The Florida Gators exploded in the fourth inning, scoring a record 11 runs in TD Ameritrade Park in the bottom of the fourth on their way to a dominant 15-3 win over the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday night.
This is Florida’s first trip to the College World Series since 2012 and their first win in Omaha since 2011.
What did we learn about the Gators from their win on Saturday night?
1. Despite a young roster, Florida Gators continue to show that the stage is not too big.
When Jeremy Vasquez was inserted into the lineup during the game Saturday, Florida had five freshmen playing in the College World Series. That’s how this team has been built. Florida has needed — and received — meaningful contributions from freshmen all season long and those youngsters are getting the job done.
Over the last three games (two wins over Florida State and one over Miami) Gators freshmen are batting 17-36 (.472) with three home runs, 17 runs scored, 15 RBI and twelve walks.
Since Super Regionals started and the stage grew larger and brighter, the youngest players on the roster have stepped up.
2. Mike Rivera’s work behind the plate.
Unless you played baseball you may have missed what freshman catcher Mike Rivera did behind the plate last night. Sure, most will remember how he misplayed a ball that eventually led to a Miami run, but something else caught my eye.
In the very first inning, Rivera caught a two-seamed fastball, his glove turned perfectly to frame the baseball on the lower, outside part of the plate. The home plate umpire called ball but Rivera didn’t move his glove. Three seconds pass and Rivera’s glove was still there.
This is a delicate game to play as a catcher. You want to show the umpire that, “I’m setting up here, this is a strike and my pitcher is hitting that spot,” but you don’t want to give the umpire the impression that you are showing him up.
Rivera continued to do this, holding the ball a little longer than normal for two innings and, sure enough, by the third inning Logan Shore was getting that spot for a strike.
It’s a veteran move by a kid who is just a freshman, with his best baseball ahead of him. Rivera will be one of the best defensive catchers in the country by the time his days at Florida are finished.
3. Gators win with Shore not at his best.
From the very first batter it was evident Logan Shore didn’t have his stuff on Saturday night. Losing the first game in Omaha isn’t a death sentence but it makes your chances of advancing to the championship game near obsolete. Having your Friday night ace come out flat in the opening game of the College World Series is terrifying.
Shore hit a batter, allowed a single and eventually loaded the bases with just one out in the first inning. He allowed a run but worked out of that jam the best he could. Shore continued to get himself in trouble, allowing a leadoff double in the second and another run in the third.
Still, without Shore’s best stuff, the sophomore only allowed three runs (two earned) all night and the Gators won in dominant fashion.
To be able to win a game when your ace doesn’t have his best stuff on the mound shows a complete team. A championship team.
4. Gator bats find a different way to score runs
Throughout the postseason the Florida Gators used the long ball to win games. JJ Schwarz, Harrison Bader, Josh Tobias, Richie Martin and even Buddy Reed have gotten in on the action.
However, playing in one of the hardest parks in the country to hit a home run, the Gators found a different way to push runs across the plate.
In Florida’s 11-run, nine hit fourth inning, the Gators had just one extra base hit (Pete Alonso’s double off the wall). Eight singles provided the spark that Florida needed. It showed that Florida can get runs across the board without relying on Bader and Schwarz to hit a souvenir.
5. The bullpen is healthy and ready to go.
Shore lasted five innings on Saturday night before the Gators turned to Danny Young, Aaron Rhodes and Dane Dunning to finish the night. Senior Bobby Poyner was shown warming up in the bullpen at one point but his service was not needed.
The Gators were able to get out of the game without using Poyner, Taylor Lewis, Kirby Snead or Eric Hanhold and limited Young to 22 pitches, Rhodes to 16 and Dunning to 10.
With a win under their belt, A.J. Puk will be able to take the mound on Monday night knowing that he has the entire bullpen backing him him.