Florida Gators blank TCU to open College World Series run

OMAHA, Neb — Alex Faedo walked out of the Florida Gators locker room after everyone else had already spilled out and onto the field. The junior sat quietly before going through his normal pre-game routine. Nobody talked to the stone-faced ace as he sat alone in the dugout or as he warmed up in the left field bullpen.

TCU didn’t have anything to say to Faedo either.

Florida’s ace was unhittable early as the Florida Gators beat TCU 3-0 to open their run at the College World Series.

“I try to pitch big in big games,” Faedo told Gator Country. “I guess that’s what the team is looking for. It makes it a lot easier on the younger guys to see someone who has been there before have success.”

The Gators gave Faedo a lead to work with early. Ryan Larson started the game off with a walk and advanced to third after a throwing error on a pickoff and a Dalton Guthrie ground out to second. Larson scored on JJ Schwarz’s groundout to shortstop to open the game up.

Florida added another run in the fourth and one more in the fifth. A one-out walk to Mike Rivera was followed by back-to-back singles from Austin Langworthy and Christian Hicks, the latter plating Rivera. Ryan Larson ended what could have been a big inning by grounding into a double play.

In the fifth inning Florida started with three consecutive singles. Guthrie led Florida off and moved to third on a Schwarz infield single. Nelson Maldonado extended the lead with a single into left field, scoring Guthrie. Like the inning before the Gators’ threat ended with another inning-ending double play.

The story of the game, however, was Faedo. The junior — a first round selection of the Detroit Tigers — was brilliant. He finished the game after seven innings and 106 pitches. Faedo allowed just two hits, while striking out 11. In the NCAA Tournament Faedo has allowed just one run and struck out 33.

Faedo’s breezed through two innings but his pitch count got high in the third inning. The Gators have great starting pitching and a great closer, but they’ve struggled to bridge that gap. Faedo’s suddenly ballooning pitch count didn’t bode well.

“I never really look at my pitch count. I know the pitch count is huge but I’m just going out there trying to put up zeroes,” said Faedo. “Obviously if I only throw five innings that’s not great but you gotta do what you gotta do to put up zeroes. Every game is going to be close here.”

Faedo gave way to Michael Byrne in the eighth inning and the sophomore quickly found himself in a jam.

Connor Wanhanen led the inning off with a bunt single. It was placed perfectly down the third base line, testing Byrne’s athleticism right after he got on the mound.

“It was a good bunt,” Byrne said. “A 1-1 pitch, threw him a slider and he put it in a good place. Nobody could get it.”

Byrne responded by striking out Josh Watson but he left a slider up to Ryan Merrill that was turned around for a single. Byrne got what appeared to be an inning-ending double play but the ball got on Deacon Liput fast and the second baseman bobbled it briefly, taking just a force out at second. With the tying run in the plate Byrne bore down and struck out Austen Wade to get out of the self-inflicted jam. Fans might have been nervous watching it, but Byrne, in typical fashion, walked off the field after the strikeout emotionless.

“I had three runs to work with,” Byrne said. “I felt comfortable.”

And the Gators feel comfortable with Byrne on the mound. The sophomore closed the game out in the ninth inning to earn his 17th save of the season.

Quick Notes:
The Gators will play Louisville in the winner’s bracket Tuesday night, 7 pm ET on ESPN. Florida will start Brady Singer.
Florida lost a coin flip so they will be the visiting team (1st base dugout) on Tuesday.
The win over TCU snapped a three-game losing streak for the Florida Gators at the College World Series.
The Gators are 15-3 in games started by Alex Faedo this season.
Alex Faedo has 338 career strikeouts. Only LSU’s Alex Lange (398) and Louisville’s Brendan McKay (391) have more career strikeouts among active players.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC