the tidbits, Florida's fortunes usually do not bode well when they drop the first game in Omaha. As it stands right now, Florida would have to win four straight elimination games just to get to the College World Series Finals!

I know that in the past two seasons Florida has gone into the loser's bracket of the SEC Tournament and made it to the title game, but the College World Series is completely different. Unlike the SEC Tourney, Florida will have to beat Coastal Carolina/TCU twice to get to the National Championship. 

The format of the College World Series is done right with the fact that it does not create a one game semifinal that ignores the undefeated record of the team in the winner's bracket. I agree with Omaha's bracket setup 100%, but it sure provides a deep hole for the Gators to climb out of.

The last team to enter the loser's bracket and win the College World Series was South Carolina in 2010. If Florida can rekindle some of South Carolina's magic from six years ago, then they may have a shot to cap off what has already been an incredible season with a National Championship.

It won't be easy, but it's doable. This team is resilient, having fought through the loser's bracket of the SEC Tournament to reach the title game and overcoming a 1-0 series deficit to the Florida State Seminoles in super regionals.

Tuesdays' elimination game will be a battle of national seeds as the No. 1 Florida Gators put their season on the line against the No. 5 Texas Tech Red Raiders (46-19). Tech lost a heartbreaker of their own, as TCU (48-16) used a three-run homer with one out in the top of the ninth inning to erase the Red Raiders' 3-2 lead and win the game 5-3.

Florida will most likely go with sophomore right-hander Alex Faedo (13-2, 3.25 ERA) to keep their season alive, while Texas Tech will probably counter with freshman right-hander Davis Martin (9-1, 2.73 ERA) as they seek to extend their season as well.

Game time for the elimination bout is at 5 p.m. on June 21st. It can be seen on ESPN2. Hopefully the Gators' bats wake up. Their season is depending on it.

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