Wednesday, May 31, 2017

2017 College World Series Predictions

It is perhaps my favorite time of the year again! This past Memorial Day, the field of 64 was set for this year's NCAA D1 Baseball Tournament! What makes the college baseball postseason so special is its unpredictability.

For instance, who would have thought that Coastal Carolina (who did not even make this year's tournament) would have gone all the way to claim their first national title in school history? I can GUARANTEE you that no expert saw that coming. Only those with ties to Coastal would have made such a bold prediction.

That being said, I am excited for this year's tournament to see if maybe another dark horse will arise from their obscure position within one of the 16 regionals. Or maybe a powerhouse will retake the throne as a national seed has not won it all since 2011 (No. 4 South Carolina).

Regardless, I am ready to put my college baseball credibility on the line and predict the winners of the most unpredictable tournament in all of sports. Without further adieu, here is how I think the 2017 NCAA D1 Baseball Tournament will shape up!


Corvallis Regional
No. 1 Oregon State (49-4)
Nebraska (35-20)
Yale (32-16)
Holy Cross (23-27)

Winner: No. 1 Oregon State over Nebraska

Why: This one was not that difficult to pick. Oregon State is the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and has lost just ONCE in 27 games at home. Keep in mind also that they are on a 16-game winning streak, have just FOUR losses, and dropped just one non-conference game the whole season.

Even though Nebraska won the Big 10 regular season title, they are no match for Oregon State. When these two hooked up in a Big 10/Pac-12 challenge in Arizona, Oregon State won 10-1. The Beavers should cruise through their regional.

Clemson Regional
Clemson (39-19)
Vanderbilt (33-22)
St. John's (42-11)
UNC-Greensboro (35-22)

Winner: Clemson over Vanderbilt

Why: Both Clemson and Vanderbilt finished third in their respective divisions within the ACC and SEC. With the Commodores being a tad more down than they are used to this season, Clemson has the perfect opportunity to advance to their first super regional since 2010.

The Tigers will have to go through Vandy ace Kyle Wright at some point, however, if they wish to bring the city of Clemson another national championship on the heels of their football title back in January.

Long Beach Regional
Long Beach State (37-17)
Texas (37-22)
UCLA (30-25)
San Diego State (41-19)

Winner: UCLA over Texas

Why: To the shock of many Dirtbag fans, Long Beach State will not be in their own regional final. Instead, it will be a showdown between the UCLA Bruins and Texas Longhorns. As the only team to win a series against No. 1 Oregon State, the Bruins will find a way as they only have to travel half an hour south.

Texas is a decent ball club and has a prestigious history with six national championships, but they will still need a couple more years before they are a perennial title contender again.

Stanford Regional
No. 8 Stanford (40-14)
Cal State Fullerton (34-21)
BYU (37-19)
Sacramento State (32-27)

Winner: Cal State Fullerton over No. 8 Stanford

Why: My first upset of a national seed upset in the tournament, the Cal State Fullerton Titans will rekindle their magic from two years ago and stun No. 8 Stanford in their own regional. This will be a rematch, as the Titans took two of three from the Cardinal in the season opening series in Fullerton.

The Cardinal won't go down without a fight, however, as they are the Pac-12 regular season runner-ups and home field advantage has been flipped.

Lubbock Regional
No. 5 Texas Tech (43-15)
Arizona (37-19)
Sam Houston State (40-20)
Delaware (34-21)

Winner: No. 5 Texas Tech over Arizona

Why: A College World Series participant last season, Texas Tech will begin their quest for a third trip to Omaha in four years. Although Arizona finished as the National Runner-Up in last year's tournament, it will be tough for them to return as they lost seven seniors and are 11-11 in road contests.

It does not help the Wildcats' case either that Texas Tech is the Big-12 regular season champion and has lost only five games at home all year.

Tallahassee Regional
Florida State (39-20)
UCF (40-20)
Auburn (35-24)
Tennessee Tech (40-19)

Winner: Auburn over Florida State

Why: This will be the sixth time in Auburn baseball history that the Tigers will be playing in the Tallahassee regional. Of those six prior trips, they have only won the regional once back in 1976. Twice (in 1999 and 2005) has Florida State eliminated them from the tournament.

In 2017, that all ends. As a team that swept Florida at the beginning of conference play, the Tigers will advance to just their second super regional ever. Even though Florida State is "hot" and won the ACC Tournament, they have been sporadic this season. Had they not won the ACC Tournament, I do not believe they would be hosting a regional.

I don't do this for everyone, but keep an eye on UCF. That's all I'm going to say.

Hattiesburg Regional
Southern Miss (48-14)
Mississippi State (36-24)
South Alabama (39-19)
Illinois-Chicago (39-15)

Winner: Mississippi State over Southern Miss

Why: Southern Miss is GOOD. There is no denying that as they are the Conference USA champions and obliterated their foes with just five conference losses. The only thing is that Mississippi State has one of the best players in the country in Brent Rooker.

Behind Rooker's bat, the Bulldogs will avenge their stumble in last year's tournament and advance to super regionals for the second straight year.

Baton Rouge Regional
No. 4 LSU (43-17)
Southeastern (36-20)
Rice (31-29)
Texas Southern (20-32)

Winner: No. 4 LSU over Rice

Why: Ah the Bayou Bengals. As the co-champions of the SEC and winners of the SEC Tournament, LSU will obliterate anyone who tries to oppose them at the Box. I think they go through this regional undefeated with none of the games being close.

Chapel Hill Regional
No. 2 North Carolina (47-12)
FGCU (42-18)
Michigan (42-15)
Davidson (32-24)

Winner: FGCU over No. 2 North Carolina

Why: Perhaps my boldest pick of the article, I envision some kind of scenario where Florida Gulf Coast (in their first ever tournament appearance) upsets the No. 2 national seed North Carolina. The Eagles' quality wins consist of victories over in-state opponents Florida, Florida State, and Miami.

I asked at the beginning of this article who would be the next dark horse, and maybe FGCU is ready to answer the call. It will by no means be easy though, as the Tarheels have lost just six games at home the whole season.

Houston Regional
Houston (40-19)
Baylor (34-21)
Texas A&M (36-21)
Iowa (38-20)

Winner: Texas A&M over Houston

Why: Despite getting bounced in the opening round of the SEC Tournament, the Texas A&M Aggies are a good team. With three stud freshmen in Braden Shewmake, Hunter Coleman, and Logan Foster, this Aggies team will surprise many people this postseason.

Texas A&M will not just walk all over Houston though. The Cougars won the American Athletic Championship and are currently riding a six-game winning streak. This regional will go the distance, as a winner-take-all final will determine who moves on to super regionals.

Lexington Regional
Kentucky (39-20)
Indiana (33-22)
NC State (34-23)
Ohio (31-26)

Winner: NC State over Kentucky

Why: Everyone on the SEC Network raved about how Kentucky deserved to be a national seed and gawked at their league-leading offense. Not to mention how they took home major hardware in the SEC with Sean Hjelle winning Pitcher of the Year, Zach Logue winning Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and their skipper Nick Mingione winning Coach of the Year.

Despite all the accolades, the postseason will tell a different story. A middle-of-the-pack ACC team in the NC State Wolfpack will silence all the Kentucky bandwagoners and win this regional. I do not exactly know how they are going to pull this off, but I am sure the baseball gods have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Louisville Regional
No. 7 Louisville (47-10)
Oklahoma (34-22)
Xavier (32-25)
Radford (27-30)

Winner: No. 7 Louisville over Oklahoma

Why: Louisville won the ACC regular season championship by one game with an impressive 23-6 mark against marquee competition. Prior to dropping three of four games to Florida State at the tail end of the season, the Cardinals had ripped off a 15-game winning streak from late April to mid-May. If they get hot like that again, no team in their regional will be able to stop them.

Fort Worth Regional
No. 6 TCU (42-16)
Virginia (42-14)
Dallas Baptist (30-19)
Central Connecticut State (36-20)

Winner: No 6 TCU over Virginia

Why: TCU reminds me of my Florida Gators. They have a great baseball program, but can never finish in Omaha. That aside, they will advance to a fourth consecutive super regional. Unless Virginia gets really hot and brings back the mojo that won them a title in 2015, it's safe to say that the Horned Frogs will take care of business in their regional.

Fayetteville Regional
Arkansas (42-17)
Missouri State (40-17)
Oklahoma State (30-25)
Oral Roberts (42-14)

Winner: Arkansas over Oklahoma State

Why: Arkansas was a sweep of LSU away from an SEC regular season title. In the conference tournament, they were a home run away from an SEC tournament title over LSU. The moral of the story is that Arkansas is good. I personally saw them whoop my Florida Gators 16-0 in an incredible offensive showing.

