Thread info up here, questions below the fold.
Florida plays for its College World Series life this evening, taking on MACinderella Kent State. The Gators will be eliminated from the 2012 College World Series with a loss, and will meet the loser of South Carolina-Arkansas in an elimination game.
5:00 p.m. Eastern
TV, Radio and Streaming Information
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2. You can also watch it streaming online or on your mobile device of choice through Watch ESPN. The radio broadcast will also be available on the Gator Radio Network.
Game Thread Guidelines
Try to remember that, despite how emotional watching a Gators game can be, there's no reason to be abusive. Rant, curse, or exult if you must, but keep the personal attacks to a minimum.
1. Can Florida Still Win A National Championship?
Yes. And not just mathematically.
Look, that stat that got passed around this weekend about only six teams since 1988 making it to the College World Series Championship Series after losing their first game is not a death sentence. It's not an arbitrary endpoint (the format changed to eight teams in two double-elimination brackets in 1988), but it doesn't even work as a scary number as well as the percentage of teams who have lost and then made it to the title round: 10.7 percent, or 6 of 56 Championship Round teams, have lost their first CWS games.
That all said: Florida's definitely talented enough to win any game against any team this year. And it's not like it's been a long time since a team lost and then won out: South Carolina did it in 2010.
2. Will Florida Beat Kent State Today?
I think so. Florida is a much more talented team than Kent State, which made a run to Omaha contingent on meeting two of the the lesser national powers (fading Kentucky and upstart Oregon) in the NCAA Tournament and scoring a slew of one-run wins (all four wins against the Wildcats and Ducks) on the way.
The Golden Flashes have a capable offense (they won a 31-20 game this year), anchored by shortstop Jimmy Rider (.362/.429/.533, six homers and 57 RBI) and first baseman George Roberts (.362/.391/553, eight homers and 64 RBI), though it rolled up most of its numbers against inferior MAC competition. And Ryan Bores, today's starter, boasts a 3.35 ERA.
But the Kent State bullpen is nothing special, and Florida's just got better players at virtually every position. If the Gators play their average game, they should be fine; if they play a good one, they'll roll.
3. Should Florida Have Saved Hudson Randall?
Randall is Florida's ace, and he'll likely throw six or seven good innings today and put Florida in a position to win. But he could have done that against Arkansas or South Carolina, too, and the Gators are well-built to absorb the possible blowup of a Karsten Whitson or Jonathon Crawford start. Keeping their flame-haired star in reserve might have served the Gators better.
4. Who Should Gators Fans Cheer For Later?
This will be a moot point if Florida loses*, so forgive the presumption, but rooting for either Arkansas or South Carolina tonight boils down to one thing: Would you rather see Florida get ultimate vengeance by beating South Carolina twice, or see Florida actually win a title?
I think Florida's chances of beating South Carolina twice in consecutive games are poor at best, especially with a rested Michael Roth probably throwing in one of them. The Gators' chances of beating Arkansas twice in a row are probably a lot better, considering that the Razorbacks' offense is not quite as great as either Florida's or South Carolina's and that Arkansas doesn't have Roth, and they would require only beating South Carolina once to test in reality.
So, yeah, go Gators. But maybe woo pig sooey or something after it?
(*If Florida loses, I'm probably not cheering for anyone.)