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College World Series open thread: Gators are one win away from championship series

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Florida faces TCU, hoping to earn a championship series berth.

One more win.

That is all that the Florida Gators need to advance to the College World Series championship series for the first time since 2011.

But this time of year in Omaha, wins can be harder to come by.

Florida gets their first crack at picking up that seminal win tonight, at 8:00 p.m., when they again face TCU - the opponent that the Gators defeated on Sunday in their CWS opener. That game will air on ESPN and be available via streaming on WatchESPN.

Luckily for the Gators, they have two chances to notch that one victory.

Florida is 2-0 so far in the CWS and riding high in the winner’s bracket. Should the Gators stumble tonight, they would again play the Horned Frogs, on Saturday, for another shot at punching their ticket to the best-of-three championship series.

The last two times that Florida started their Omaha run 2-0 they advanced to the championship series (2005 and 2011). The Gators have only won their first two games at the CWS three times.

Another fun fact about 2-0 starts in Omaha - 23 of the last 27 national champions have started their College World Series run by winning their first two games.

Sophomore pitcher Jackson Kowar will make his first career Omaha start for the Gators tonight. Kowar was regularly the Sunday starter for Florida this season. The right-hander is coming off his shortest outing of the year after playing just over four innings against Wake Forest in the Gainesville Super Regional.

Kowar sports a 12-0 record, a 4.00 ERA, and has 73 strikeouts with 42 walks in 101 1/3 innings this season. But the sophomore has given up eight hits in each of his last four starts, and allowed five runs on ten hits against Wake Forest, so he’ll be looking to rebound a bit against the Frogs.

Florida’s pitching has been superb so far in Omaha. The Gators have 26 strikeouts in 18 innings at this year’s CWS. Alex Faedo threw 11 strikeouts on Sunday, while Brady Singer tossed nine on Tuesday. If Kowar can put together a solid start for the Gators today, Florida should in good shape.

The Gators have gotten enough out of their offense, coupled with their outstanding performances on the mound, to keep them advancing in Omaha.

While Florida’s first four hitters in the lineup went 0-for-14 on Tuesday, the rest of the group went 5-for-18 with four RBIs, and the Gators got homers from Deacon Liput and Austin Langworthy. Shortstop Dalton Guthrie needs one more hit to tie the Florida record for most career hits (nine) at the CWS.

The Horned Frogs meet the Gators again after twice staving off elimination. After dropping their opener to Florida, TCU took care of Texas A&M, 4-1, and edged Louisville, 4-3. The Horned Frogs demonstrated resiliency and resolve in advancing past the brink of elimination two consecutive times, and will be going for a third season-saving win tonight.

TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle announced after the Horned Frogs’ advancing victory over Louisville that senior Mitchell Traver (3.79 ERA) will get the start on the mound for TCU. The 6’7” Traver will be making his 12th start of the season, having only pitched 40 13 innings so far this year.

Catcher Evan Skoug, TCU’s leader at the plate, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against the Gators on Sunday. He came into that match-up having hit four homers in five tournament games, and having 20 homers on the season. Other Horned Frogs to watch on offense include Austen Wade and senior shortstop Kevin Merrill, who hit a home run in TCU’s win over the Aggies, and had a two-run single in their defeat of Louisville.

If Florida can again follow the script they have in their first two wins in Omaha - dominant pitching and enough offense - the Gators will be in a prime position to return to the College World Series championship series.

Full College World Series bracket information and times can be found here.