The Razorbacks will slug their way to victory behind guys like Chad Spanberger and Dominic Fletcher as they look to make a return trip to Omaha for the second time in three seasons.

Winston-Salem Regional
Wake Forest (39-18)
West Virginia (34-24)
Maryland (37-21)
UMBC (23-23)

Winner: Wake Forest over West Virginia

Why: Wake Forest had the third best record in the ACC and are hosting their first regional since 2002. The Demon Deacons should draw a good crowd and handle what I consider to be a pretty mediocre group of teams in their regional.

Gainesville Regional
No. 3 Florida (42-16)
USF (41-17)
Bethune-Cookman (33-23)
Marist (32-31)

Winner: No. 3 Florida over USF

Why: This one is not too hard for me. Blessed with a very favorable regional, the Florida Gators will basically just need to beat USF twice to advance. As long as they don't walk 17 batters like they did in their 15-10 loss to the Bulls in early May, the Gators should be fine. I do not think Florida will steamroll through their regional, but they will do enough to win it.

Super Regionals
So if all my upset-ridden regionals predictions were to somehow come true, let's see what the super regional matchups would look like. Keep in mind a team has to win two out of three games in supers to advance to the College World Series.

Corvallis Super Regional
No. 1 Oregon State vs Clemson

Winner: No. 1 Oregon State

Why: The Beavers will continue to flex their muscles as the best team in the country as they sweep their super regional. This will be their sixth College World Series appearance and at this point they will still be undefeated in postseason play. Their single-digit losses will prompt many to wonder if this may be one of the best collegiate baseball teams to ever take the field.

Fullerton Super Regional
Cal State Fullerton vs UCLA

Winner: UCLA

Why: In an unexpected super regional for Titan fans, this series will go three games. Somehow, Bruin head coach John Savage will guide his team to their fourth College World Series appearance in his tenure and sixth overall.

Lubbock Super Regional
No. 5 Texas Tech vs Auburn

Winner: No. 5 Texas Tech

Why: Auburn will hit a brick wall when they run into Texas Tech. The Red Raiders will not wipe the floor with the Tigers though, as the series will go three. It will be the postseason experience of Tech that will guide them past a predominantly young Auburn team that has not tasted success in a long time.

Baton Rouge Super Regional
No. 4 LSU vs Mississippi State

Winner: No. 4 LSU

Why: In a rematch of their final series in Starkville, LSU will again best Mississippi State. It will be in sweep-like fashion like during the regular season, as the Tigers will advance to their 18th College World Series in school history. It will be their fifth under head coach Paul Mainieri.

Fort Myers Super Regional
FGCU vs Texas A&M

Winner: FGCU

Why: Continuing to surprise the college baseball world, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles will keep their cinderella dreams alive as they defeat Texas A&M in two games at JetBlue Park. You have read that correct, I have Florida Gulf Coast going to the College World Series!

Louisville Super Regional
No. 7 Louisville vs NC State

Winner: No. 7 Louisville

Why: Having fallen in their past two super regionals at home, the Cardinals will finally right the ship and defeat NC State in three games to get back to Omaha. Louisville won the series up in Raleigh against the Wolfpack, so home field advantage should yield no different result. This will be the Cardinals' fourth ever College World Series appearance.

Fort Worth Super Regional
No. 6 TCU vs Arkansas

Winner: No. 6 TCU

Why: In my past two CWS predictions articles, I have picked against TCU in super regionals. Needless to say, I am abandoning that approach. In three games, the Horned Frogs will out-slug and out-pitch Arkansas to reach their fourth consecutive College World Series.

Gainesville Super Regional
No. 3 Florida vs Wake Forest

Winner: No. 3 Florida

Why: Finally not having to play Florida State in a super regional, the Florida Gators will have their limits tested against a decent Wake Forest team. I think the series will go three, but like last year the Gators will be dog-piling on the field as they return to Omaha for the third straight year.

College World Series
Now at the Big Dance, let's see who is going to be the National Champion for 2017! Like regionals and supers, two losses in the College World Series means elimination. Let's proceed.

College World Series First Round
No. 1 Oregon State vs UCLA

Winner: UCLA

Why: The only team to figure out the enigma that is Oregon State, UCLA will down their Pac-12 foe for the third time this season on one of the biggest stages of college baseball.

No. 4 LSU vs No. 5 Texas Tech

Winner: No. 4 LSU

Why: Back in Omaha after a year hiatus, the Tigers will make the most of their reunion as they edge out Texas Tech to enter the winner's bracket.

No. 7 Louisville vs FGCU

Winner: No. 7 Louisville

Why: FGCU's magic runs out against juggernaut Louisville. The Cardinals will beat up on the Eagles for just their second-ever win in the College World Series.

No. 3 Florida vs No. 6 TCU

Winner: No. 6 TCU

Why: As has been a custom in recent years, the Gator bats will go cold in Omaha. In a low-scoring affair, the Horned Frogs will oust the Gators to send them to the loser's bracket.

Elimination Games
No. 1 Oregon State vs No. 5 Texas Tech

Winner: No. 1 Oregon State

Why: They are the best team in the country for a reason. Oregon State will survive the Red Raiders to keep their season alive.

No. 3 Florida vs FGCU

Winner: No. 3 Florida

Why: Though losing both games to FGCU in the regular season, Florida will win the matchup that matters. This will end what will have been a terrific postseason for the Eagles.

End Result: No. 5 Texas Tech & FGCU ELIMINATED

Second Round
No. 4 LSU vs UCLA

Winner: No. 4 LSU

Why: The Tigers will keep rolling and win a close one against the Bruins. This will actually be revenge of sorts for LSU as UCLA defeated them in the 2013 College World Series. Interestingly enough, LSU was the No. 4 national seed when that upset occurred.

No. 6 TCU vs No. 7 Louisville

Winner: No. 6 TCU

Why: In this highly anticipated matchup, it will be experience that carries the Horned Frogs to victory. They have more CWS wins in their last two trips than Louisville has total, which means TCU is completely comfortable in high-pressure moments. I think they soundly beat the Cardinals to yet again advance to the semifinals.

Elimination Games
No. 1 Oregon State vs UCLA

Winner: No. 1 Oregon State

Why: With their backs still very much up against the wall, the Beavers will finally down the Bruins for just the second time all season. With UCLA finally dispatched for good, Oregon State will still have a ways to climb towards the title game.

No. 3 Florida vs No. 7 Louisville

Winner: No. 7 Louisville

Why: As Gator fans have come accustomed to, Florida will come up short yet again in Omaha. They will lose a close one to the Cardinals to end yet another promising season. For Louisville, this will be their first-ever appearance in the CWS semifinals.

End Result: No. 3 Florida & UCLA ELIMINATED

CWS Semifinals
No. 1 Oregon State vs No. 4 LSU

Winner: No. 4 LSU

Why: This semifinals meeting between the Beavers and Tigers will go to a winner-take-all game, but LSU will prevail. This will be their first National Championship appearance since 2009. It will be absolute heartbreak for Oregon State as the 18-year old curse of the No. 1 seed lives on.

No. 6 TCU vs No. 7 Louisville

Winner: No. 6 TCU

Why: Remembering how they lost both semifinal games of last year's CWS, TCU will finally break through and reach the first National Championship in program history.

End Result: No. 1 Oregon State & No. 7 Louisville ELIMINATED

CWS Finals
No. 4 LSU vs No. 6 TCU

Winner: No. 4 LSU

Why: The last time these two met in the College World Series was 2015. TCU won both those games by scores of 10-3 and 8-4. This time around, the Tigers will avenge the '15 squad and win the program's seventh National Championship. This series will be great and go three games with future MLB first rounder Alex Lange maybe coming out of the bullpen to close out the win.

National Champion:

LSU Tigers!

Final Takeaway
So there you have it, the No. 4 national seed LSU Tigers will win this year's National Championship! As a side note, if even half of my predictions were to come true I'd be pretty content. I can't emphasize enough how baseball is such an unpredictable sport and literally anything can happen.

I hope this year's tournament is as good as last year's, with walk offs and upsets and just all-around great baseball. I'll of course be pulling for my Gators, hoping somehow they can bring this town the National Championship we have all been thirsting for.

I can't deny either that a very small part of me will be cheering on LSU. They are going to be my home for the next four years, so it's best to slowly start the transition. Of course when it comes to them playing Florida though, all bets are off.

