Thursday, June 29, 2017


For the first time in program history, the Florida Gators are NATIONAL CHAMPIONS in the sport of baseball! With their 6-1 victory over the rival No. 4 LSU Tigers (52-20) in Game 2 of the College World Series Finals last night, No. 3 Florida (52-19) completed their improbable journey with the most unlikely team.

I must warn you, what you are about to read may be the most detail-oriented ZKS article ever formulated. So come with me now as I tell you how the Florida Gators FINALLY WON the College World Series!

Making his second-ever collegiate start, freshman right-hander Tyler Dyson (4-0, 3.23 ERA) delivered an outing that will forever live on in Gator lore. Throwing a career-high six innings, Dyson held the Tigers to one earned run on three hits with two strikeouts and two walks.

After Zach Watson hit a soft single to lead off the seventh inning, Dyson was pulled with Florida up 2-0. He had thrown a career-high 75 pitches and would be in line for the biggest win in program history if the bullpen could hold on.

When sophomore closer Michael Byrne came in, LSU starting showing signs of life. Watson proceeded to steal second base and then six-hole Josh Smith hit a ball that landed right in front of a diving Ryan Larson in right center field. It would be a double for Smith and Watson would come around to score to make it 2-1 Florida with no outs.

Jake Slaughter then singled into left field and put runners on first and third. Listening to the radio at this point, I recall Florida commentator Jeff Cardozo saying that "LSU will probably tie the game here". To be honest, I agreed with him 100%. I saw no scenario where Florida would get out of this inning with the lead intact. Then, the most improbable/fortuitous sequence of events occurred.

With Michael Papierski up to bat, he hit the second pitch he saw to Deacon Liput at second base. Liput fielded the ball cleanly and flipped it to shortstop Dalton Guthrie, who then made a great throw to first base for the double play.

So now there were two outs, but the game was tied at 2-2. Or was it? Moments after the second out was recorded, home plate umpire Troy Fullwood made Josh Smith go back to third base. The reason was because when Slaughter slid into Dalton Guthrie at second base, he blatantly tried to take out the Gator shortstop.

This act then invokes the "Force-Play Slide Rule" which under Section C of the 2017 and 2018 NCAA Baseball Rules states:

Actions by a runner are illegal and interference shall be called if: 1) The runner slides or runs out of the base line in the direction of the fielder and alters the play of a fielder (with or without contact); 2) The runner uses a rolling or cross-body slide and either makes contact with or alters the play of a fielder; 3) The runner’s raised leg makes contact higher than the fielder’s knee when in a standing position; 4) The runner slashes or kicks the fielder with either leg; or 5) The runner illegally slides toward or contacts the fielder even if the fielder makes no attempt to throw to complete a play. 

Thus, the penalty of said actions would be:

With less than two outs, the batter-runner, as well as the interfering runner, shall be declared out and no other runner(s) shall advance.

As replay clearly showed, Slaughter made NO ATTEMPT to slide into the bag and intentionally tried to take out Dalt. From a baseball perspective, it made no sense for him to do this as the game would have been tied regardless. The LSU majority at TD Ameritrade Park were not happy at all in response to the call. They started booing and throwing trash on the field, prompting a slight delay in the game.

Slaughter taking out Guthrie at second. (Photo Credits: Brendan Sullivan/The World-Herald)

So moving forward, it was now two outs with Florida still up 2-1 and the runner returning to third base. With the count 0-2 on Beau Jordan, the junior hit a liner to center field. Making one of the biggest plays of his career, Nick Horvath came crashing in and made a beautiful sliding catch to end the inning and preserve the lead!

Heading into the eighth, the score remained 2-1 as Byrne trotted back out to the mound. Again, LSU put their leadoff man on base as Kramer Robertson hit a soft single into right field. With Cole Freeman up now, LSU opted to bunt Robertson to second.

However, Byrne spiked a pitch past catcher Mike Rivera and now Robertson was at second base with no outs. LSU went with the bunt again, and Freeman beat Byrne's throw to put runners on the corners. It was a bad break for Florida, as replay had shown that Freeman was out by half a step.

Byrne would keep his poise and strike out three-hole Antoine Duplantis before exiting the game with one down and LSU still threatening. In for his first relief appearance of the season was sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar.

Kowar's name had been floated out there as the probable Game 3 starter, but it looked like Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan was trying to end this series tonight. On Kowar's first pitch out of the pen, cleanup man Greg Deichmann hit a grounder to first base.

JJ Schwarz backhanded the ball and threw a strike to home plate to cut down the potential tying run in Kramer Robertson. LSU head coach Paul Maineri would come out to argue the call, but it was to no avail. Florida catcher Mike Rivera had put a perfect tag on Kramer and replay did show that the LSU shortstop was indeed out.

Mike Rivera's game-saving tag on Kramer Robertson.

So with two down now and runners on first and second, five-hole Zach Watson came up to bat. On a 1-0 count he drilled a pitch to center, but Nick Horvath was right there to glove it. For the second straight inning, Florida had prevented LSU from tying the game with a runner on third and no outs.

After a four-run offensive explosion in the bottom of the eighth, Jackson Kowar came out in the ninth with a comfortable 6-1 lead. He induced a line out to left field from Josh Smith for out No. 1 and then gave up a pinch hit single to Chris Reid.

Brennan Breaux would pinch run for Reid and advance to second without a throw. Michael Papierski was up now, and Kowar got him to groundout to Dalton Guthrie for the second out of the inning. Florida was now one out away from a national championship with nine-hole Beaux Jordan settling in and Breaux on third.

Kowar's first offering to Jordan was hit as a chopping ground ball out to second base. Moving to his left, Deacon Liput gloved the ball threw it to JJ Schwarz for the final out of the ballgame. It was all over! Finally, the Florida Gators had obtained their long awaited national championship in the sport of baseball!

Everyone gets in on the dog-pile as the Florida Gators celebrate their first-ever National Championship!

The rest of the team came swarming out of the dugout and gloves went flying into the night sky as the Gators dog-piled near the mound. Their arduous and remarkable journey was complete. In their 103rd season of existence, the Florida Gators would finally be the last team standing in Omaha.

