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College World Series open thread: Gators chomp into championship series

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Florida is seeking their first-ever national title in baseball.

The Florida Gators have staved off elimination at each level of this year’s NCAA baseball tournament, and have been rewarded with a chance to win it all in the College World Series finals. Florida is making an appearance in the championship series for the third time in program history.

Tonight, the Gators kick off their best-of-three series with the LSU Tigers. These two SEC programs take the field at 7:00 p.m., with the game airing on ESPN, and available via streaming on WatchESPN.

This will be the third All-SEC final in the College World Series. The last time two SEC teams played for the title was in 2011, when South Carolina bested Florida. LSU will be playing for their seventh national championship this week; they last won it all in 2009.

These two schools have no love lost between them, mostly stemming from the fallout of the Gators and Tigers’ Hurricane Matthew rescheduled gridiron match-up. Florida and LSU shared the regular season SEC baseball title this year. The two teams also met once before this season, with the Gators taking a 2-1 series over the Tigers in March.

Brady Singer gets the start on the mound for the Gators this evening. Alex Faedo has been the story for Florida in Omaha, and rightfully so, but Singer was pretty sensational in his own right in his lone outing at TD Ameritrade Park. He struck out nine during his seven innings in the Gators’ 5-1 win over Louisville.

The sophomore right-hander also tossed a complete-game against the Tigers in one of their March meetings with the Gators. He threw a six-hitter in Florida’s 3-1 win.

As far as the Gators’ pitching strategy for the championship series goes, Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan indicated that Tyler Dyson or Michael Byrne would start tomorrow. There is a chance that Faedo could appear on Wednesday, should the Gators and Tigers need a third game, and he would be pitching on three days rest. Jackson Kowar would also be available for game three, and would likely start.

But Florida has struggled some at the plate, with the Gators hitting just .230 in Omaha. Some added offense would be welcome to help ease the reliance on Florida’s pitching staff.

LSU advances to the championship series with the Gators after opening with a win over Florida State, getting walloped by Oregon State, eliminating FSU, and then rebounding from their shellacking by the Beavers to beat them twice on back-to-back days to move on.

The Tigers will go with senior right-hander Russell Reynolds tonight. It will be the first start of the season for Reynolds. Freshman reliever Zach Hess could also be available, and has been impressive so far in Omaha. Like Florida, the Tigers are finding the need to adjust their pitching schedule. LSU played five games in the last eight days, while the Gators played four in the last seven. Jared Poche will pitch Tuesday for the Tigers. LSU’s ace, Alex Lange, pitched 7 13 innings for the Tigers on Friday, and is possible for Wednesday.

LSU is collectively hitting .241 as a team in Omaha. The Tigers have seven home runs in their five games there, including two from Michael Papierski in their clinching win over Oregon State. Papierski became the first player in the 71-year history of the College World Series to hit a home run from both sides of the plate in the same game.

Florida has lacked depth and dynamic offense at time this season, but the Gators have been able to rely on a recipe of stout pitching and solid defense to carry them through. That recipe has taken Florida all the way to the CWS finals. If the Gators’ dominant pitching can eclipse LSU’s capable offense, Florida has a great chance in this match-up - not only just tonight, but to win it all.

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