Either way, I am interested to see how my picks will turn out. Will a team like FGCU make a magical run? Will Oregon State dominate to a title? Will Florida finally finish? Will LSU finally prove that I can pick a baseball tournament right? Or will someone else out of left field swoop in for the title? Tune in all of June to watch the madness unfold!



Sunday, May 28, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 4 Florida Bounced in Semifinals of 2017 SEC Tournament

For the first time since 2013, the Florida Gators (42-16) have failed to reach the championship game of the SEC Tournament. Here is a recap of each of Florida's three games in the tourney!

Auburn (Second Round)
In their first game of the tournament, the No. 1 seeded Florida Gators (41-15) defeated the No. 8 Auburn Tigers (35-23) by a score of 5-4 in late night affair.

Taking the mound for his first Wednesday start of the season was junior ace Alex Faedo (7-2, 2.80 ERA). The right-hander had a rough going in his first outing against Auburn on March 17th. It was his shortest start of the year as he threw 4.1 innings and gave up six earned runs while walking six batters.

This time around, Faedo got his revenge. He delivered six strong innings against the Tigers while allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits, striking out seven, and walking two. With no outs in the seventh inning and runners on first and second, Faedo would be pulled with the Gators leading 4-0.

Out of the bullpen came senior right-hander Frank Rubio. He got one out on a fielder's choice before being removed for junior left-hander Nick Horvath. Now here's where the fun begins.

Auburn plated their first run on a throwing error from third baseman Jonathan India that took first baseman JJ Schwarz off the bag. A fly out would give the Gators two outs in the inning before a walk loaded the bases.

As cleanup man Conor Davis stepped up to bat, a torrential downpour hit the field. Play would not be stopped, however. With the count 0-1, Davis smacked double down the right field line to trim the Gator lead to 4-3.

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan had seen enough and took out Horvath for freshman right-hander Tyler Dyson. With the count 0-1 on Dyson's first batter, trouble struck again as he spiked a ball past catcher Mike Rivera.

Auburn's Dylan Ingram came scrambling home and the game was tied at 4-4 with the go-ahead run for Auburn now at third base. Dyson would settle down though, and struck out Josh Anthony to finally put the inning to rest.

In the top of the eighth, Dyson was back out there and worked a perfect inning to keep the game tied. After the Gators pushed one across in the bottom half of the inning, it was Michael Byrne time. Eying a school record 14th save, the sophomore closer took the field with history in his grasp and a 5-4 lead.

He began the inning with a strikeout before giving up a single. Even with the tying run on base, Byrne remained focused. He induced a fly out before striking out Dylan Ingram looking to clinch the victory and the record.

Tyler Dyson would be awarded just his second win of his career while Byrne cemented himself in UF lore as the new record-holder for saves in a season. I offer my congratulations to Michael!

Offensively, the Gators banged out nine hits while plating five runs to beat Auburn. They scored once in the third, three times in the fourth, and once more in the eighth to bring home the win. Before highlighting the offensive dignitaries, here's the rundown of the game-winning rally in the eighth inning:

Eighth Inning
Tied at 4-4 entering the bottom half of the frame, Austin Langworthy went down swinging for the first out. JJ Schwarz then singled and Nick Horvath walked in his first at-bat of the game. Jonathan India then singled to load the bases.

All eyes were now on Christian Hicks as he walked to the batter's box with the bases juiced. Hicks would deliver, as he worked a five-pitch walk to give Florida the 5-4 lead. Blake Reese would pinch-hit for Tyler Dyson and ground into a double play to end the threat.

Offensive Performers
Two Gators had multiple hits while all but two starters registered a base knock in this one. Out of the three-hole, junior first baseman JJ Schwarz went 2-3 with a double, two runs scored, and a walk. Two spots down, sophomore third baseman Jonathan India went 2-4 with a run scored and an RBI single in the fourth inning.

For the rest of the Gator lineup, senior outfielder Ryan Larson went 1-4 out of the leadoff spot. In the six-hole, junior shortstop Christian Hicks was the leading RBI man for Florida. He drove in a pair of runs with an RBI double in the fourth inning and his game-winning walk in the eighth. On the night, he went 1-3 with those two RBI's, a run scored, and one of just three Gator walks.

Right after Hicks, junior designated hitter Mark Kolozsvary went 1-3 with an RBI single in the fourth that scored the Gator shortstop. Kolo would be pulled in the seventh as the DH role was wiped from Florida's lineup with Tyler Dyson coming in to pitch.

After Kolo, was junior catcher Mike Rivera. This was his first game action since April 11th against Florida State, where he sustained a wrist injury. Back better than ever, Rivera went 1-3 and scored the game's first run in the third inning.

Rounding out the Gator lineup was sophomore second baseman Deacon Liput. Plating Rivera in the second inning, Liput went 1-3 with an RBI single.

Final Takeaway
For those who may have forgotten, Auburn had swept Florida in their first SEC series of the season. The Gators did a good job wiping that weekend from their memories and coming out to defeat the Tigers in their first game of the SEC Tournament.

With this win in the books, the Gators would get the day off before their noon quarterfinal matchup against Mississippi State. Before recapping that game, here are my final tidbits on the Gators' second round victory:

  • This is the first time since 2012 that the Florida Gators have not lost their opening game in the SEC Tournament.
  • This is Florida's 17th one-run victory of the year, which is the most in D-1 baseball.
  • This is JJ's 15th and India's 12th multi hit game of the year.
  • JJ's double gives him 11 on the year while Hicks now has nine for the season.
  • With his second punch out of the night in the second inning, Alex Faedo notched the 300th strikeout of his career!
  • This is the sixth no decision of the year for Faedo.
  • With his record 14th save of the season, Michael Byrne breaks a four-way tie that that he held with former Gator greats Danny Wheeler, Josh Fogg, and Shaun Anderson.
  • Florida and Auburn had one error a piece. Florida's miscue was the India throw and Auburn's came in the third inning when second baseman Jay Estes dropped a Mike Rivera pop up. This would prove costly as Rivera would eventually score to make it 1-0 Florida.
  • Auburn's offensive stars were junior center fielder Jonah Todd (3-5 with a run scored and an RBI), right fielder Daniel Robert (2-5), and freshman designated hitter Conor Davis (1-4 with two RBI's).
  • Though tagged with the loss, Auburn junior reliever Calvin Coker was a force out of the bullpen. At one point, the right-hander struck out five straight Gator hitters!

*All stats accredited to

Mississippi State (Quarterfinals)
In the SEC Tournament quarterfinals, the No. 1 seeded Florida Gators (42-15) obliterated the No. 5 seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs (36-23) by a score of 11-3.

On the mound for Florida was the undefeated Jackson Kowar (11-0, 3.74 ERA). Though giving up one run in the fourth through sixth innings, the sophomore right-hander was able to save the Florida bullpen as he threw seven innings.

Of the Bulldogs' three runs, only two were earned as Kowar allowed nine hits while striking out five. He did not give Mississippi State too many extra chances as he walked one, but hit two batters for the second straight game.

When Jackson left the game, Florida held an 11-3 lead going into the bottom half of the eighth. Talk about run support! In his place came Tyler Dyson for the second straight game. It was a shakier outing for the freshman, as he gave up back-to-back singles and walked the bases loaded.

Sully was not about to give Miss State the chance to come back, so he pulled for Dyson for Michael Byrne. Riding the momentum from his record-breaking save, Byrne struck out the side to end the Bulldog threat.

He would return for the ninth with Florida now up 12-3, but only for one batter. After Byrne induced a fly out, Sully pulled him and called on Frank Rubio to mercifully end this one. Frank would do just that, as he allowed a harmless single in-between two ground outs to bring this one home. It would be win No. 11 for Jackson Kowar.

Thanks to that eighth inning, Florida was able to bang out 12 hits while scoring their most runs in an inning this year. Since the Gator did trail 3-0 with six outs remaining in the ballgame, I will break down how the Gators scored 11 runs in the eighth. So buckle up because this is going to be a doozy:

Eighth Inning
With time running out, the Gators needed to get something cooking quick to avoid playing a double-header. Christian Hicks kicked things off with a single to right field. After a Miss State pitching change, Mike Rivera drew a walk. As Garrett Milchin came in to pinch-hit for Keenan Bell, Miss State made their second pitching change of the inning.

Milchin would strike out for the first out of the inning before Blake Reese singled to load the bases. Deacon Liput was now up, and he delivered with an RBI single to make it 3-1 Miss State. With JJ Schwarz up to bat, a wild pitch would make it 3-2 and move runners to second and third. Miss State head coach Andy Cannizaro decided to take his chances and just intentionally walked Schwarz to load the bases.