For Tyler Dyson, he would be awarded the fourth win of his freshman campaign. For the man at the bottom of the dog-pile, Jackson Kowar, he would earn his first-ever collegiate save.

The Florida Gators capitalized on some LSU miscues and very timely hitting to generate enough offense in the clincher. Recording double-digit hits for the first time all College World Series, Florida banged out 10 base knocks while scoring six total runs. They scratched across one run in each of the first two innings and then broke out for four in the eighth to put this game out of reach.

In the first inning, Deacon Liput reached on an error by Tiger first baseman Nick Coomes. Dalton Guthrie would single to move him over to third and create an early scoring opportunity for Florida. JJ Schwarz was now up, and with the count 2-0 he smoked a single through the left side to plate Liput and make it 1-0 Florida.

The Gators would fail to capitalize on anymore scoring chances in the first. Nelson Maldonaldo moved the runners over with a fly ball to right field that Greg Deichmann was fortunate to even catch as he leapt in the air. Soon after, Jonathan India struck out on three pitches and Austin Langworthy flew out to end the frame.

In the second inning, Nick Horvath picked up his first hit of the College World Series with a two-out single to left field. After an errant throw from Nick Coomes on a pickoff attempt, Horvath was now on second with Deacon Liput up.

The error would hurt LSU, as Liput singled up the middle to score Horvath and increase the lead to 2-0 Florida. Dalton Guthrie would then reach base via an error, but JJ Schwarz would ground out to end the inning.

Florida's offense would then go dormant until the eighth inning. They would get base hits before then, but they wold not translate into runs. That would all change when Jonathan India doubled down the left field line to kick off Florida's potential final at-bat of the season.

Austin Langworthy was up next and drew a walk to bring up Mike Rivera. Florida's captain was asked to bunt and he got down a beautiful sacrifice to put India and Langworthy in scoring position.

Senior Ryan Larson was up next, but he was denied his final collegiate at-bat as Christian Hicks pinch hit for him. The move panned out as Hicks would be intentionally walked. Freshman Andrew Baker would come on to pinch run for him.

With the bases loaded now with one out and Florida clinging to a 2-1 lead, Nick Horvath was up in the nine-hole. He had a chance with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, but had popped up to end the frame. Now was his chance for redemption.

With the count 1-0, Horvath geared up and took a ball right off the shoulder. It was the best situation imaginable! LSU's star freshman closer Zack Hess (who had been in since the sixth inning) had hit Horvath to force in a run!

It was now 3-1 Florida with the bases still loaded and the top of the lineup coming to bat. With the count again 1-0, Deacon Liput singled into center field to score both Langworthy and Baker to make it 5-1 Florida! Dalton Guthrie was up now, and he singled on an 0-2 pitch to again load the bases!

With a chance to put LSU out of grand slam territory, JJ Schwarz jumped on the first pitch he saw and drove it to center field. It would be good for a sacrifice fly as Horvath scored and Liput advanced to third.

JJ had extended Florida's lead to 6-1 and at this point their championship gear was slowly making its way to the field. Nelly would fly out to end the inning, but a five-run lead would take the pressure off for the ninth.

Offensive Performers
The Gator offense made sure they would not have to face LSU ace Alex Lange by jumping on left-handed starter Jared Poche' (12-4, 3.17 ERA) in Game 2. Three Gators had multiple hits in the clincher!

In the leadoff spot, Deacon Liput went 2-5 with a team-high three RBI's and a run scored. Behind Liput in the two-hole and presumably playing his last collegiate game, Dalton Guthrie went 2-5 with a pair of singles.

In the five-hole, Jonathan India put his College World Series woes way behind him as he went 2-4 with a double and run scored. He would be the only Gator to record an extra-base hit in the contest.

For the remainder of the Gator lineup, JJ Schwarz went 1-4 with two RBI's and a sacrifice fly. Behind him, Nelson Maldonaldo went 1-4 with a walk. He served as the team's designated hitter for the second straight contest.

Also playing his final collegiate game, Mike Rivera went 1-2 with a sacrifice bunt and a walk. Rounding out the lineup was the best surprise of Game 2 in Nick Horvath. He went 1-2 with an RBI, a team-high two runs scored, and the most significant hit-by-pitch in the history of Gator baseball.

For the fifth straight game, Florida played without an error. Couple that with the Nick Horvath sliding catch in the seventh and the JJ Schwarz throw to home in the eighth, and it should be no surprise the Gators were able to pull this one out.

Florida did have much help from LSU though, as the Tigers shot themselves in the foot three times. Had the Gators not scored those two unearned runs and went into the eighth down 1-0, it would be hard to say if Sully would have brought in Jackson Kowar or not.

Final Takeaway
It is still so surreal to me. In my final week up here in Gainesville, I got to witness my favorite sports program from my alma mater win their first ever national championship! For someone who follows the team as closely as I do, it means so much.

Not only that, to say I ushered 16 of the 38 home games and attended 19 of them in the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON is something I will hold on to forever. Before getting into even more detail about how much this victory means to me, let me do my last ever tidbits on a Gator baseball game.

So here they are, my final tidbits on Florida's clinching win for a national championship:

  • Florida is now 19-22 all-time in the College World Series and 2-4 all-time in the championship series!
  • With their national championship, No. 3 Florida becomes the first national seed since 2011 (No. 4 South Carolina) to win it all! Ironically, the last time it happened was against the Gators!
  • The Gators conclude their title run with a 10-3 postseason record and a 5-1 mark in Omaha!
  • Florida finishes the year with 52 wins for the third consecutive season, just narrowly missing the school record of 53. It's okay, I will easily take the national championship over a wins record.
  • Florida finishes this year 4-1 against LSU and ups their all-time record in the College World Series to 2-4 against the Tigers. They are the first team in seven tries to defeat the Tigers for a national championship.
  • Florida's combined 10 runs and 16 hits in the championship series are their most ever among their three appearances.
  • This was Deacon Liput's 15th, Dalton Guthrie's 23rd, and Jonathan India's 16th multi-hit game of the year.
  • India's double was his 15th of the year and he finishes the season as Florida's leading man in this offensive category!
  • JJ's sac fly was his sixth of the year and ties him for the team lead with Dalt!
  • Mike Rivera's eighth inning sac bunt was his third of the year. Ryan Larson also laid down his second sac bunt of the season in the sixth inning. It would be his final collegiate at-bat.
  • Just hours after one of the biggest games of his life, Deacon Liput celebrated his 21st birthday!
  • Alex Faedo was named the Most Outstanding Player for the 2017 College World Series. His stat line includes 14.1 scoreless innings pitched, 22 strikeouts, and two wins in two starts.
  • In addition to his MOP award, Faedo was named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team along with Austin Langworthy and Brady Singer.
  • 26,607 fans were in attendance and again the majority were for LSU. That wouldn't bother Florida though.

