The Gators entered the CWS this year for the 11th time in school history, and for the sixth time since 2010. In all those trips they have been the runner-up twice, in 2005 and 2011, but have never brought home a national championship. This year they entered the field as the No. 3 national seed, and they are the highest ranked seed in TCU’s side of the bracket.
Florida began the season ranked No. 2 and No. 3 overall by D1 Baseball and Baseball America, respectively. Going into SEC play they were 13-5, and their conference action by going 2-4. They were swept on the road at Auburn and took two out of three to win their series against LSU at home the following weekend. After that they only lost one more series in conference, finishing with a record of 21-9 in the SEC and 47-18 overall.
Like TCU, the Gators earned a share of their conference’s regular season title. They ended the season with a conference record identical to LSU. Their series win over the Tigers gave them the benefit of the No. 1 seed in the SEC tournament, but both teams got a ring. The Gators went 2-1 in the SEC tournament, beating Auburn and Mississippi State before losing to Arkansas in the semi-finals. LSU, starting from the other side of the bracket, went on to win the SEC tournament.
The regular weekend starters are Alex Faedo, Brady Singer and Jackson Kower. Faedo is a junior right-hander from Tampa, Florida. He has an ERA of 2.55 and is 7-2 on the year and he was recently selected by the Detroit Tigers a the No. 18 overall pick in the draft. He has a fastball that sits 93-95 mph and a very good slider that drops off to 87 mph and he has 135 strikeouts in 109 1⁄3 innings pitched.
Brady Singer is a sophomore right-hander from Eustis, Florida. He has an ERA of 3.29 and is 7-5 on the year, leading the team in total innings pitched at 112. Jackson Kower is another sophomore righty, and the only weekend starter that doesn’t hail from Florida with his hometown being Charlotte, NC. He has a 4.00 ERA and an undefeated 12-0 record.
The Gators bullpen has a few special arms too. Michael Byrne has pitched 68 2⁄3 innings in his 34 appearances, sporting a 1.83 ERA and a record of 4-5. He has 82 strikeouts and has allowed just 15 walks. Garrett Milchin and Tyler Dyson have ERAs of 2.33 and 3.69 respectively and are a combined 7-2 on the year. Tyler Dyson pitched five innings of relief in the Super Regional championship game against Wake Forrest, allowing zero runs on just two hits with seven strikeouts.
This Gators team isn’t going to blow anyone away offensively. They are hitting .262 as a team and averaging 5.5 runs per game. Nelson Maldonado leads the team with a .304 batting average and 49 walks. He is third on the team in RBIs (31) and second in home runs hit (6). Jonathan India, hitting .280, is a perfect 11 for 11 in stolen base attempts, which also leads the team. He is second on the team in RBIs with 32. Their big hitter is JJ Schwarz. He’s batting .271 and leads the team with 12 home runs an 53 RBIs.
If we end up seeing Alex Faedo vs Jared Janczak in the opening round of the College World Series, that is going to be something to watch. The Gators went 0-2 in the CWS last year, so they are coming in with a big chip on their shoulder. If they make it past TCU in the opening round, they could cruise through to the finals. If they fall into the loser’s bracket, they have the pitching, but not quite enough offense I think to win multiple elimination games back-to-back.