Take a look at Florida’s Super Regional opponent, Wake Forest, and chances are that you will be struck by their offensive aptitude.
The Demon Deacons are one of the best hitting teams in the county, and have a school-record 100 home runs on the season. They are the first team to reach 100 homers in a season since new bats were introduced by the NCAA in 2011. (The Gators have 47 home runs this year.) Wake also boasts a .311 team batting average.
Florida faces the heavy hitting Deacons for a best-of-three game series this weekend in the Super Regional round of the NCAA tournament, with a trip to the College World Series on the line.
The two programs start their series today, Saturday, June 10, at 3:00 p.m., on ESPN. Game two is also at 3:00 p.m., on Sunday, June 11, and will also air on ESPN. If necessary, game three will be on Monday, June 12, at a time yet to be determined.
Wake Forest makes the Super Regional round for the first time since 1999 after sweeping the Winston-Salem Regional with a win over UMBC and two victories over West Virginia. Wake scored 27 runs over their three regional contests. Five Demon Deacons have hit ten or more home runs on the season, with Junior Gavin Sheets leading the team with 20 home runs and 81 RBIs.
So Wake Forest can hit, but the Gators can pitch; and the pitching mound is where the Gators stand to set themselves apart from the Deacons.
Florida starters Alex Faedo, Brady Singer, and Jackson Kowar make for a strong rotation, and closer Michael Byrne - with his school record 16 saves - is a reliable reliever. The Gators may have hit just .228 in their four games of regional play, but they limited their opponents to 14 runs (ten earned) over 39 innings.
The return of senior Ryan Larson could also provide a spark for Florida’s offense. Larson was hit in the head by a pitch in the Gators’ SEC Tournament game with Mississippi State and missed the Gainesville Regional. Larson is second on the team in hitting (.318) behind Nelson Maldonado. Larson’s replacement in the lineup, Nick Horvath, hit a team-high .308 in regional play.
Florida’s offense has been consistently inconsistent all year, but has shown that it is certainly capable of scoring. The Gators should be able to post some runs against a Wake Forest pitching staff that ranks 77th nationally with a collective 4.16 ERA.
One further note regarding Wake Forest’s outstanding offensive numbers - the Demon Deacons do have a hitter-friendly home stadium. Wake Forest’s David F. Couch Ballpark is 310 feet down the left field line, 370 to left-center, 400 to center, 367 to right-center. and 300 down the right field line. By comparison, McKethan Stadium plays larger at 326 down the left field line, 365 to left-center, 400 to center, 375 to right-center and 321 down the right field line.
The Gators hope to earn a third straight trip to the College World Series, which would match the school record for consecutive appearances set from 2010-2012. Florida has reached the College World Series five times in the last seven seasons - which is more than any other program in the nation during that span.
Florida is only two wins away from that third consecutive Omaha trip, and from improving that nation-best CWS appearance streak.
Full NCAA Tournament bracket information and times can be found here.