Lasting Legacy
To me personally, this is the most significant Florida Gator national championship in school history. After losing to the eventual National Champion in the two previous seasons, Florida finally broke through! With this being my final season closely covering the team, I can't help but feel like I am also going out as a winner.

I can't finish up this article without paying my respects to Kevin O'Sullivan. In his 10th year at Florida, he has already solidified an impressive legacy by winning the program's first national championship.

This was long overdue for Sully, and I am so happy for him, his family, his coaching staff, and his players. To show just how good of a coach he is, keep the following in mind: Not a single one of his players finished the season with a batting average of .300. Yet, they outscored LSU 10-4 between the two games and are National Champions!

Sully is finally a National Champion!

A national championship trophy will now forever reside at the Mac. The 2017 Florida Gator baseball team, though not as talented as many other squads that Sully has brought to Omaha, will forever be remembered as the team who successfully closed out the season. This isn't just for them though, it's for every Gator team in the previous 102 seasons who did not reach the promise land.

It's for the 1998 team that went in the loser's bracket and couldn't make it out. It's for the 1991 and 1996 teams that both had their seasons end with semifinal losses to LSU. It's for the 1998, 2010, 2012, and 2016 teams that went 0-2 in Omaha. It's for the 2015 team that came within one win of the College World Series Finals. Maybe most of all, it's for the 2005 and 2011 teams who got swept in the College World Series Finals.

I am blessed to have been a part of the Gator Nation and to have watched this program during my three and half years of school up here. This victory makes it all the more sweeter as I head out to Baton Rouge for three years of law school. Not including the season recap, this is my final Florida Gator baseball recap article and I am happy to conclude it by saying:


Enough said.

*All stats accredited to


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

2017 College World Series: No. 3 Florida Takes Game 1 of Finals Over No. 4 LSU

The No. 3 Florida Gators (51-19) are now one win away from a national championship after defeating the No. 4 LSU Tigers (52-19) by a score of 4-3 in Game 1 of the College World Series Finals.

In the biggest start of his collegiate career, sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (9-5, 3.21 ERA) rose to the occasion. In seven innings, he allowed three earned runs on eight hits while striking out 12, walking two, and hitting one batsman.

After giving up a leadoff double to second-rounder Greg Deichmann with Florida up 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Singer's night was over. He had thrown 112 pitches, which was his second highest total of the season. In his place for the six-out save came sophomore closer Michael Byrne.

He induced a pop fly for the first out before freshman third baseman Josh Smith drove a 2-2 pitch into right center. Deichmann would easily score, and Smith tried to put himself in scoring position with only one down.

As the freshman tried to take second base, Florida center fielder Nick Horvath threw a rocket towards the bag to get Smith out. This would be a pivotal moment in the game and occurred just two batters after Horvath had moved over from right field to center. With the LSU momentum stifled, Byrne got a harmless groundout to end the inning.

With Florida up 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Byrne locked in. He struck out junior long ball threat Michael Papierski, got sophomore pinch hitter Chris Reid to pop up, and then generated the game-ending fly out from senior leadoff man Kramer Robertson to secure the 'W'.

It would be Byrne's 19th save of the season and give Singer his ninth and final victory of 2017. Byrne threw just 28 pitches in his two innings of work, so it is safe to assume he will be available if needed in Game 2.

Offensively, Florida had just six hits but was able to generate four runs. They had a big fourth inning as they scratched across a trio of runs and then tacked on an insurance run in the seventh.

Florida kicked of the scoring with a one-out sacrifice fly from Austin Langworthy that scored Dalton Guthrie. In the process, both JJ Schwarz and Nelson Maldonaldo moved into scoring position at third and second, respectively.

With two outs now, Florida would need a big hit to put the pressure on LSU early. They would get just that from sophomore third baseman Jonathan India. With the count at 1-0, India crushed a ground-rule double to center field that scored both JJ and Nelly. It was  India's first extra-base hit of the College World Series and extended Florida's led to 3-0!

Fast-forward to the seventh and Florida was up 3-2. Austin Langworthy smacked a lead off double into right center and was then moved over to third on a Jonathan India sacrifice bunt. With one out now, junior catcher Mike Rivera strode to the plate.

Down 1-2 in the count, Rivera notched his biggest RBI of the season as he sent the ball back up the middle to score Langworthy and make it 4-2. This would prove to be the game-winning RBI as the Gators snatched the contest by one run.

Offensive Performers
Freshman Austin Langworthy continued to have a good College World Series as he was the only Gator with multiple hits. He went 2-3 with a double, one run scored, and one RBI. Ahead of him in the two-hole, junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie went 1-3 with a walk and a run scored.

Down towards the bottom of the lineup, six-hole Jonathan India went 1-3 with his clutch two-run double in the fourth. After him, Mike Rivera went 1-4 with his big RBI single in the seventh. Rounding out the Gator lineup with his first hit in an eternity, senior outfielder Ryan Larson went 1-3 with a walk out of the nine-hole. He would be picked off to end the third inning.

Though hitless on the night as the clean-up man, sophomore center fielder Nelson Maldonaldo drew two walks and scored once. Ahead of him in three-hole, JJ also had a walk and accounted for one of Florida's four runs.