Nelson Maldonaldo would strike out for the second out, and it looked like Miss State's strategy was going to work. Jonathan India came to bat, and drew a walk to tie the game at 3-3. The spotlight was now on Austin Langworthy with two outs and the bases loaded. The freshman would deliver, as he singled to left field to plate two runs and make it 5-3 Gators.

After the third pitching change of the inning, Christian Hicks was back up and drew a walk to load the bases again. Mike Rivera then drew his second walk of the inning to make it 6-3 Florida. After the fourth Miss State pitching change of the inning, Garrett Milchin redeemed himself with a single to right field that made it 8-3 Florida.

Austin Bodrato would pinch run for Milchin with Rivera on third and proceeded to nab his first collegiate stolen base. Blake Reese would then walk to yet again load the bases for Florida. With Deacon Liput up, the floodgates opened up as he cleared the bases with a double to left center. It was now 11-3 Florida.

After the fifth Miss State pitching change of the inning, JJ Schwarz would fly out to center field to end the chaos. All in all, Florida sent 14 men to the plate in the eighth inning. The Gators drew six walks and had six base knocks as all 11 runs came with TWO outs in the inning.

Offensive Performers
Even though Florida blew the doors off Miss State, only three Gators had multiple hits in the contest. As the surprise cleanup man in this one, Deacon Liput took the lineup change and ran with it. He went 2-5 with a double, a run scored, and four RBI's.

Two spots down, sophomore right fielder Nelson Maldonaldo regained his swing as he went 2-5 with a pair of singles. Finally, the man with the most hits for Florida resided in the seven-hole. This was none other than Christian Hicks. Achieving three base knocks for the fourth time this season, Hicks went 3-4 with two runs scored and a walk.

For the remainder of the Gator lineup, every starter except Ryan Larson, Jonathan India, Mike Rivera, and Keenan Bell had at least one hit. Granted, Larson and Bell were pulled for pinch hitters in the first and eighth innings, respectively.

Funny enough though, it was the pinch hitter for Larson's pinch hitter who recorded a base knock. This would be Blake Reese, who went 1-2 with two runs scored and a walk. Austin Langworthy's lone hit would be his go-ahead double in the eighth as he went 1-4 with a run scored, two RBI's, and a walk.

The last of the Gators with one hit was Garrett Milchin. As stated earlier in the article, he notched his lone hit in his second at-bat of the eighth inning. He finished 1-2 with two RBI's. I am not done with the Gator offense though, as I have some love to give the hitless pair of Jonathan India and Mike Rivera.

India went 0-2, but did score twice, drove in a run, and drew two walks in the game. Likewise, Rivera was 0-2 as Florida's designated hitter, but he also scored twice and drew two walks in the game. What makes him different from India is that he also drove in a pair of runs via his eighth inning walk and ninth inning sac fly.

Final Takeaway
This is the second straight year that Florida has trounced Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament. In an elimination game in last year's tourney, the Gators run-ruled the Bulldogs as they won the game 12-2 in seven innings.

Florida's offense was on another planet in that eighth inning, and I hoped they enjoyed it as things would take a drastic turn in the following game. Before recapping the debacle that was the semifinals, here are my final tidbits on Florida's dominating quarterfinal victory:

  • This is the eighth game this season where Florida has scored double-digit runs.
  • Deacon Liput's double was his ninth of the season.
  • Mike Rivera's sacrifice fly was his first of the year.
  • This was Liput's 11th, Nelly's 15th, and Hicks' 16th multi-hit game of the year.
  • SEC Player of the Year and triple crown candidate Brent Rooker went 0-5 with two strikeouts against Florida. Don't let that fool you though, he is still VERY good.
  • JJ Schwarz threw out his seventh runner of the season on a "strike em' out throw em' out" double play in the seventh inning.
  • Both Ryan Larson and Nick Horvath exited this game with injuries.
  • Miss State's offensive stars were junior shortstop Ryan Gridley (2-4 with a walk), sophomore second baseman Hunter Stovall (3-5 with a run scored), sophomore designated hitter Hunter Vansau (2-3 with a double, triple, and two RBI's), and sophomore left fielder Elijah MacNamee (2-3).
  • Florida recorded the lone error in this game, as Keenan Bell misplayed a ball at first base in the fourth inning. This would hurt Florida as that run would eventually score to make it 1-0 Miss State.
  • The eighth inning implosion of the Miss State bullpen in the eighth put a damper on an excellent start from redshirt sophomore Cole Gordon (2-1, 4.59 ERA). The 6'5 right-hander tossed seven beautiful innings while allowing one earned run on four hits, striking out seven, and plunking Ryan Larson and Jonathan India.

*All stats accredited to

Arkansas (Semifinals)
What's great about baseball is how the sport gives and takes at will. Keep that in mind as I break down the 16-0 beatdown that the No. 1 seeded Florida Gators (42-16) suffered at the hands of the No. 4 seeded Arkansas Razorbacks (42-16) in the SEC semifinals.

Sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (7-4, 3.37 ERA) got the start in this one and had the shortest outing of his collegiate career. In one official inning of work, Singer allowed eight earned runs on seven hits. Of those seven, three of them were home runs.

Singer struck no one out and walked two batters as Florida entered the bottom of the first down 5-0. When Singer was pulled, it was 8-0 Arkansas and with the Gators' sporadic offense it looked like this one was already decided.

Even though they were down eight, the Gators had to keep fighting. On to pitch after Singer's departure was freshman right-hander Nate Brown. With the bases clear and no outs, Brown struck out a batter before giving up a single and surrendering a walk. He would prevent anymore damage, however, as he induced a pop up and fly out to end the frame.

In the third inning, freshman left-hander Andrew Baker came on for Brown. After a leadoff walk, he settled down and retired the next three batters to keep Arkansas off the board for the first time. In the fourth, things reverted to status quo for the Razorbacks.

A walk followed by the fourth home run of the day would push the lead to 10-0. Baker would be done not much later after allowing a single and walking his third batter of the afternoon. It was now freshman right-hander Kirby McMullen's turn for mop-up duty.

Working with no outs and two men on, Kirby generated a double play and got a ground out to limit the damage. In the fifth, Kirby got another ground out before walking a man and giving up a double to put runners on second and third. He would be removed after registering his only strikeout of the day for the second out.

Out of the bullpen now came the 6'7 freshman left-hander Cole Maye. In just his fifth appearance of the season, he allowed a single that plated both runs (which were charged to Kirby) to extend the lead to 12-0. It wasn't over yet though.

Maye would walk a man and give up a single which Arkansas scored on due to an error from Christian Hicks at shortstop. With the score 13-0 and runners on second and third, Maye spiked a pitch past Mark Kolozsvary to push the lead 14-0. A fly out would end the madness.

In the sixth, junior JUCO transfer David Lee entered for his second appearance of the season. He would load the bases on THREE hit by pitches, but was somehow able to not surrender a run while notching one strikeout in the frame.

In the seventh and final inning, Tyler Dyson was back for his third straight game. He would register three strikeouts, but also gave up two runs on three hits while hitting a batter to make it 16-0 Arkansas. As expected, Singer was tagged with a hard 'L' in this one as he fell to 7-4 on the year.

Florida had two hits in this game with no one reaching third base... So to save the tidbits some space I am going to talk about Arkansas's offensive performers right here. But of course, let me get to the Gators first.

Florida's two hits came from Jonathan India (1-3 with a double) and Austin Langworthy (1-3) in the top two spots of the lineup. India's double occurred in the third inning and was his team-leading 12th two-bagger of the season. Langworthy's base knock led off the sixth inning. For what it's worth, Nelson Maldonaldo, Kolo, and Mike Rivera all drew a walk in the contest.

Now for Arkansas, they handed Florida both their first shutout and worst loss of the season. Four Razorbacks had multiple base knocks as they pummeled Florida's pitching for 15 hits.

First was sophomore outfielder Eric Cole. Out of the leadoff spot, Cole went 3-4 with a two-run home run, three runs scored, two RBI's, and a walk. Behind Cole in the two-hole, future MLB draft pick Chad Spanberger murdered the baseball today.

The junior first baseman went 3-6 with two home runs, a double, and three RBI's. His first home run was a two-run bomb in the first inning and his second was a solo shot in the second inning. His second homer was also a back-to-back blast with Eric Cole.

