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College World Series open thread: Gators face must-win

Florida has staved off elimination twice this NCAA postseason. Can they do it again?

What I wrote yesterday before the Florida Gators’ second 2017 College World Series match-up with TCU still holds true today - the Gators are just one win away from the championship series.

It would have naturally been nicer if Florida had been able to secure that advancing win yesterday, but the Gators still have the opportunity to do so today, and have that chance by virtue of starting their run in Omaha 2-0.

Today, Florida and TCU meet for the third time at this year’s CWS, and this time it’s winner-take-all. The Gators and Horned Frogs get back to it at 8:00 p.m., tonight, on ESPN, and streaming via WatchESPN.

TCU toppled Florida last night, 9-2, to force tonight’s elimination game. Both teams need a win today to advance to the championship series. Florida opened their CWS run with a 3-0 defeat of the Horned Frogs that sent TCU to the loser’s bracket. But the Frogs climbed back out, and have now survived three straight elimination games in Omaha to force a fourth with the Gators.

Florida is also no stranger to elimination games this NCAA postseason. Despite not having faced one yet in Omaha, the Gators overcame elimination in both the Gainesville Regional and the Gainesville Super Regional. Florida was the only team to survive elimination twice to make the College World Series this season.

Yesterday against the Horned Frogs, Florida sophomore pitcher Jackson Kowar threw a career-high 11 strikeouts, but also allowed six hits and four runs in five innings. The Gators were not at their sharpest in their second meeting with TCU. Ryan Larson ran through third and was thrown out scrambling back to base, left-fielder Austin Langworthy had trouble with a pair of doubles in the third, and Nick Horvath’s step in ended up letting a two-run TCU triple by.

Kowar’s career-high strikeout performance added to Florida’s impressive Omaha pitching presence. His 11 strikeouts, coupled with Alex Faedo’s 11 on Sunday and Brady Singer’s nine on Tuesday, made the Gators the third team in the last 30 years to have three different pitchers with nine or more strikeouts in a CWS game.

Florida is looking to do something tonight that they have only done once before - win an elimination game in the CWS after losing to the same team in the previous game. The last time that happened was in 2005, when the Gators defeated Arizona to advance to the championship series.

Alex Faedo will get the start on the mound for the Gators. Rising freshman Tyler Dyson and closer Michael Byrne are available in the bullpen. As Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan explained, this team has relied on great starting pitching all season. The offense has been inconsistent and they have had to battle for many of their wins. The defense has been solid, but had an uncharacteristically off night yesterday.

Each team still in Omaha is sporting one loss, and is facing potential elimination tonight. LCU and Oklahoma State play in the other side of the bracket. The Gators will need another impressive outing from Faedo, a solid defensive effort, and some measure of an offensive output, in order to advance.

Florida survived elimination in the Gainesville Regional and the Gainesville Super Regional. Tonight, we’ll see if they can survive their biggest test yet.

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