The 2016 College World Series begins on Saturday in Omaha, and after a worrying loss to Florida State in the first game of the Gainesville Super Regional last Saturday, the Florida Gators have looked like a team that could win their first national championship in the sport.
Florida blanked a powerful FSU lineup in Games 2 and 3 of that Super Regional, and finally got timely hitting from both Peter Alonso and JJ Schwarz at the same time, as both doubled in Sunday's Game 2 and homered in Monday's climactic Game 3. Couple that newfound offensive production — however brief — with a deep and talented pitching staff led by Logan Shore, and the Gators would seem to have all the tools to hoist a trophy.
But do we expect them to do that? I can't go that far myself.
In answering questions about Florida for SB Nation's Nebraska blog, Corn Nation — they love baseball over yonder! — I gave this answer about expectations.
I think most Florida fans want a title and know that this team can win one, but are a little less bullish on the expectations. I do think that the Gators should make the championship series out of a weaker bracket, especially with the gift of a seemingly far less talented and deep Coastal Carolina team in their first game, but the truth is that I don't know what to expect for certain. Florida has been both excellent and maddeningly cold in Omaha under Kevin O'Sullivan, and while the Gators that ripped off two shutout wins over Florida State should win it all, if the the ones that lost Game 1 to the Seminoles show up, they will be eating barbecue before next weekend.
And I'll stand by that, too. Florida's obviously good enough at its best, and even maybe at less than its best, to win the national title. But its worst, which we saw fairly recently, could get the Gators broomed, and I don't think it's fair to expect a team of amateurs ("amateurs"?) to be totally inured to having off days.
What do you think? Let us know in the first Friday Forum of 2016.