clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sunday Brunch: Florida baseball shows why it's nation's best, No. 1 or not

The Gators have already taken two of three against the nation's No. 1 team. That's enough to consider this weekend a success, and a good portent.


No. 3 Florida's series against No. 1 Texas A&M, perhaps the showcase event of a loaded weekend of Gators sports in Gainesville, isn't over yet. There's still a third game between the Gators and Aggies on this Sunday, with first pitch at 2 p.m. and an ESPNU broadcast, if you want to watch it.

But the series is decided, over in all but the most literal sense. The Gators made sure of that Saturday night, with a come-from-behind 7-2 victory that gave them consecutive wins over the nation's top-ranked team and three straight wins over ranked outfits following two straight close losses at Kentucky.

Saturday's win was maybe more impressive than Friday's, in which Logan Shore's B+ stuff and two very good innings from Kirby Snead staked the Gators to a 7-0 lead that A&M only meaningfully cut into against back-of-the-bullpen reliever Frank Rubio in a doomed ninth-inning rally that made the final margin 7-4.

Pete Alonso homered again on Saturday, nabbing his third RBI of the night on his second shot in as many games, but that was about the only commonality between the two games: A&M jumped on Alex Faedo, making his first Saturday start, for two runs in the top of the first, getting them on a leadoff homer and a run that scored on a wild pitch after a throwing error turned a single into a runner in scoring position.

Then Florida roared back with three runs in the bottom of the first, another run in the second, two more in the fourth, and a last insurance run in the sixth, with Mike Rivera and Jeremy Vasquez driving home two runs each. After that adventurous first inning, Faedo allowed just two baserunners in his final five frames; after he departed, Dane Dunning allowed just three baserunners in his three-inning save.

Before Sunday's game even starts — a game, mind, in which Florida will throw perhaps the most talented pitcher in college baseball, A.J. Puk — the Gators already have their first home series win over a ranked team this year.

And it is over the No. 1 team in the country. And it came in dominant fashion.

I mentioned this while writing about the Gators following their 3-2 win over Florida State earlier this week, but this team came in with expectations somewhere beyond the sky — in the ionosphere, maybe. That comes with the territory of being so star-studded that three first-round picks could leave Gainesville after this season and there would still be at least a couple left for next year, and with the precociousness the Gators showed in rampaging to the College World Series in 2015, before crafty Virginia answered a question no one else but Kentucky seems to know how to approach: "How on earth do you beat Florida?"

Through two games, the nation's top-ranked team has seemed to lack even an ability to isolate variables. Jumping on Faedo early should have been a prelude to something for the Aggies, but Florida responding by roughing up Kyle Sirmonds and leading by the end of the inning — something the Gators have done after 17 of the 18 innings this weekend — showed that even an early lead does not scare this team. Rallying in the ninth on Friday only really meant that Shaun Anderson had to emerge from the pen and get an out.

And keeping JJ Schwarz and Buddy Reed mostly in check, something Texas A&M has done by allowing Florida's superb sophomore to contribute only a sacrifice fly and a single in a 1-for-8 weekend to date and limiting the Gators center fielder to a 2-for-10 performance that included an RBI single on Friday, simply has not mattered. The Gators are too deep up and down the lineup to be mowed down: Alonso emerging as a fearsome cleanup hitter is a great ongoing development, but little things like Jonathan India going 4-for-4 as Florida's No. 9 hitter on Friday and Vasquez coming out of his seeming sophomore slump to drive in runs in both games against the Aggies seem to happen every game.

I'm still more worried about that offense than anything, because seven runs a game could still be topped by, say, 10 runs a game, and because the Gators still have that potential if every hitter clicks at once. But I thought I was picking nits earlier this week; now, I feel like I'm walking around the Louvre, looking for flaws.

Florida has the best team in college baseball this year, even when it is not playing its absolute best ball, and we now have a rather breezy series victory against one of the other excellent teams as proof of that truth.

Whatever happens from here on in, we can be pretty sure of that.