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.


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