Final Takeaway
Winning Game 1 was huge for Florida as it slightly takes the pressure off of them for a potential clincher. Now 3-1 on the year against LSU, Florida is the closest they have ever been to a title on the baseball diamond. Before previewing the potential final game of the year, here are my final tidbits on Florida's Game 1 victory:

  • This was Florida's first-ever win in the College World Series Finals. They are now 1-4 in the championship series.
  • This was also Florida's first-ever postseason win against LSU. They are now 1-4 against the Bayou Bengals in the College World Series.
  • Florida is now 18-22 all-time in the College World Series.
  • Florida's four runs are their highest total ever scored in any game of the College World Series Finals.
  • With 12 strikeouts tonight, Brady Singer broke Florida's single-game strikeout record in a College World Series game! The previous record had belonged to teammate Alex Faedo after his 11 K's both times against TCU this postseason.
  • Jonathan India's double was his team-leading 14th of the season while Austin Langworthy now sits at even 10 two-baggers in his freshman campaign.
  • Langworthy's multi-hit game was his ninth of the season. His sac fly was his fourth of the year.
  • India's sacrifice bunt was his fifth of the season and ties him with Christian Hicks for the team lead.
  • Nick Horvath's eighth inning throw gives him 10 assists on the year now.
  • In the bottom of the seventh with Florida up 4-2 and one out, Mike Rivera corralled a dirt ball and threw a missile to second base to cut down Kramer Robertson trying to advance.
  • This is Florida's fourth consecutive errorless game.
  • 25,679 fans were in attendance. I bet you more than half of them were LSU fans.

Looking Ahead
Now one win away from their first-ever baseball national championship, Florida will turn to freshman right-hander Tyler Dyson (3-0, 3.55 ERA) to start Game 2. As I somewhat stated earlier, Florida can afford to take a gamble on the freshman with a 1-0 series lead.

Florida will be the home team and will probably trot out the same lineup as the night before. Throwing against Dyson will be LSU's all-time winningest pitcher in senior left-hander Jared Poche' (12-3, 3.33 ERA). When the Gators faced Poche' in Gainesville, they tagged him for four runs (three earned) on six hits in an 8-1 victory.

First pitch of Game 2 is set for 8 p.m. It can be seen on ESPN and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network. Will Dyson get the job done to clinch a title or will Poche' redeem himself on the biggest stage of college baseball? By midnight, we will have our answer.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

2017 College World Series: No. 3 Florida Advances to College World Series Finals!!!

For the third time in school history, the No. 3 Florida Gators (50-19) will be playing for a National Championship after defeating the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs (50-18) by a score of 3-0 on Saturday night!

In one of the gutsiest outings of his collegiate career, ace junior right-hander Alex Faedo (9-2, 2.26 ERA) was magnificent. He gave Florida 7.1 shutout innings while yielding just three hits, striking out 11 for the second consecutive game, and walking four Horned Frogs.

With his pitch count at 113 and Florida up 3-0 in the eighth inning, Faedo was pulled with one out and a runner on first base. In his place came sophomore closer Michael Byrne for the five-out save. He inherited a 2-0 count to freshman designated hitter Zach Humphreys and promptly fired in two strikes.

With the count 2-2, Humphreys singled off of Byrne to bring the tying run to the plate in junior catcher Evan Skoug. The night before, Skoug had delivered with a bases-clearing double that put the game out of reach. Could he do the same this time around?

With the count again 2-2, Byrne reared back and fired a fastball past the swinging bat of Skoug for the second out of the inning. It was a big-time pitch from Byrne, but he was not out of the woods just yet.

Stepping in now was senior cleanup man Cam Warner, who was hitless but had worked two walks earlier in the contest. With the count 2-1, Byrne got Warner to hit a deep fly out to right field to end the threat. Florida was now within three outs of the championship series.

In the ninth, Byrne sandwiched a groundout in-between a pair of strikeouts to send the Gators to the College World Series Finals. It would be the 18th save of the sophomore's already historic season and ninth for Alex Faedo this year. Depending on how the championship series goes, it may be the final collegiate victory for Faedo.

Florida upped their hit total from last night as they had seven base knocks in this game. They also increased their run total as they plated three in the contest. The Gators managed to scratch one across in the second, fifth, and seventh innings.

In the second, junior catcher Mike Rivera kicked off the scoring. With runners on the corners, he hit a grounder to the right side that second baseman Cam Warner dove and corralled. Warner was unable to pick the ball up in time though, and got just the one out at second base. Austin Langworthy would come around to score the game's first run.

In the fifth, Mike Rivera was again involved as he had reached first base on a hit-by-pitch. With the count 2-0 on Christian Hicks, the junior designated hitter drilled a pitch into left center for a double. Rivera would come all the way around to score to make it 2-0 Florida.

In the seventh, the greatest stroke of fortune hit Florida. With two outs and Christian Hicks on third base, sophomore shortstop Deacon Liput came to bat. He went after the first pitch he saw and hit a routine ground ball to first base.

As junior first baseman Connor Wanhanen prepared to field the ball, it struck first base and ricocheted to his right. Liput dashed into first base safe and Hicks came in to give the Gators a 3-0 lead. It was one of the more bizarre plays in Omaha, and it seemed fitting that Florida found themselves on the beneficiary side of it.

Offensive Performers
Christian Hicks picked a good time to heat up as he was the only Gator with multiple hits in the game. Going 2-3, Hicks doubled in the fifth, tripled in the seventh, scored a run, and had one RBI. For the remainder of the lineup, Deacon Liput went 1-4 out of the leadoff spot with his whacky RBI single in the seventh.

In the three-hole, junior first baseman JJ Schwarz notched his second hit of this College World Series with a double in the sixth inning. Behind JJ in the cleanup spot, sophomore right fielder Nelson Maldonaldo went 1-4 with a single in the fourth inning.

In the five-hole, freshman left fielder Austin Langworthy remained a rally starter as he went 1-4 with a leadoff double in the second inning. In the six-hole, sophomore third baseman Jonathan India went 1-4 as he moved Austin to third base with a second inning single into left field.

Both teams played perfect defense with neither club recording an error. For Florida, it would be their third consecutive errorless game. The Orange and Blue also picked off their third baserunner of the College World Series in this game.

In the fourth inning with one out, Alex Faedo caught senior shortstop Ryan Merrill leaning too far off first base. Merrill would be Faedo's second pickoff victim in Omaha, with teammate Nolan Brown being the first in the very same inning of the opening game.

