The Florida Gators are finally, after one long year, back in Omaha for the College World Series.
And this time, they’re back as defending national champions.
But don’t think that will weigh heavy on the heads of the reigning kings of college baseball. Florida has worn the No. 1 ranking and the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed as targets all season long — and while the Gators had flagged a bit of late, they also won all but one series during the regular season, played gamely with nothing to gain in the SEC Tournament, and survived Regional and Super Regional losses en route to Omaha.
And, perhaps more crucially, they finally get their captain and senior leader back on the field on this late Sunday night. JJ Schwarz, sidelined for about a month with a fracture in his right hand, slides into Florida’s lineup at first base, where he grabbed the final out of the 2017 College World Series. The Gators stand to get a bigger boost at the plate, where Schwarz will hit cleanup and present an insoluble problem — No. 5 pick Jonathan India at the No. 3 spot, Schwarz at No. 4, and 19-homer slugger Wil Dalton at No. 5 — in the middle of the order.
Texas Tech is more likely to present problems for the Gators at the plate than on the mound, as the Red Raiders’ lineup is more formidable than their pitching staff. But Florida will throw ace Brady Singer, a veteran of the fires of Omaha, on Sunday night, and he’s been excellent this postseason after missing some time of his own.
Florida vs. Texas Tech will be broadcast on ESPN2, or via WatchESPN or the ESPN+ over-the-top streaming service. You can fret about it here or on Twitter with us.