In the five-hole, freshman center fielder Dominic Fletcher went 3-4 with a two-run home run, three runs scored, a game-high four RBI's, and a walk. Rounding out the Arky heavy hitters, sophomore shortstop Jax Biggers went 3-4 with a trio of singles, a run scored, three RBI's, and a walk.

Final Takeaway
This was the worst loss that Florida has ever suffered in the SEC Tournament. That aside, the Gator fans saying that "Singer should be removed from the rotation" or that "the Gators don't deserve a national seed" need to take their fair-weathered attitudes somewhere else.

Singer threw a gem against Kentucky to help Florida clinch the SEC regular season title. He had an off day. It is that simple. No pitcher can be perfect all the time. This guy is most likely going to be Florida's ace next year. Just because he did not particularly throw well against Arkansas does not mean he should be barred from throwing the rest of the postseason. That is plain asinine and ridiculous.

For the "Florida does not deserve a national seed" argument, just be quiet. This team won the most competitive conference in college baseball and lost to the No. 13 ranked team in a best-of-one matchup. Let's not forget that Arkansas blew the doors off Auburn by a score of 12-0 and won a rematch over Mississippi State by a final of 9-2 in an elimination game.

My point is that Arkansas is a good ball club. They might be hosting a regional when it's all said and done. This is the second best team in the SEC West we are talking about here! The Gators have enough wins over ranked opponents and enough series victories to ensure they will be hosting as a national seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

With my personal thoughts aside, here are my final tidbits on this semifinal blowout:

  • This is the fifth time in school history that Florida has been shut out in an SEC Tournament game.
  • The Gators allowed a season-high four home runs in this game.
  • This is the fifth time this season that Florida has given up double-digit runs in a game.
  • This is Florida's second consecutive loss against Arkansas in the SEC Tournament. The first was a 7-6 defeat in the second round of the 2015 SEC Tournament.
  • Arkansas's 16 runs is a new school record for runs scored in an SEC Tournament game.
  • This is the first time since 2005 that Florida has been run-ruled in the SEC Tournament. Back then it was a 14-1 loss to Ole Miss, which stood as the worst Florida loss in the tourney until this year.
  • Florida used seven pitchers in the contest, with all but Brown and Lee allowing at least one run.
  • This is Florida's second double-digit loss of the season (14-3 to Auburn on March 17th).
  • Once again, Florida made the lone error in the game on the Christian Hicks hiccup in the fifth inning. Florida made a total of three errors in the tournament and one in every game.
  • Razorback pitcher Kacey Murphy (5-0, 3.32 ERA) threw a gem in this abbreviated contest. The sophomore left-hander allowed just two hits while striking out eight and walking three in his complete game shutout.
  • This loss prevents Florida from facing LSU in a fourth consecutive SEC Tournament. To me, this championship matchup would have unofficially established the true regular season champion.

*All stats accredited to

Looking Ahead
With SEC play over for the time being, the No. 4 ranked Florida Gators (42-16) will await their fate as regional hosts are announced at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday evening. I would like to assume that Florida will get a national seed. If somehow they don't, they will at the very least host a regional at the Mac for the fourth straight season.

Game times and dates for the Gators will be announced later in the week. Until regional action starts, stay tuned for my upcoming article predicting the winner of the College World Series!

As for No. 4 seeded Arkansas (42-16), they will play for the second SEC Tournament championship in school history against No. 2 seeded LSU (42-17). The Razorbacks dropped the series to the Tigers at home, which ultimately cost them an SEC regular season title. Game time is set for 3 p.m. and it can be seen on ESPN2.



UF Softball: No. 1 Florida Advances to 8th WCWS!!!

The No. 1 seeded Florida Gators (55-8) are going back to Oklahoma City after defeating the No. 16 seeded Alabama Crimson Tide (46-17) in the Gainesville Super Regional! After going down 1-0 in the series, the Gators used great pitching and timely hitting to become just the 18th team to ever reach the WCWS after trailing a game in super regional play. Here now is a recap of all three games!

Game 1 (May 25th)
In the super regional opener, the Florida Gators (53-8) fell to the Alabama Crimson Tide (46-15) by a score of 3-0.

Taking the mound for her first ever start in a super regional, sophomore right-hander Kelly Barnhill (24-3, 0.36 ERA) got the nod in the opener. In five innings, she allowed three runs on three hits while striking out 11 Tide batters and walking three. Here is how 'Bama scored against Kelly.

Barnhill had retired 12 straight batters heading into the fifth inning. Against cleanup hitter Bailey Hemphill, she issued her first walk of the evening. With the game still scoreless, the Tide put down a total of four sacrifice bunts. Of those four, Kelly threw two of them away. The result was three runs for the Tide, ruining what had been a great outing for Barnhill.

In the sixth inning with runners on first and second and no outs, Barnhill would get pulled for junior right-hander Aleshia Ocasio. It was the first time this year that Barnhill had not gone the distance in a start. Ocasio used a double play and a ground out to end the threat.

She would work past a pair of singles in the seventh to keep Florida in it, but the Gators would have no offensive response. Ultimately, it would be just Barnhill's third loss of the season and second in postseason play.

The Gators had just three hits and only one legitimate offensive threat as they loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth inning. Of course, this would be to no avail.

Sophomore left fielder Amanda Lorenz led all Florida hitters as she went 2-2 with two walks. Aleshia Ocasio notched Florida's only other base knock as she went 1-2 with a hit-by-pitch.

Final Takeaway
Dropping the super regional opener for the second consecutive year, the Florida Gators needed to wake up their offense with elimination just one game away. Before recapping Game 2, here are my final tidbits on the opener:

  • This is the fourth time all year that the Gators have been shut out.
  • This is Amanda Lorenz's 22nd multi-hit game of the year.
  • Florida has now lost two straight games to SEC opponents.
  • Three Gators were hit by a pitch. They were: Kayli Kvistad, Aleshia Ocasio, and Sophia Reynoso twice. 
  • Aleshia Ocasio was picked off at second base to end the bottom of the second inning.
  • Junior catcher Janell Wheaton threw out her 14th base runner of the year in the top of the first inning.
  • Tide pitcher Alexis Osorio (23-8, 1.21 ERA) shut the Gators down. The junior struck out eight, walked three, and allowed three hits in a complete game shutout. 
  • 1,800 fans packed Katie Seashole Pressly for the game.

*All stats accredited to

Game 2 (May 26th)
With their season on the line, the Florida Gators (54-8) staved off elimination as they defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide (46-17) by a score of 2-0 in the Game 2.

Taking the mound for what could have been the final time, senior left-hander Delanie Gourley (21-4, 0.67 ERA) was dealing. Going the distance, Gourley allowed no runs on four hits while striking out eight and walking two. Not a single Tide batter reached third base against Delanie in this game. When it was all said and done, her efforts would earn her win No. 21 on the season.

Florida had five hits in this game and they were able to crack the scoreboard in the top of the third inning. With a runner on first base and two outs, Amanda Lorenz strode to the batter's box.

Down in the count 1-2 and having just fouled a ball off her foot, Lorenz muscled up and smacked a home run to right center field. It would give Florida a 2-0 lead and they would never look back.

Lorenz was one of four Gators with a base knock as she again went 2-4 on the night. Two spots down, junior first baseman Kayli Kvistad went 1-2 with a walk. In the six-hole, Janell Wheaton went 1-3 and in the nine-hole Justine McLean went 1-2 with a walk and a run scored on the homer.

Final Takeaway
With this victory, Florida would be playing in just their third ever Game 3 of a super regional. Before recapping the excitement of the finale, here are my final tidbits on the Game 2 win:

  • This is Florida's 37th shutout victory of the season!
  • This is Amanda Lorenz's 23rd multi-hit game of the year. Her homer was her 11th of the season and leads the team.
  • Shortstop Sophia Reynoso made the lone error of the game as her throw pulled Kayli Kvistad off the bag with two outs. This would not come back to haunt the Gators, however, as the next Tide batter would ground out to end the game.
  • 2,283 fans were at Katie Seashole Pressly for Game 2. It was the most attended game of the series.

Game 3 (May 27th)
With a trip to Oklahoma City on the line, the Florida Gators (55-8) arose to the occasion. Behind brilliant pitching from Kelly Barnhill and a first inning rally, the Gators defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide (46-18) by a score of 2-1 to advance to the eighth Women's College World Series in school history.

It was absolute redemption for Kelly Barnhill as she toed the rubber in this do-or-die contest. Going the distance, Barnhill dominated the whole game as she struck out 12 Tide batters. She allowed just two hits and one earned run while walking two and hitting a batter.