Final Takeaway
With their season on the line for the third time in the NCAA Tournament, the Florida Gators answered the call. Now, they will prepare to do what neither team in 2005 or 2011 could do: Bring a baseball national championship to Gainesville.

Before previewing Florida's matchup against a very familiar opponent in the College World Series Finals, here are my final (lengthier than usual) tidbits on one of the biggest Florida Gator baseball victories in recent memory:

  • Florida is now 17-22 all-time in the College World Series.
  • Matching their 3-0 victory over TCU from Sunday, the Gators now improve their all-time record against the Horned Frogs to 2-1.
  • Alex Faedo tied his own single-game College World Series strikeout record with 11 K's yet again. He has now surpassed LSU's Alex Lange as the nation's strikeout leader with 157 punch outs.
  • In tonight's contest, Faedo became Florida's single-season strikeout leader. The record (148) had been previously set by Rob Bonano in 1994.
  • I'm not done with Faedo yet. In his two College World Series starts this postseason, he boasts a stat line of 14.1 innings pitched, zero runs allowed on five total hits, 22 strikeouts, and six walks.
  • It gets even crazier on the broader scale. In 33.1 innings of this 2017 NCAA Tournament, Faedo has allowed three runs (two earned) on 20 hits. He has struck out 51 batters while walking 22.
  • Florida notched their 50th victory tonight, giving them their third consecutive season with at least 50 wins. This is the fourth time under Kevin O'Sullivan that Florida has hit the 50-win mark and sixth time in school history.
  • This is Christian Hicks's 18th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Langworthy's double was his ninth, Hicks's double was his 11th, and JJ's was his 12th of the season.
  • Hicks's triple was both his first of the year and his career.
  • Nelly leads all Florida players with four hits in this College World Series.
  • Florida shortstop Dalton Guthrie had to exit the game in the third inning due to lower back pain. He says he will be alright for the National Championship.
  • Despite Florida again tagging him with the loss, TCU ace Jared Janczak (9-2, 2.31 ERA) threw well. He allowed three earned runs on three hits in seven innings. He struck out seven Gators and hit only Mike.
  • After Janzak left, sophomore right-hander Durbin Feltman was untouchable in relief. He struck out five of the six Gators he faced.
  • All four of TCU's hits were singles.
  • Senior outfielder Ryan Larson has zero hits in his last 23 at-bats with 11 strikeouts. If you ask me, he should not be in the lineup over the course of the championship series. He is just not the same after the injury he suffered in the SEC Tournament.
  • 18,093 people were on hand to watch the Gators clinch a spot in the Finals.

Looking Ahead
So it all comes down to this. In the best-of-three College World Series Finals, the No. 3 Florida Gators (50-19) will be taking on the No. 4 LSU Tigers (52-18) in an all-SEC National Championship. This is the third time that two SEC schools have met in the championship round of the College World Series.

For Florida, it has to be a familiar feeling of sorts as they hooked up with South Carolina in the 2011 National Championship. They had lost the regular season series to the Gamecocks that year and went on to lose the National Championship in a two-game sweep. Six years later and Florida has limped into the title game still seeking that first championship.

I say "limped" because Nelson Maldonaldo is the only Gator hitting above .300 as the offense has begun to sputter. From a health standpoint, Dalton Guthrie, Nelly, and Garrett Milchin are all banged up with Alex Faedo unable to go unless a Game 3 is needed. I know Florida's backs have been up against the wall all season, but this is going to be the toughest mountain yet to climb.

On the flip side, LSU is looking to capture their seventh title after winning it all in 2009. They enter the championship round having won three straight elimination games and slaying the giant that was No. 1 Oregon State (56-6). They have first round ace Alex Lange (10-5, 2.97 ERA) rested for a potential Game 2 clincher and the offense is getting hot at the right time.

The Gators and Tigers are all too familiar with each other. They have met 109 times with Florida trailing the series 47-61-1. Since Sully took over in 2008 though, Florida is 18-11 against LSU. This will be the fifth meeting between these two rivals in the College World Series. The previous four matchups have not at all gone Florida's way, as they are 0-4 all-time against LSU in Omaha.

Earlier this season, these two hooked up for a three-game set at the Mac in mid-March. Florida took the first two games by scores of 1-0 and 8-1 while LSU won the final game 10-6 with a dramatic eighth inning comeback. That loss would ultimately come back to bite Florida, as they had to "share" the SEC regular season title with the Bayou Bengals.

In the SEC Tournament, these two were destined to meet for the fourth straight year, but a 16-0 drubbing to Arkansas knocked Florida out in the semifinals. It only made the Tigers' path easier in Hoover as they claimed their 12th SEC Tournament title by a score of 4-2 over Arkansas. This gave them a more valid claim to being the true champions of the SEC.

Well now the ultimate SEC champion can be decided as these two meet on the biggest stage of Division I college baseball. With all the animosity that these fanbases have toward each other, it almost seems fitting that the 2017 NCAA Division 1 Baseball National Championship will be the next chapter in this historic (and sometimes pretty nasty) rivalry.

On a personal level, I have had some of my friends dub this National Championship as the "Gonzo Series". The reason being that Florida is my alma mater and LSU is my law school. It is still surreal to me that both schools that I have academic ties to are playing one another in the championship series.

Even though it pretty much is a win-win for me, I will be pulling hard for my Gators. I have been this team's unofficial beat reporter for the last two seasons and I would want nothing more than for them to cap off my final writing days with a National Championship. Whether they have the personnel or offensive prowess to do it though is not for me to say.

Game 1 of what will be an awesome championship series is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, June 26th. Sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (8-5, 3.18 ERA) will get the nod for Florida in the biggest game of his career while LSU's starter is still to be determined. The contest can be seen on ESPN and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

*All stats accredited to


Saturday, June 24, 2017

2017 College World Series: No. 6 TCU Blasts No. 3 Florida in Rematch

The No. 4 Florida Gators (49-19) still remain one win away from the College World Series Finals after losing their semifinal game to the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs (50-17) by a score of 9-2.

Making his first College World Series start, sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (12-1, 4.15 ERA) came out of the gates firing. He struck out five consecutive TCU batters to start the game while tallying a total of 11 punch outs in only five innings of work. His 11 K's would tie Florida's single-game College World Series strikeout record that Alex Faedo had set on Sunday night at TCU's expense.

