The Gators finished undefeated in their midweek games with convincing victories over Bethune-Cookman (29-25) and USF (24-33). In regards to SEC play, Florida concluded with a series against Tennessee (29-28, 9-21 SEC), No. 7 Vanderbilt (43-17, 18-12 SEC), and No. 8 LSU (42-18, 19-11).
They were able to take two out of three from both the Vols on the road and the Commodores at home, but faltered in Baton Rouge as the Tigers notched a pair of victories. The rough weekend against LSU would cost the Gators a regular season SEC championship.
Fortunately, the Gators still earned themselves a first round bye as they entered the SEC Tournament as the No. 4 seed. After losing their first game to LSU in my pick for the "Game of the Month", the defending SEC Champs won two straight elimination games before meeting up again with the Tigers in the SEC Semifinals.
Related: Gators Finish Runners Up in SEC Tournament
Just like last year's semis against LSU, the Gators propelled themselves to victory via the heroics of a true freshman. In the SEC Championship, Florida finally ran out of gas as Texas A&M (45-14, 20-10 SEC) throttled the Gators to claim their first SEC baseball title in school history. The loss would drop Florida to the No. 2 spot in the final Coaches' Poll of the regular season.
It's worth noting that Florida had to play against LSU and in the SEC Tournament without star first baseman Peter Alonso. In Game 1 of the Vandy series, Alonso fractured his left wrist after he was hit by a pitch.
As a result, he was sidelined for the remainder of the month and is due to be back for regionals this weekend. Let's hope that timetable is still up to par considering that Pete is a huge bat in the Gator lineup.
Now that I have briefly recapped Florida's final month of regular season action along with the Alonso injury, here are some of my memorable Gator games of May:
- 5/13 vs No. 7 Vanderbilt - In the opening game of Florida's final SEC home series of the year, Logan Shore threw his third complete game of the season as he allowed two earned runs on six hits while striking out six Commodores in a 4-2 victory.
- 5/14 vs No. 7 Vanderbilt - This is perhaps the greatest pitching performance I have ever seen in person from an opposing collegiate pitcher. Vandy's Kyle Wright threw perhaps the game of his life as he tossed a complete game shutout, allowed just three hits, and struck out 10 in a 5-0 Commodore win.
- 5/25 vs No. 8 LSU - In the longest game in SEC Tournament history (5 hours & 7 minutes), the Gators lost by a score of 5-3 in 14 innings. In each proceeding inning after the ninth, Florida put the winning run on base and could not bring him home. The most infamous instance, of course, had to be when Florida loaded the bases in the bottom of the 11th with no outs and failed to score.
- 5/27 vs No. 3 Mississippi State - Playing the Regular Season SEC Champions, Florida murdered the Bulldogs 12-2. It was so bad that the game had to be called after seven innings!
- 5/28 No. 8 LSU - In the much anticipated rematch, Florida used a sixth-inning RBI double from true freshman Jonathan India to defeat the Tigers 1-0 and advance to their third consecutive SEC Championship.
- 5/29 vs No. 2 Texas A&M - In a game between the top two teams in the country, a couple late inning errors would hurt the Gators as the Aggies used two big innings to decimate the Orange and Blue 12-5 in the title game.
As Florida prepares to make a historic postseason run, let's take a look at the stat leaders from an incredible regular season:
Hits: Dalton Guthrie (75) (Sophomore)
RBI's: JJ Schwarz (51) (Sophomore)
Doubles: Jonathan India (16)
Triples: Buddy Reed (6) (Junior)
Home Runs: Mike Rivera/Peter Alonso (9)
Batting Average: Peter Alonso (.352)
Slugging Percentage: Peter Alonso (.581)
On Base Percentage: Peter Alonso (.455)
Stolen Bases: Buddy Reed (24)
Runs Scored: Buddy Reed (51)
Total Bases: Peter Alonso (104)
Strikeouts: Buddy Reed (56)
Walks: JJ Schwarz (41)
Hit By Pitch: Peter Alonso (9)
Assists: Dalton Guthrie (163)
Putouts: Peter Alonso (420)
Errors: Jonathan India (11)
Fielding Percentage: JJ Schwarz/Nelson Maldonado/Nick Horvath (.1000) (Freshman/Sophomore)
Wins: Alex Faedo (12) (Sophomore)
Losses: A.J. Puk/Dane Dunning (3) (Juniors)
Strikeouts: Alex Faedo (107)
Walks: A.J. Puk (31)
Starting Pitcher ERA: Logan Shore (2.41)
Relieving Pitcher ERA: Shaun Anderson (1.09) (Junior)
Shutouts: Logan Shore (2)
Saves: Shaun Anderson (12)
Appearances: Kirby Snead (38) (Junior
Innings Pitched: Logan Shore (86.0)
Final Takeaway:After selection for the 2016 NCAA Baseball Tournament took place on Memorial Day, the Florida Gators ended up with the No. 1 overall seed! This is just the second time since 2012 that Florida has been given such a prestigious distinction. However, top seeds and historic regular seasons mean nothing if you can't win in June.
The Gators are a little over 10 wins away from the first National Championship in program history. Standing in their way will be a regional pool containing the MEAC Champion Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, the AAC Champion UConn Huskies (37-23), and the ACC-middle-of-the-pack Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (36-23).
Barring some miracle, Florida should emerge from their regional unscathed and will need to take two out of three from Florida State (37-20) in Super Regionals to get back to Omaha. You can best bet that this time around the Seminoles won't go down as easy as last year.
Once at the College World Series, Florida will have to defeat some of the best teams in the nation to finally gain the crown jewel they have been waiting 101 seasons for. It's a tough task, but by no means an impossible one. Peter Alonso is coming back, Florida has the best pitching staff in the country, and this team has all the makings of a championship-caliber squad.
It's postseason time in Gainesville, and the march to history starts now! Florida's regional opener against Bethune-Cookman is at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 3rd. It can be seen on the SEC Network and heard on the Gators IMG Sports Network.
*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com
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