TCU and Florida will face on Sunday night in the opening game of the College World Series. These two teams were actually on the same side of the bracket last year, but never got to match up against one another due to Florida’s early 0-2 exit in the tournament. The Frogs started the season hot, and struggled through the last month or so of the regular season before getting hot again for the postseason. Since the regular season ended, the Frogs are 8-2, and 5-0 in the NCAA Tournament.
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. Since the end of the regular season Florida is 7-3, and 5-2 in the NCAA Tournament.
Over the last few weeks, TCU has been on arguably the best run of postseason pitching in school history. The pitching during the regular season was hit or miss, and has resulted in a team ERA of 4.02, and ERAs upwards of 4.00 for most of the starters and the closer at the end of the regular season. That isn’t even good enough to break into the top 50 nationally, and this is for a team that usually has one of the top 10, or at least top 25 team ERAs in the country.
That trend has been reversing though since the end of the regular season. The Fort Worth Star Telegram recently did a piece on TCU’s pitching renaissance.
The regular weekend starters for Florida 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.
After losing Luken Baker, there was much cause for concern offensively with the Frogs. But they have responded well with Wanhanen coming in and raising his batting average up to .273 from around .250 when Baker was injured. Skoug has been on a tear in the NCAA Tournament so far with three different three-run home runs and a game-winning two-run homer. He only failed to hit a homer in one for the five NCAA Tournament games so far. He now has 20 on the year, more than any other Horned Frog player has ever had under Jim Schlossnagle. Nolan Brown and Cam Warner have done a good job of protecting Skoug in the lineup as well, batting .293 and .292 respectively.
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.
TCU and Florida will face off in Game 4 of the College World Series at 6:00pm CT on Sunday, 6/18/17. The game will be televised on ESPN2.