Despite all their swings and misses, TCU made it count when they made contact off of Kowar. They tagged him for six base knocks which resulted in four runs. Kowar also walked two batters and had a couple of wild pitches that the Horned Frogs would capitalize on.

At the start of the sixth inning, Kowar was removed with his pitch count at 94. Freshman right-hander Garrett Milchin would enter in his place with Florida down 4-2. Pitching for the first time since May 14th against Alabama, it was evident that the Windermere product had some rust to shake off.

After a groundout on the second pitch of the inning, Milchin began to lose his command. He walked the next batter on a full count, gave up a single on an 0-2 count, and then issued his second free pass of the inning on four pitches.

On his second pitch to junior leadoff man Austen Wade, Milchin tweaked something in his throwing hand and had to come out of the game. It was now up to senior right-hander Frank Rubio with the bases juiced. Trying to avoid the big inning, the side-armer induced a groundout to sophomore third baseman Jonathan India on his third pitch of the inning.

India fielded the ball cleanly and instead of coming home with the ball, he tried to turn a 5-4-3 double play. He got the out at second base, but Florida was unable to turn two and end the inning. It was now 5-2 TCU with the run being charged to Milchin.

After a stolen base and another walk on a full count, TCU broke this game wide open. With the count 2-2 and junior catcher Evan Skoug up to bat, the seventh round draft pick smacked a bases clearing double into right center field. Two of those runs were charged to Milchin and it was now 8-2 TCU. The nail was essentially in the coffin for Florida. A grounder would end the inning, but the damage had been done.

Frank would work a perfect seventh, but would again hit a wall in the eighth. After a leadoff walk followed by a pop up, Frank gave up a one-out single on a hit-and-run. With runners on the corners, TCU got another run on a fielder's choice to junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie. It was now 9-2 Horned Frogs. Frank would get a groundout to conclude the inning.

In the ninth, Frank had no problems. He allowed a two-out single, but a groundout three pitches later would end the inning. Frank would finish with a stat line of 62 pitches thrown in 3.2 innings of relief. He allowed two earned runs on three hits while striking out one batter and walking two. Jackson Kowar's unblemished record would come to an end, as this would be his first loss of the season.

The Gator offense reverted to their anemic ways with just two runs on five hits. Both of Florida's runs came in the fourth inning by means of a Mike Rivera home run and a Dalton Guthrie double.

No Gator had multiple hits in this game. Dalton Guthrie went 1-4 out of the two-hole and had to settle for his ninth double of the year after missing a three-run home run by six inches. In the cleanup spot, sophomore designated hitter Nelson Maldonaldo went 1-4 with a bloop single in the sixth inning.

Skipping down to the eight-hole, junior catcher Mike Rivera went 1-2 with a walk and his third home run of the year. The rest of Florida' hits came from pinch hitters. Keenan Bell notched the 26th base knock of his freshman campaign with a single in the ninth inning. In the same frame, fellow freshman Andrew Baker obtained his fourth-career collegiate hit with a single that moved Baker to third base.

Final Takeaway
The Gators have been loose and easy-going throughout the entire College World Series, but this loss has to add some form of pressure. No Florida team has ever blown a 2-0 semifinal lead, and it looks like the bats may be trending downwards.

However, Florida does have the ideal situation going into their third elimination game of this postseason. I'll explain why after the tidbits from this loss:

  • Florida is now 16-22 all-time in the College World Series.
  • The Gators' all-time record against TCU is now 1-1.
  • Deacon Liput's seven-game hitting streak is now over after an 0-4 night.
  • Liput's team lead for steals is gone too, as Jonathan India nabbed his 13th stolen base in the fourth inning.
  • TCU's top offensive performers (Part I) were: right fielder Austen Wade (2-5 a double, two runs scored, two RBI's, and a stolen base) and freshman designated hitter Zach Humphreys (1-3 with a double, a run scored, two RBI's, and two walks).
  • TCU's top offensive performers (Part II) were: Evan Skoug (2-5 with a double and three RBIs). senior third baseman Elliott Barzilli (2-5 with a run scored) and sophomore left fielder Josh Watson (2-3 with a triple, two runs scored, two RBI's, and a walk).
  • TCU freshman right-hander Charles King (1-3, 5.44 ERA) was sensational in relief. Throwing 3.1 innings, King allowed zero runs on just one hit while fanning five Gators.
  • TCU senior shortstop Ryan Merrill made the only error of the game in the fourth inning, but it would not come back to hurt the Horned Frogs.
  • I didn't say this the last two articles, but the strike zone was terrible for both teams. It has been like this the entire College World Series and it is a disgrace to baseball how inconsistent the home plate umpires have been.
  • 25, 329 were in attendance for this semifinal matchup.

Looking Ahead
So here we are. The season and a trip to the title game is on the line for No. 3 Florida (49-19) as they take on No. 6 TCU (50-17) for the third and final time. Elaborating on what I said earlier, Florida has everything lined up as the pitching combination will be Alex Faedo, Tyler Dyson, and Michael Byrne.

The trio was untouchable against TCU on Sunday night, so hopefully they have a repeat performance on tap. Ideally, Faedo gets an early lead and eats up seven innings before Dyson and Byrne close it out in the eighth and ninth.

For TCU, they will trot out redshirt sophomore right-hander Jared Janczak (9-1, 2.19), who suffered his first loss of the season to Florida in their first meeting. Expect the TCU ace to be ready to go after not getting it done in the opening round against the Gators.

This will be a low-scoring game where runs will be at a premium. If either team can get to the other's ace early, then it may be game over. For Florida though, they do have the luxury of trotting out Dyson or Byrne in the event that Faedo gets into trouble with the game hanging in the balance.

Granted, Faedo himself can work out of high-leverage situations fairly well, but just having that safety net there has to make Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan breathe a sigh of relief.

First pitch is slated for 8 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network (which again is the best commentary to listen to if you feel that the ESPN announcers are coming off as biased). Regardless of who wins, the victor will be playing for the first national championship in school history next week!

*All stats accredited to


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2017 College World Series: No. 3 Florida Advances to Semifinals with Win Over No. 7 Louisville

The No. 3 Florida Gators (49-18) are within a win of the College World Series Finals after defeating the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals (53-11) by a score of 5-1 on Tuesday night.