'Bama's lone run came in the second inning and cut the lead to 2-1. From that point on though they would not get a runner past first base as Barnhill retired 12 consecutive batters until the start of the seventh.

Alabama would put a runner on first with no outs in the seventh after a dropped third strike, but Kelly kept her poise. She recorded a strikeout, induced a ground out, and then registered one final strikeout to clinch her first ever trip to Oklahoma City. The demons of 2016 had been finally exorcised and it would be Kelly's 24th victory of the season.

The Gators had just three hits but were able to score early with a rally in the first inning. With one out and runners on first and second, Aleshia Ocasio came through with an RBI single to make it 1-0 Florida.

A walk would load the bases, giving Florida a real chance to bust this game open with freshman Jordan Roberts up to bat. Quickly falling behind 0-2 in the count, Roberts was hit by a pitch on her elbow to score the second run of the inning! This strike of fortune for the Gators would prove to be the difference in the game. 

Shortly after getting hit, Roberts would be pulled from the game for a pinch runner. She would be credited with no official at-bat, but was responsible for one of the biggest RBI's of Florida's postseason.

For those who had official at-bats, just three Gators had hits. Two of them came from Amanda Lorenz and Aleshia Ocasio in the first inning. Lorenz finished the day 1-2 with a run scored and a walk while Ocasio ended up 1-3 with the only RBI base knock for Florida.

The last Gator to obtain a hit was Kayli Kvistad, who led off the fifth inning with a double. She would conclude the game 1-2 with a walk and a run scored on the Roberts' hit by pitch.

As an offensive unit, the Gators did a good job getting to Alabama starter Alexis Osorio. They worked five walks off of her and Sophia Reynoso joined Jordan Roberts as the only two Gators to get plunked in the ball game. Osorio still struck out eight Gators, but at least Florida was able to score off of her this time around.

Final Takeaway
For the second straight round, the Florida Gators showed resiliency as they came all the way back to upend Alabama. The journey to their eighth Women's College World Series was a tad more difficult than usual, but only makes it more rewarding.

Before previewing the next step in Florida's hunt for a third national championship in four years, here are my final tidbits on the series finale and the super regional as a whole:

  • Florida is now 17-5 all-time in super regional play.
  • Florida is now 7-1 in postseason meetings against Alabama.
  • This is the third straight season that Florida has battled an SEC foe for a trip to the WCWS (Kentucky in 2015 and Georgia in 2016).
  • Both Florida and Alabama had an error in this game. For the Gators, shortstop Sophia Reynoso threw a ball away to first as 'Bama scored to make it 2-1. For the Crimson Tide, sophomore catcher Regan Dykes nailed Nicole DeWitt in the head as he threw the ball back to Osorio. Kayli Kvistad would advance to second but not score.
  • Florida had four total errors in the series while Alabama had one.
  • 2,216 fans were in attendance to see the Gators clinch another trip to Oklahoma City.

Looking Ahead
Back in Oklahoma City for the fourth time in five years, the No. 1 seeded Florida Gators (55-8) will await the winner of No. 8 Tennessee (48-11) and No. 9 Texas A&M (46-11) in the Knoxville Super Regional. Regardless of who wins, either matchup favors Florida.

The Gators went 2-1 against the then No. 8 ranked Lady Vols in Knoxville while not facing Texas A&M at all this season. Regardless, Florida will again open up against an SEC opponent in Oklahoma City as they faced off against Tennessee in 2015.

I am not sure when, but the Gators will be back on the field on either this upcoming Thursday or Friday. I do not know the game times either, but I can say with confidence that all of the WCWS games will be broadcasted on the ESPN family of networks.

As for No. 16 seeded Alabama (46-17), they conclude the year with over 40 wins for the 17th consecutive season. This is the first time since 2013 that they have failed to make the Women's College World Series. It is also the fifth straight year that an SEC team has eliminated them from the postseason.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

UF Softball: No. 1 Florida Advances to 10th Super Regional in Program History

The No. 1 seeded Florida Gators (53-7) needed to play all four games in the Gainesville Regional to secure their tenth overall trip to super regionals. The regional itself was historic as there was a shutout in every single game.

Florida began their postseason run with a 9-0 victory over Florida A&M (23-32-1) in five innings. In the semifinal against Oklahoma State (38-25), the Gators used a clutch two-run single from Aleshia Ocasio in the fourth inning to bring home a narrow 2-0 victory over the Cowgirls.

In the regional final, Florida lost 1-0 as Oklahoma State plated a run in the sixth inning to force the Gators' first winner-take-all game since 2012. Quickly bouncing back from just their third non-conference loss of the year, the Gators shut out the Cowgirls by a score of 5-0 to advance to super regionals.

Stat Leaders
Here now are Florida's offensive leaders from the Gainesville Regional:

  • Hits: Amanda Lorenz (5) 
  • Doubles: Amanda Lorenz/Jordan Roberts/Aleshia Ocasio (1)
  • Triples: Janell Wheaton (1)
  • Home Runs: Amanda Lorenz/Nicole DeWitt (1)
  • RBI's: Amanda Lorenz/Nicole DeWitt (3)
  • Runs Scored: Nicole DeWitt (3)
  • Batting Average*: Amanda Lorenz (.625) 
  • Stolen Bases: Amanda Lorenz/Nicole DeWitt/Justine McLean/Lilly Mann (1)
  • Walks: Amanda Lorenz (3) 
  • Strikeouts: Nicole DeWitt/Aleshia Ocasio (2)
  • Hit By Pitch: Jordan Roberts (2)
  • At-Bats: Amanda Lorenz/Sophia Reynoso (11)
  • Sacrifice Bunts: Janell Wheaton (2)
  • Sacrifice Flies: Amanda Lorenz/Nicole DeWitt (1)

*Must have played in all three games

Gator Pitching
Throughout the regional, the Gator pitching staff proved why it is one of the best in the country. In the regional opener, senior left-hander Delanie Gourley (20-4, 0-.71 ERA) threw her fourth career no-hitter against Florida A&M. Gourley struck out eight and walked just one (spoiling her perfect game bid) as she notched her 19th win of the season.

In the regional semifinal vs Oklahoma State, sophomore right-hander Kelly Barnhill (23-2, 0.35 ERA) was sensational. Throwing her 12th shutout of the season, Barnhill stuck out 15 Cowgirls while walking just two and allowing just one hit in the sixth inning. It would be her fourth one-hitter in 2017 alone and her 23rd win of the season!

In the regional final, Barnhill was again tasked with shutting down the Cowgirls. She allowed just one earned run on three hits, struck out 13, walked one, and hit one batter, but it would not be enough. Oklahoma State would prevail 1-0 to set up a date with Delanie Gourley.

In the elimination game, Gourley was phenomenal as she allowed one hit in seven innings while walking one and fanning 11 Cowgirls. It would be her fourth one-hitter of her senior season and give her an even 20 wins on the year.

Here now are Florida's pitching leaders from the Gainesville Regional:

  • Wins: Delanie Gourley (2)
  • Strikeouts: Kelly Barnhill (28)
  • Walks: Kelly Barnhill (3)
  • Hits allowed: Kelly Barnhill (4)
  • Runs allowed: Kelly Barnhill (1)

Final Takeaway
Offensively, Florida outscored their opponents 14-1 and hit .314 as a team. From the mound, the duo of Gourley and Barnhill registered 47 strikeouts while allowing just one earned run on five total hits in 26 innings. Defensively, Florida made just one error in the four games.

This is just the third time ever in school history that Florida has advanced past regionals after losing a game. In the two previous instances (2008 and 2011), Florida went to the Women's College World Series.

Before even talking about Oklahoma City, however the No. 1 seeded Florida Gators (53-7) will have to go through a familiar foe in the No. 16 seeded Alabama Crimson Tide (45-16). The Gators have faced the Tide 66 times since their inception in 1997 and are 31-35 all-time against them. In the postseason, Florida has ran into Alabama five times and sports a perfect 5-0 record.

The last time these two hooked up in the NCAA Tournament, Florida won their first ever national championship by a score of 6-3. The last time they hooked up in general was in 2015 at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium. 'Bama took two of three games to win that series.

This is the third straight year that Florida will be playing an SEC opponent in their super regional. In 2015, they swept Kentucky and last season Georgia swept them. First pitch for Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday. It can be seen on ESPN and heard on WGGG & WMOP.



