OMAHA, Neb. -- Baseball can be a hard sport to predict. Results and outcomes change from day to day just as much as the direction the wind blows.Florida knows this all too well. The Gators notched their second 14-hit, blowout win against rival Miami (Fla.) on Wednesday night in a 10-2 win at TD Ameritrade Park. But it’s a two-hit shutout at the hands of Virginia on Monday that has Florida still on the verge of elimination instead of being just one win from clinching a spot in the 2015 College World Series Finals.
Now with a rematch against the Cavaliers scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m. ET, the Gators aren’t going to change their approach at the plate. There’s no sense in pressing.
“We got to this place playing loose but doing everything with a purpose,” UF left fielder Harrison Bader said following his 2-for-4 night. “Practice was exactly the same. I know [coach Kevin O’Sullivan] was -- his biggest message was not having a hangover from that tough loss. That’s just part of the game.”
There’s no denying Florida is an offensive juggernaut. Four days removed from spraying eight singles and a double in an 11-run fourth inning against the Hurricanes, the Gators hit a ballpark-record four home runs on Wednesday night, including the three longest the ballpark has housed. The wind blowing out certainly aided the tape-measure shots, but only in what row the ball crashed into, not whether they left the yard or not.
But just as much as a team can square up pitches and send out flying missiles into the crowd, a hot pitcher can make quality pitches and keep offenses at bay. The key for Florida is to stick to the game plan and stay confident. In a sport where failing 3 of 10 times gets a player a plaque in Cooperstown, the Gators never allow themselves to dig into the box thinking they’re going to fail.
All they can do is stick to the game plan.
“We're not going to score 10 runs every game. There are going to be games where we might get shut out,” Bader said. “And at this point in the game, you are fighting for your life. So you have to lay it out there, every pitch, every inning, that's what we did.”
Bader got it started in roaring fashion Wednesday by uncorking the first lead-off home run in CWS history since 2008, sailing an Enrique Sosa breaking pitch 414 feet over the wall in center field.
Four batters later, Buddy Reed launched a fastball 412 feet into right center field for a two-run shot to put the Gators up 3-0.
Florida tacked on four more runs in the fifth, this time putting up a crooked number more to Monday’s method. Bader led off with a double and Richie Martin laid down a bunt single to put runner on the corners for Josh Tobias. An infield single by Tobias brought home Bader and two batters later, Reed brought in Martin on a safety squeeze to Miami first baseman Peter Alonso, only to reach after second baseman Dalton Guthrie was late to cover first.
Jeremy Vasquez capped it off with a two-run double down the right field line, as the entire Gator starting nine registered a hit.
“I said when I got here, I thought Florida had one of the best clubs since I've been at Miami,” Hurricanes coach Jim Morris said. “They've got some outstanding players. They can swing the bat, they hit the ball hard [on Wednesday night] and they earned every run that they got.”
With Virginia back on their radar, the Gators can’t expect to put up double digits. All they can do is stick to the script and hope its talent can channel more of Wednesday’s production than what they yielded Monday.
Then it can turn its focus towards trying to do the same on Saturday.
“I was really pleased with how we responded today from a tough loss on Monday night,” O’Sullivan said. “And I thought we were very relaxed. I thought we came out with a purpose. And like I said, we're looking forward to play on Friday.”