Making his first-career College World Series start, sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (8-5, 3.18 ERA) was incredible. He delivered seven strong innings and yielded just one run on six hits with nine strikeouts and one walk.

Singer had four 1-2-3 innings and struck out the side in the third inning. Only three times the whole game did a runner reach third base against him. The first occurrence was in the sixth inning and nothing came of it as Singer ended the frame with a strikeout.

In the seventh, Louisville finally tagged Singer for a run and eventually loaded the bases down 5-1 with two outs. After falling behind 2-0 to leadoff man Logan Taylor, Singer delivered a strike before inducing an inning-ending groundout to Dalton Guthrie at shortstop.

At 101 pitches and with Florida comfortably up four runs, Singer's night was over after escaping the seventh inning jam. In the eighth, junior left-hander Nick Horvath took over. He dispatched the first two batters easily before giving up a double to fourth overall pick Brendan McKay.

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan had seen enough and pulled Horvath for freshman right-hander Tyler Dyson. His first batter would be Cardinal third baseman Drew Ellis. The count would go full on the junior, but ultimately Dyson would win the battle as he got Ellis to foul out down the first base line to end the inning.

Returning for the ninth, Dyson used a groundout and two strikeouts to secure the Gator victory. Dyson's effectiveness was critical as it prevented Florida from having to use closer Michael Byrne for the second straight game. No save stat would be issued in this game, but Brady Singer was awarded his eighth victory of the season.

Florida slugged their way past Louisville on just five hits that produced five runs. The Gators struck for one run in the third, three in the fourth, and one in the seventh. All of Florida's run production came from the bottom of the lineup as the five through eight-hole hitters had at least one base knock.

Out of the eight-hole, freshman left fielder Austin Langworthy jumpstarted the offense in the third inning. With the count 0-1, Langworthy smacked a pitch down the left field line that barely stayed fair to give Florida an early 1-0 advantage. It would be his only hit of the evening and one of two Florida home runs on the night.

The second Florida long ball would come off the bat of sophomore second baseman Deacon Liput, who was the only Gator with multiple hits in the game. Going 2-3, Liput hit a big three-run home run into the right field bullpen to extend the lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning. In addition to his three RBI's, Liput scored twice and drew a walk. His dinger came with two outs and the count at 1-2.

The remaining Gators with hits were sophomore third baseman Jonathan India (1-4 with a run scored and a stolen base) and junior catcher Mike Rivera (1-4 with an RBI double in the seventh inning). Though hitless on the night, sophomore right fielder Nelson Maldonaldo drew a walk and scored on Liput's homer.

Florida committed no errors in this game while Louisville had one. It came in the fourth inning when senior right fielder Colin Lyman dropped a fly ball off the bat of Mike Rivera. This fielding gaffe would not come back to hurt the Cardinals.

Final Takeaway
This was a huge win for Florida as they are now on the brink of playing in the third College World Series Finals in school history! Before previewing their next matchup, here are my final thoughts on the win over Louisville:

  • Florida is now 16-21 all-time in the College World Series
  • This is the first time since 2011 that Florida has started 2-0 in the College World Series.
  • Florida is now 5-1 all-time against Louisville.
  • Deacon Liput's homer was just his third of the year while Austin Langworthy's was his fourth.
  • This was Liput's 14th multi-hit game of the season and he has now hit safely in seven straight games.
  • Jonathan India's stolen base in the fourth inning was his 12th of the season, tying him with Deacon Liput for the team lead.
  • Mike Rivera's double was his seventh of the season.
  • Despite giving up four runs on two big flies, Louisville junior starter Kade McClure (8-4, 3.58 ERA) was not terrible. He allowed just three hits while walking Nelly and striking out nine Gators.
  • Louisville's top offensive performer was none other than Brendan McKay. He went 2-4 with two doubles and a run scored. Colin Lyman was the one who plated him in the bottom of the seventh inning.
  • 22,222 fans (talk about even) were in attendance for this SEC/ACC showdown.

Looking Ahead
Now in the driver's seat, No. 3 Florida will await the winner of the TCU/Louisville elimination game. Regardless, the semifinals will be a rematch and whoever survives will have to face Florida's undefeated sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (12-0, 4.00 ERA) on Friday night.

After two years of sheer disappointment, it is crazy to think that Florida is one win away from playing for a national championship! They cannot think too far ahead though, as both No. 6 TCU (48-17) or No. 7 Louisville (53-11) are still lurking out there.

First pitch for Florida's first crack at reaching the College World Series Finals is set for 8 p.m. on Friday, June 23rd. The game can be seen on ESPN and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network (which, I may add, is pretty insightful and worth a listen).

As for No. 7 Louisville... I've made it quite clear. They will play No. 6 TCU with their season on the line. First pitch is set for 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 22nd, and the game can be seen on ESPN.


Monday, June 19, 2017

2017 College World Series: No. 3 Florida Shuts Out No. 6 TCU in Opening Round

In their opening game of the 2017 College World Series, No. 3 Florida Gators (48-18) blanked the No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs (47-17) with a 3-0 victory.

Making his third-career College World Series start, junior right-hander Alex Faedo (7-2, 2.55 ERA) continued to solidify his status as a first round draft pick. He yielded just two hits, struck out 11 TCU batters, and walked only two as he threw seven shutout innings on 106 pitches.

Faedo's only jam occurred in the third inning when TCU loaded the bases with one out and Florida up 1-0. He proceeded to strike out the next two batters, including seventh round draft pick Evan Skoug, to escape the inning with no damage.

After stranding a couple more runners in the fourth, Faedo put it on cruise control as he retired 10 straight Horned Frogs. In the eighth inning, sophomore closer Michael Byrne came on for Faedo with a 3-0 Florida lead.

The first TCU batter to greet Byrne was junior first baseman Connor Wanhanen, who led off the inning with a bunt single. After a strikeout for the first out of the inning, Byrne gave up a hit to senior shortstop Ryan Merrill to bring the tying run to the plate.

