After getting swept out of the 2016 College World Series following a pair of losses to Texas Tech and eventual champion Coastal Carolina, Florida is back in Omaha to finish off what they started a year ago.
The 3-seed Gators got the chance for redemption after rallying from an upset by Bethune-Cookman to go 3-1 in their regional, then emerging victorious from a rain-soaked, three-game Super Regional bout with Wake Forest.
Here's everything you need to know about the Florida Gators.
Team nickname: Gators
School mascots: Albert and Alberta Gator
Conference affiliation: SEC
Home field: Alfred A. McKethan Stadium at Perry Field (capacity 5,500)
Notable baseball alumni: David Eckstein (1994-97), Brad Wilkerson (1996-98), David Ross (1998, after transferring from Auburn), Darren O'Day (2003-06), Mike Zunino (2010-12)
Number of NCAA tournament appearances: 33
College World Series appearances: 1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017
CWS championships: None
Season record: 47-18 (21-9 SEC)
Coach: Kevin O'Sullivan (10 seasons)
Coaching record: 396-189
Notable pre-NCAA tournament wins: Miami (Feb. 24-26), Florida State (3X: March 14, March 28, April 11), LSU (March 24-25), Vanderbilt (April 13, 15), Kentucky (May 19-20)
How they got here: 3-1 in regionals (beat Marist and South Florida, lost to Bethune-Cookman, beat Bethune-Cookman); 2-1 in super regionals (beat Wake Forest)
Next up: TCU (47-16) in first game of CWS
How the Gators rank
Final D1baseball.com ranking: 4
NCAA tournament national seed: 3
RPI: No. 3
Team batting average: .262 (205th)
Team ERA: 3.55 (22nd)
Players to watch
Top hitter: The lead man on the offensive side of things for Florida is undoubtedly third-year man JJ Schwarz. The junior catcher leads the team in runs scored (42), hits (64), home runs (12), RBIs (53), total bases (111) and slugging percentage (.470). That's not too bad for a guy that also calls the shots for one of the better pitching staffs in college baseball. And of late Schwarz has been putting his stamp on things as he racked up three home runs and seven RBIs before heading off to Omaha.
This team has a fearsome tandem at the top of their starting rotation in the form of Alex Faedo and Brady Singer. Both pitched beautifully against Wake Forest, but Faedo is the team's ace, no doubt about it. He tallied a 7-2 record on the year in 17 starts, with a whopping 3.75:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 109.1 innings pitched. But Singer is right there with his fellow righthander, posting a slightly higher ERA (3.29) but tossing just as many innings (112) with a miniscule difference between their K-to-BB ratio (3.72). Suffice it to say, opposing teams don't like these matchups often. Faedo and Singer each threw six innings of shutout ball over two games in the Super Regional matchup with Wake Forest, so it's not looking like a good time to settle in at the dish to face either hurler.Top starter(s):
Top reliever: If you are a fan of tough, shutdown relief pitching, then this College World Series could be for just right for you. Four of the eight teams traveling to Omaha boast a standout closer (TCU, Louisville, Cal State Fullerton, Florida) and Florida's Michael Byrne can spin it as well as anyone in DI baseball. He may have been right in the middle of a few tough innings for Florida in their Super Regional matchup with Wake Forest, but relief pitchers are always dealing with high leverage situations. That's why they get the ball in those tough spots. Nevertheless, a few pockmarks shouldn't overshadow a stellar season from the burly righthander. A 1.83 ERA headlines a year that included 68.2 innings in 34 appearances, but the kicker is a 5.6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Byrne's bread and butter is his ability to masterfully control his primary and secondary pitches while pounding the strike zone. Hitters beware, Byrne is not scared of a challenge.
|TCU||Durbin Feltman||17 saves|
|Louisville||Lincoln Henzman||16 saves|
|Florida||Michael Byrne||16 saves|
|Cal State Fullerton||Brett Conine||15 saves|