The last time — the only time — Florida State came to Gainesville for a Super Regional showdown with Florida, it ended beautifully for the Gators.
In 2005, the Seminoles arrived in Gainesville with a No. 9 ranking and a gaudy 53-18 record. Florida was excellent in its own right, as the nation's No. 6 team, but had "just" a 43-20 mark on the year.
Still, the Gators lit up FSU starter Bryan Jones for seven runs in five innings in Game 1 of the Super Regional, as Florida starter Tommy Boss threw a complete game in an 8-1 win on June 9, 2005.
And Florida punched its ticket to Omaha before the weekend had even began: The Gators scored four runs in the top of the first inning in the series-clinching 8-5 victory on Friday, June 10, chasing FSU starter Mark Sauls after he recorded just two runs, and made use of four 'Noles errors by the double play combination of Tony Thomas and Ryne Jernigan to breeze by their in-state rivals. (Florida's Alan Horne allowed five runs, but did so over 8.1 innings of work.)
Florida never trailed in that series, and led by three or more runs after all but one frame — the third inning on Friday, when FSU cut Florida's lead to 4-2 — from the fourth inning of Game 1 onward.
But that's history. It's only relevant to the 2015 edition of the series in one sense: Florida would like to repeat it, and FSU will be desperately trying to avoid that outcome.
For the Gators, maintaining the phenomenal level of play that they have been at since their second game of the SEC Tournament could be enough to do the same damage to FSU one decade later. After losing to Arkansas in Hoover, Florida blitzed the next four teams it faced, all NCAA Tournament squads, to win the event, and then ripped off one of its best Regional performances ever in a 3-0 sweep last weekend.
Aces Logan Shore and A.J. Puk have been dynamite of late, helping Florida's pitching staff yield just six runs in its last seven games, and Florida's bats have churned out 59 runs over that same span.
No team in America is hotter than the Gators. And while FSU might have had a case of its own for that distinction after ripping through the ACC Tournament, and knocking off national seed Louisville in the process, the 'Noles struggled in the Tallahassee Regional, at least at first. Florida State needed a 10th inning to fend off No. 4 seed Mercer in the Regional opener, winning on a walk-off single, and then had to get an eighth-inning homer from Quincy Nieporte — whom Florida fans may remember from a walk-off homer and a flying bat in the 'Noles' regular season series-clinching win in April — to fend off the College of Charleston in a Saturday night clash.
But while FSU fans and coaches were stymied by rain that scrubbed much of the planned Sunday action in Tallahassee, the 'Noles righted the ship on a soggy field on Monday, getting 6.2 innings of scoreless work from Drew Carlton and four RBI from Nieporte in an 8-1 Regional clincher over College of Charleston.
The weekend revealed FSU's strengths — good starting pitching, led by Boomer Biegalski (two earned runs in 7.2 innings against C of C on Saturday) and Carlton, and timely hitting — but concealed the perceived weakness of Mike Martin's club, shaky relief. Seminoles relievers gave up just one run in 8.2 innings of work in the Tallahassee Regional, a refreshing change for a bullpen that has one pitcher, closer Billy Strode, with more than 10 appearances and an ERA lower than 2.50 this season.
Florida doesn't have any weaknesses on par with FSU's bullpen, and apart from experience — only four players on the Gators roster have seen a Super Regional before — it's hard to pinpoint any of them. Florida leads the nation in defensive efficiency, and pairing that sound defense with its gauntlet of young hitters and a pitching staff that is an embarrassment of riches has made the Gators great of late.
If Florida can keep that up, starting with Friday night's Game 1 — in which Shore will throw for the Gators, and Biegalski for the 'Noles — the Gators should have a College World Series berth by weekend's end.
Florida vs. Florida State Super Regional Schedule
|Game 1||7:45 p.m., Friday||Shore (8-6, 2.64 ERA) vs. Biegalski (7-4, 2.80 ERA)||ESPN2||Gator Sports Network||WatchESPN||NCAA.com||@GatorZoneBB|
|Game 2||5:00 p.m., Saturday||Puk (9-3, 3.80 ERA) vs. Compton (4-3, 3.03 ERA)||ESPN2||Gator Sports Network||WatchESPN||NCAA.com||@GatorZoneBB|
|Game 3 (if necessary)||TBD, Sunday||TBD vs. TBD||ESPN2 or ESPNU||Gator Sports Network||WatchESPN||NCAA.com||@GatorZoneBB|