This was TCU's first legitimate scoring threat since loading the bases in the third inning. The next batter would hit a tailor-made double play ball to sophomore second baseman Deacon Liput, but he had trouble getting it out of his mitt.

As a result, the Gators got just the one out at second base. It was now first and third with two down and the tying run up to bat. TCU opted for a pinch hitter and went with redshirt senior Evan Williams. Byrne would send him right back to the dugout with a five-pitch strikeout to end the frame.

In the ninth, it was less dramatic as Byrne sandwiched two strikeouts in-between a double. With only the shutout in jeopardy, Byrne induced the game-ending groundout to third base and secured the critical opening round victory.

It would be Byrne's 17th save of his record-breaking season and earn Alex Faedo his eighth win of the 2017 campaign.

Florida remembered to bring their bats to Omaha this time around as the offense scored three runs on nine hits! Florida did their damage in the first, fourth, and fifth innings as they plated one run in all of those frames.

The Gators had two players with multiple hits on the night. First was junior two-hole man Dalton Guthrie, who went 2-2 with a walk and a run scored in the fifth. Next was sophomore clean-up hitter Nelson Maldonaldo. Playing this game with a tweaked ankle, Nelly went 2-4 with a double and an RBI single in the fifth. He would be replaced with Nick Horvath after his at-bat in the seventh inning.

For the rest of the Gator lineup, five players had a base knock. Junior first baseman JJ Schwarz went 1-4 out of the three-hole with an RBI ground out to kick off the scoring in the first. In the six-hole, Deacon Liput went 1-4

Moving down the lineup, freshman outfielder Austin Langworthy responded well to the big stage with a 1-3 performance out of the seven-hole. He drew one walk as well. Behind him, junior designated hitter Christian Hicks went 1-2 out of the nine-hole with a walk and an RBI single in the fourth inning.

Keeping it in the nine-hole, junior pinch-hitter Mark Kolozsvary recorded a two-out knock in the ninth inning with an infield single. Among the Gators with no hits, both senior outfielder Ryan Larson and junior catcher Mike Rivera drew a walk and scored. Larson came around on the Schwarz groundout and Rivera crossed the plate on Hicks's single.

Despite two uncharacteristic errors from Dalton Guthrie at shortstop, Florida made some terrific plays in the field. Most of these plays came from the battery combination of Alex Faedo and Mike Rivera. They are as follows:

Second Inning
With TCU senior Cam Warner on first base with one out, Alex Faedo struck out Elliott Barzilli. Alertly, Mike Rivera threw behind to first base to pick off Warner for the inning-ending double play.

Fourth Inning
Guthrie's second error of the night would put Cam Warner on first base to start the inning. On a ball in the dirt, he tried to take second base to get into scoring position. Rivera would have none of that. He scooped the ball out of the dirt and threw a laser to Dalton Guthrie to hose Warner at second.

The Gators were not quite done eliminating TCU baserunners after getting Warner for the second time in the game. With speedster Nolan Brown on first base, Faedo caught the redshirt senior leaning and threw back to first base to pick him off and end the frame.

Sixth Inning
With TCU desperate for some kind of offensive spark, freshman designated hitter Zach Humphreys laid down a one out bunt towards third base. Leaping off the mound, Alex Faedo barehanded the ball and threw a rocket to first base to get Humphreys by half a step.

TCU Miscues
Rivaling Florida with two errors of their own, TCU's mistakes would actually hurt them. In the first inning, redshirt sophomore starter Jared Janczak threw the ball away when he tried to pick off Ryan Larson at first base. Larson would ultimately score.

In the seventh, Connor Wanhanen dropped a fly ball in foul territory off the bat of Deacon Liput. It would not matter though, as Liput flew out to second base for the second out of the inning.

Final Takeaway
For the first time since their route of Miami in 2015, the Florida Gators have won their opening game in the College World Series! Before previewing their next matchup, here are my final tidbits on the shutout victory:

  • Florida is now 15-21 all-time in the College World Series. They improve to 6-5 in the opening round.
  • This is Florida's eighth shutout of the year and it is just the second time that TCU has been shut out all season.
  • The last time Florida earned a shutout in a CWS game was in 1991. The opponent was none other than Florida State!
  • Faedo's 11 strikeouts is a new school record for punch outs in a single CWS game! It surpasses his own record of nine against Texas Tech last season.
  • Florida worked TCU ace Jared Janczak (9-1, 2.19 ERA) for a career-high five walks and also pinned him with his first loss of 2017.
  • The Gators now have an advantage on TCU as they lead the all-time series 1-0.
  • This is Guthrie's 22nd and Nelly's 17th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Nelly's double now gives him eight on the year.
  • Both staffs brought their A-game tonight. Florida struck out 15 Horned Frogs while TCU fanned seven Gators.
  • TCU's leading offensive performer was Cam Warner, who went 2-4 with a double.
  • The fans of both teams and college baseball in general showed out for this one as 23,543 were in attendance.

Looking Ahead
Now one step closer to that coveted national championship, the No. 3 Florida Gators (48-18) will turn their attention to the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals (53-10). With their 8-4 win over the Texas A&M Aggies (41-22), the Cardinals notched their first-ever opening round victory and just their second overall win in the College World Series.

These two programs have faced off on five total occasions with Florida holding a 4-1 series advantage. The last time they met was in 2009 when the Gators swept the Cardinals in a three-game set at the Mac. Louisville's lone win over Florida came all the way back in March of the 2000 season.

Fast-forward eight years and their sixth-ever matchup comes with the stakes even higher. Louisville has never won two games in a single College World Series, while Florida is seeking their sixth semifinals appearance in school history.

This marquee matchup will take place on Tuesday, June 20th at 7 p.m. Florida will trot out sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (7-5, 3.29 ERA) for the start while Louisville will counter with either junior right-hander Kade McClure (8-3, 3.43 ERA) or senior right-hander Jake Sparger (5-1, 3.86 ERA). The game can be seen on ESPN and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

As for No. 6 TCU (47-17), they will head to the loser's bracket and face a very familiar opponent in the Texas A&M Aggies. The Horned Frogs had defeated the Aggies to advance to their past two College World Series, and this will be the first-ever meeting between both squads in Omaha. First pitch for this elimination game is set for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, June 20th, and it can be seen on ESPN.