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.



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