Monday, May 22, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 5 Florida vs No. 7 Kentucky Series Recap

The No. 5 Florida Gators (40-15, 21-9 SEC) won their 14th SEC regular season championship this past weekend as they took two of three games from the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (38-18, 19-11 SEC) at the Mac. Here is a recap of each game!

Game 1 (May 18th)
The No. 5 Florida Gators (38-15, 19-9 SEC) hit a brick wall on Thursday night as the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (38-16, 19-9 SEC) routed them by a score of 12-4.

Making his final regular season start at the Mac, junior ace Alex Faedo (7-2, 2.89 ERA) had a night to forget. In 5.1 innings of work, he allowed a career-high seven earned runs on a career-high 13 hits. He struck out five, walked one, and hit a batter in what would be his third shortest outing of the season.

Faedo's problems began in the top of the fourth inning. With two outs, Kentucky loaded the bases and leadoff man Tristan Pompey hit a 1-2 pitch over the right field wall for a grand slam. This gave the Wildcats a 4-3 lead and they never looked back.

With the score 7-3 in the sixth inning and Faedo at 108 pitches, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan opted to pull him with one out and a runner on first base. Coming on in relief was junior left hander Nick Horvath. He needed just two pitches to induce the inning-ending double play.

In the seventh, Horvath gave up back-to-back singles before fielding a sacrifice bunt for the first out of the inning. With runners on second and third, Horvath's night was done as freshman Tyler Dyson replaced him.

The right-hander's first offering was sent to left field for a single that plated both runs. They were charged to Horvath. Another single followed by a stolen base would put runners on second and third yet again.

They would both score on the fifth single of the inning to make it 11-3 Kentucky. Dyson would eventually get out of the inning and finish the night with two earned runs on four hits and one strikeout in 0.2 innings of work.

In the eighth inning, 6'7 freshman left-hander Cole Maye entered for just his fourth collegiate appearance of the season. He gave up a home run to Riley Mahan, but limited the damage to just one run as Kentucky held a 12-4 advantage with two innings remaining. The homer would be the only hit allowed by Maye, as he struck out two and walked one in his lone inning out of the pen.

In the ninth inning, senior right-hander Frank Rubio was called upon for mop-up duty. He would toss Florida's only perfect frame of the game with two ground outs and a strikeout to keep the deficit at nine runs.

Florida's offense started off hot but then cooled down immensely as the game wore on. The Gators had just eight hits and scored twice in the first, once in the second, and one final time in the ninth inning.

At one point, the Gators led this game 3-0 and had a chance to bust this game open early with the bases loaded in the second inning. They would fail to do so though, keeping Wildcat starter Sean Hjelle (9-2, 3.17 ERA) in the game and sealing their fate once the Wildcats garnered a big lead.

For the Gator offensive dignitaries, two players had multiple hits. In the three-hole, junior catcher JJ Schwarz went 2-3 with a run scored and two walks. A few spots down in the six-hole, sophomore third baseman Jonathan India was Florida's leading batter. He went 3-5 with two RBI's and his ninth stolen base of the year.

For the rest of the Florida lineup, senior center fielder Ryan Larson went 1-3 with a walk out of the leadoff spot. Right behind him, junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie posted a 1-5 night with an RBI single in the second inning.  Finally, junior designated hitter Mark Kolozsvary rounds things out as he went 1-4 with a run scored and a walk.

Final Takeaway
This loss put the Gators in a three-way tie for first place in the SEC, putting huge significance on the remaining two games of the series. Before previewing Florida's turnaround in Game 2, here are my final tidbits on a forgettable series opener:

  • This loss snaps Florida's 10-game SEC winning streak.
  • This is the second game this season where Florida's pitching has allowed 20 hits. The first was against Stetson on March 21st.
  • Kentucky's 14 runs scored against Florida in this game ties them with Auburn for the most scored against the Orange and Blue this year.
  • This is the fourth time this season that the Gators have given up double-digit runs to an opponent.
  • This is the fifth game this season where Florida did not record an extra-base hit.
  • This is JJ Schwarz's 14th and Jonathan India's 10th multi-hit game of the year.
  • Freshman center fielder Austin Langworthy plated the first run of the game with his second collegiate sacrifice fly.
  • Though hitless from the cleanup spot, sophomore right fielder Nelson Maldonaldo showcased his patience as he drew three walks.
  • Kentucky's right-handed pitcher Sean Hjelle is listed at 6'11! Though not throwing exceptionally well, Hjelle was able to stymie the Gators with just one of Florida's three runs being earned on six hits. He stuck out five, but also walked five in 5.2 innings. This victory would tie him for most in the SEC with nine.
  • Florida had no errors in this game while Kentucky had one in the first inning. It would come back to bite the Cats as Florida would take a 2-0 lead in the frame.
  • Seven of Kentucky's nine batters had multiple hits. Their notable offensive performers (Part I) were: sophomore right fielder Tristan Pompey (1-6 with a grand slam and four RBI's), junior first baseman Evan White (3-5 with a double and two RBI's), senior left fielder Zach Reks (2-5), junior third baseman Luke Becker (2-5 with a run scored)
  • Kentucky's notable offensive performers (Part II) were: junior second baseman Riley Mahan (3-5 with a double, a home run, three runs scored, an RBI, and a walk), sophomore designated hitter Kole Cottam (3-5 with a double, two runs scored, and two RBI's), senior center fielder Marcus Carson (3-4 with three runs scored), and senior shortstop Connor Heady (2-4 with two runs scored, two RBI's, and a walk).
  • 3,693 fans showed out for tonight's contest.

*All stats accredited to

Game 2 (May 19th)
With their backs against the wall, the No. 5 Florida Gators (39-15, 20-9 SEC) kept their SEC title hopes alive with a dominating 13-4 victory over the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (38-17, 19-10 SEC) on Friday evening.

With run support early on, sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (7-3, 2.67 ERA) grabbed the ball and threw a gem against Kentucky. Carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning, Singer worked seven strong innings for Florida while allowing just three earned runs on five hits. He walked three and fanned eight Kentucky batters as he brought home his seventh victory of the season.

When Brady's night was up, he had 107 pitches total and Florida comfortably led 11-3 entering the eighth inning. On for the second straight night was Frank Rubio. With the situation completely reversed, Frank threw a perfect eighth to keep the lead at eight.

In the ninth, freshman Kirby McMullen entered to mercifully end Kentucky's night. The Wildcats would load the bases against him with two outs, but Kirby remained unfazed as he generated the game-ending fly out to Dalton Guthrie. He would finish the night with a stat line of one hit and one walk in one inning of work.

Florida's offense sought and got revenge for the drubbing they suffered less than 24 hours before. Banging out 16 hits, the Gators scored twice in the second, four times in the third, once in the fourth, four times again in the fifth, and three times in the eighth to demolish Kentucky by a score of 13-4.

With Florida being in control the whole way, let's just jump to the offensive performers. Four Gators had multiple hits in the game as everyone except Ryan Larson had a base hit. First up was Dalton Guthrie. Out of the two-hole, the Gator shortstop went a perfect 3-3 with a run scored, an RBI, a walk, and a sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning.

Going down a couple spots to the five-hole, Austin Langworthy had a 2-4 night with three runs scored, an RBI, and a walk. Right behind the freshman, Jonathan India again swung a hot stick as he went 3-4 with a double, three runs scored, and a walk.

Rounding out the multi-hitters from the eight-hole was Mark Kolozsvary. As the man who jumpstarted the Gator offense with a two-run blast in the second inning, Kolo had a night to remember at the dish. He went 3-4 with a home run, three runs scored, a career-high five RBI's, and one walk.

The bottom of the lineup production was not just Kolo. Right after him in the nine-hole, sophomore second baseman Deacon Liput went 1-4 with a double, four RBI's, and two sacrifice flies on the night.

For the remainder of the lineup, Ryan Larson did everything but get a hit as he scored, drove in a run, and walked in an 0-5 effort. In the three-hole, JJ Schwarz went 1-5 with an RBI single in the fourth inning that made it 7-0.

Behind him, Nelson Maldonaldo went 1-3 with a run scored and a walk. Even in Nelly's place, pinch hitter Nick Horvath went 1-1 with his eighth hit of the season and a run scored. Finally, Christian Hicks went 1-4 with a walk and a run scored on Liput's first sacrifice fly.

Final Takeaway
The Gators bounced back in a big way to set up a winner-take-all game in the series finale. Singer's outing would have been enough, but couple that with a double-digit offensive outburst and there was no way Florida was losing tonight.

