For about two innings, it looked like Florida State had a chance of once again shocking No. 1 Florida in the Gainesville Super Regional. A.J. Puk was alternating between walks and strikeouts, and the Florida offense had managed just one run from a juicy situation in the bottom of the first.
Then Peter Alonso deposited another ball outside of the field of play. Then Dane Dunning came in and ran through Florida State's lineup. Then JJ Schwarz broke out of his late-season swoon with a grand slam.
Now, the Gators are going back to Omaha.
Schwarz's grand slam was the biggest shot of Florida's 7-0 win over the Seminoles, one that completed a recovery from a Game 1 shutout on Saturday to earn passage to a second consecutive College World Series, and a fifth this decade.
The way the wins on Sunday and Monday — and Monday — came was heartening, too, especially given the Gators' spotty run of form since a blistering start to the season. After being hamstrung by FSU sophomore Drew Carlton in a two-hit shutout on Friday, Florida rapped out 10 hits in a 5-0 win that began on Sunday and ended shortly after midnight on Monday, then followed that effort with 13 hits on Monday.
The only extra-base knocks of the two games belonged to Alonso and Schwarz, who each had a double on Sunday before their round-trippers on Monday. But Florida also didn't need more than one run in either contest.
SEC Pitcher of the Year Logan Shore allowed just four base-runners and struck out nine Seminoles in eight innings of work on Sunday, collecting his sixth NCAA Tournament win in the process, and Puk and Dunning combined to strike out 11 and allow just five hits on Monday. Puk issued an alarming six walks and hit a batter in 3.2 innings of work, but also conceded just one hit, and managed to escape jams with key punchouts.
Dunning's 4.1 scoreless innings added to a fine 2.1 innings of relief in Saturday's Game 1, and allowed Florida to get out of the weekend using just four pitchers over its final 54 outs. The Seminoles had just seven hits over those two games after mustering three runs from six hits on Saturday against a Gators squad that looked tight and tense.
Shore's perennial brilliance showing up on Sunday seemed to relax the Gators. And Alonso and Schwarz muscling up on Monday made it clear that Florida would be going to Omaha.
What the Gators will do there, against a field so emaciated that Florida will meet Coastal Carolina in a first game on Sunday and cannot play more than four games against national seeds, is hard to scry, as Florida has rolled in as a top seed before and rolled over while there, and come in with less esteem and steamed to the final.
If they pitch and hit like they did over the last 48 hours, though, the Gators have as good a chance to win their first title as they ever have.