In their first 2017 College World Series appearance, the Florida Gators followed a familiar script, and rode powerful pitching performances to victory.
Starter Alex Faedo and closer Michael Byrne shut down TCU in a 3-0 win which propelled the Gators to the winner’s bracket, where they will now face Louisville. The Gators are 4-1 all-time against the Cardinals, but the two programs have not met since 2009.
No. 3 seed Florida takes on No. 7 seed Louisville tonight at 7:00 p.m., on ESPN and streaming through WatchESPN.
Faedo was fantastic for Florida on Sunday, allowing just two hits and two walks over seven scoreless innings. He notched 11 strikeouts, which set a new Florida record for strikeouts at the College World Series. He has now totaled 33 strikeouts with just one run allowed in his 20 innings this postseason. Closer Michael Byrne earned his school record 17th save of the season with his two scoreless innings.
It will be Brady Singer’s turn on the mound for the Gators this evening. The sophomore right-hander was sharp in his Super Regional against Wake Forest. He allowed just three hits over six scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts in his two outings there, which were cut short due to rain.
The Gators’ offense had nine hits against the Horned Frogs on Sunday. Florida scored on a JJ Schwarz RBI grounder in the first inning, and RBI singles from Christian Hicks in the fourth inning and Nelson Maldonado in the fifth.
Florida is hitting .262 as a team and has had many inconsistent offensive performances this season. The Gators have scored three runs or fewer in four of their eight NCAA postseason games, and they needed extra innings to score more than three runs in a fifth.
In tonight’s match-up, Louisville appears to have the advantage at the plate. The Cardinals collectively bat .290, have five players who are hitting at least .291, and have scored at least five runs in each of their NCAA Tournament games.
Louisville advances to meet Florida after an 8-4 CWS opening victory over Texas A&M on Sunday. The Cardinals are thus far undefeated in this year’s NCAA Tournament (6-0) after winning their Regional, sweeping their Super Regional opponent (Kentucky), and knocking off the Aggies. Louisville has outscored their postseason opponents 49-22.
The Cardinals are led offensively by Drew Ellis, who sports a .366 batting average, 20 home runs, 18 doubles, a triple, and 61 RBI. Brendan McKay, their primary starting pitcher, is hitting .340 with 17 home runs, 13 doubles, a triple, and 56 RBI. Another offensive player to watch is Devin Hairston, who is batting .311 with three homers and 32 RBI.
Like Florida, the Cardinals started their ace pitcher on Sunday. McKay, who was the No. 4 overall selection in last week’s MLB Draft, got the start for the Cardinals against Texas A&M. Louisville’s other regular starting pitchers are Nick Kennett and Kade McClure.
Pitching should again be where Florida can make a difference. A combination of excellent defense and top-notch performances on the mound have fueled the Gators’ run so far this season. If executed, that formula - sprinkled with a dash of offense - should be able to continue to carry them further.
Full College World Series bracket information and times can be found here.