Before recapping the series finale, here are my final tidbits on the blowout Game 2 victory:

  • This is the seventh game this season where Florida's offense has scored double-digit runs.
  • This is Guthrie's 18th, Langworthy's seventh, India's 11th, and Kolo's sixth multi-hit game of the season.
  • India's double was his team-leading 11th of the year while Liput's was his eighth of the 2017 campaign.
  • Kolo's home run was his third of the season and now surpasses his season total from 2016.
  • Guthrie's sacrifice bunt was his first of the season.
  • Liput's pair of sac flies now give him three on the year.
  • Kentucky had two errors in this game while Florida had one. Kentucky's mishap would eventually put them in a 6-0 hole after the third inning. Florida's error should have been the final out of the game, but instead loaded the bases. It would not matter though as the Wildcats would not score.
  • The perpetrator of Florida's lone error was Christian Hicks. It was his team-leading 10th of the season. 
  • Kentucky's notable offensive performers were Tristan Pompey (2-4 with a double that broke up the no-no in the sixth, an RBI, and a walk) and Kole Cottam (2-4 with a home run, two RBI's, and one run scored).
  • In the fifth inning of this game down 11-0, Kentucky manager Nick Mingione was ejected for arguing over a ball that clearly did not hit batter Marcus Carson. It was his first ejection as a head coach.
  • Coach Kevin O'Sullivan won his 435th career game in an Orange and Blue uniform tonight. This victory now moves him past Joe Arnold and in sole possession of second on the all-time Florida wins list. He now only trails Dave Fuller, who sits in first at 554 career victories.
  • 4,153 fans were in attendance at the Mac tonight.

*All stats accredited to

Game 3 (May 20th)
In the series finale, the No. 5 Florida Gators (40-15, 21-9 SEC) clinched the 14th SEC regular season championship in school history with a 6-4 victory over the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (38-18, 19-11 SEC).

With a conference championship at stake, sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (10-0, 3.84 ERA) delivered in the clutch. Upping his record to a perfect 10-0, Kowar shut Kentucky down. In 6.1 innings, he allowed just two earned runs on eight hits. He struck out four and walked two while hitting two Kentucky batters.

At 95 pitches in the seventh, Kowar was pulled after issuing a one-out walk with the Gators leading 6-2. From this point on, everyone at the Mac knew these were going to be the eight toughest outs of the regular season.

Pitching for the third straight game was Frank Rubio. On Senior Day, Rubio gave up a first pitch single that put runners on first and third. Just like that, he was done. In Frank's place came Nick Horvath.

Putting Thursday night way behind him, the left-hander used a line out and a groundout to escape the inning with no damage. In the eighth, a leadoff walk would prompt Sully to bring in sophomore closer Michael Byrne for a six-out save.

After registering a strikeout, Byrne gave up a two-run homer to Marcus Carson that cut the lead to 6-4. One run would be charged to Horvath and the other to Byrne. The pressure was really on now.

A single would bring the tying run to the plate with the top of the lineup looming, but Byrne kept the poise that earned him the role of Florida's stopper. He struck out the next two batters to bring Florida three outs away from an SEC championship.

In the ninth inning, Byrne was tasked with the heart of the Kentucky lineup. Due up first was three-hole Zach Reks. He lined out on two pitches. Next up was clean-up man Luke Becker. He went down looking on strikes. Now with one out remaining, only Riley Mahan stood in front of Florida's SEC Championship.

On the first pitch, Mahan hit a ground ball right to JJ Schwarz at first base. JJ fielded the ball and stepped on first base for the final out of the game. The celebration was on immediately as the Florida players stormed out of the dugout and jumped up and down in-between first and second base. It was an awesome sight to see as it's not every day that a team can clinch a conference title in their home stadium.

Offensively, the Gators banged out just seven hits in this game, but they were all timely. It is only fitting that they had to overcome an early 2-0 hole as they scored three times in the fourth, twice in the fifth, and once in the sixth to down the Wildcats.

One Gator had multiple hits in the game and is hands down my MVP of the contest. As Florida's cleanup man, Nelson Maldonaldo went 2-3 with a three-run home run, a double, a run scored, a game-high four RBI's, and a walk.

Nelly's long ball was his sixth of the year and gave Florida a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning. In the very next inning, Nelly smacked a two-bagger into left field that plated Ryan Larson and made it 4-2 Florida. Nelly cannot take all the credit though, as the top of the lineup got the job done in the biggest game of the season.

All of Florida's first four batters had at least one hit. Celebrating his Senior Day at the top of the lineup was Ryan Larson. He went 1-5 with a run scored and his seventh stolen base of the season. Behind him, Dalton Guthrie went 1-2 before having to leave the game with a sprained ankle in the fourth inning.

Right after Dalt in the three-hole, JJ Schwarz went 1-2 with a double, a team-high two runs scored, a walk, and a hit by pitch. Skipping down to the six-hole, Jonathan India went 1-4 with a single in the fourth inning.

Final Takeaway
At one point 0-3 in conference play, the Florida Gators showed some major resolve as they finished 21-9 to claim the SEC regular season title. Winning this series was about more than just the conference title though. It showed that in cases where Faedo does not get the job done, Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar will be there waiting to pick him up.

What those two young men did this weekend was incredible given the circumstances. Like they have done all season, both Brady and Jackson have reassured the Gator Nation that they can be relied on when the lights shine the brightest.

I'll dive into the SEC title and what it means moving forward into the postseason, but first here are my final tidbits on both the series finale and the Kentucky series as a whole:

  • This is Florida's first series victory over Kentucky since 2012. Their win on Sunday snapped a four-year losing streak to the Cats.
  • Sully is now an even 15-15 against Kentucky.
  • This Florida's fourth SEC regular season championship under Sully's watch.
  • This is Nelly's 14th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Jackson Kowar finishes the regular season as the SEC's wins leader with 10.
  • Nelly's double was his eighth of the year and JJ's was his 10th.
  • Though hitless in the contest, Mark Kolozsvary drew two walks, scored a run, and stole his second base of the year on an 0-2 day.
  • Deacon Liput had a rough regular season finale as he went 0-4 with three strikeouts.
  • Kentucky's notable offensive performers were: Evan White (3-4 with two doubles and two runs scored), Zach Reks (2-5 with an RBI), Kole Cottam (2-4 with a double), and Marcus Carson (1-4 with two RBI's and a run scored).
  • Kentucky had two errors in this game while Florida had none. Neither error would hurt the Wildcats.
  • For the series, Kentucky committed five errors while Florida had just one.
  • Nearly 4,000 fans (3,938 actually) showed out to watch the Gators clinch the SEC title at home.
  • On that note, the Gators set a new season average attendance record at the Mac with 4,015!

*All stats accredited to

Looking Ahead
So technically, the No. 5 Florida Gators (40-15, 21-9 SEC) have to "share" the SEC title with the No. 6 LSU Tigers (39-17, 21-9 SEC) as the Bayou Bengals posted an identical conference record. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but here's mine. If you beat a team two out of three in a series during the regular season and end up with the same record, a head-to-head tiebreaker simply applies here.

I understand that the SEC gets that right by giving Florida the No. 1 overall seed in the SEC Tournament, but by no means should they have to "share" a regular season conference title with a team they bested earlier in the season. Now it's not all bad since LSU is my future law school, but that does not take away from the fact that I believe the title is really Florida's since they won the regular season series.

My opinions aside, it is still impressive how Florida rallied back to win the toughest conference in college baseball. In addition to a 10-game SEC winning streak, the Gators won eight of ten SEC series (sweeping then No. 23 ranked Missouri, Georgia, Ole Miss, and Alabama) with just one series loss a piece coming at home (Tennessee) and on the road (Auburn).

Florida deserves to celebrate a tad after an arduous regular season, but they will need to soon refocus for the SEC Tournament. The Gators are scheduled to play at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday and will face the winner of the No. 8 Auburn (34-22, 16-14 SEC) and No. 9 Ole Miss (32-24, 14-16 SEC) matchup. The Gators got swept by the Tigers at Auburn and swept the Rebels in Gainesville. Personally, I want Auburn.

The game can be seen on the SEC Network and the venue will be Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama. Keep in mind that No. 1 seeded Florida has been in the last three SEC Tournament title games and won the whole thing in 2015.

As for No. 7 Kentucky (38-18, 19-11 SEC), they will have to settle with the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament. They are slated to play the winner of the No. 6 Vanderbilt (33-21-1, 15-13-1 SEC) and No. 11 South Carolina (32-23, 13-17 SEC) matchup. The time for the Wildcats' game will be at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday and it can be seen on the SEC Network.