After more than 10 hours of rain delays and walk off wins for both teams the Florida Gators got to dog pile on the pitcher’s mound with a 3-0 win over Wake Forest to advance to the College World Series.
This is Kevin O’Sullivan’s sixth trip to Omaha for the CWS in 10 seasons and the Gators’ third consecutive trip.
It couldn’t have been done without the performance of Tyler Dyson. The freshman, who didn’t start pitching until his senior season of high school, was brilliant in a career-long outing. Dyson gave up a single to the first batter he faced and then promptly sat down the next 13 Demon Deacons in a row.
“I couldn’t let the seniors and the guys that are going off to pro ball end their season here,” Dyson said after the game. “I kind of just wanted to hand the ball off to Alex [Faedo] and not let anybody else come in.”
To his credit, on the night where Alex Faedo would be drafted 18th overall by the Detroit Tigers, stayed focused.
The plan to start Brady Singer worked until Mother Nature reared her ugly head again with a three hour 14 minute rain delay that knocked him out of the contest. Singer worked around a hit in the first for a scoreless frame and sat down the side with two strikeouts in the second. He came out with a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning but rain started pouring down on McKethan Stadium during a commercial break and play was halted.
The Gators struck first in the second inning. Jonathan India doubled to start he frame and advanced to third when Deacon Liput singled through the left side. Mike Rivera followed suit with a single of his own to plate India, making the score 1-0 with Florida batting in the bottom of the second.
When play resumed Dyson came out to the mound. The freshman threw career-highs with five innings and 58 pitches.
“Dyson was the difference today,” Wake Forest manager Tom Walter said. “He just kept coming after us, pitch after pitch after pitch. I thought we would have some chances off Dyson and he just didn’t give us any.”
“I thought today there was a whole new monster out there,” JJ Schwarz said. “He was throwing the ball hard and getting it on the hitters and hitting wherever my glove was. I thought it was awesome.”
While Dyson was baffling the Demon Deacons it was Schwarz that put the proverbial nail in the coffin.
Dalton Guthrie singled to start the third inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Schwarz fell behind in the count but launched a home run over the left field wall, his second home run of the day over the bleachers. In three seasons Schwarz has six home runs during Super Regional play.
“We made a bad pitch to Schwarz and he didn’t miss,” Walter said.
With Dyson on the mound the 3-0 lead seemed larger. He continued to mow batter down before giving up a double in the seventh inning. After working around that Dyson handed the ball off to Faedo for the final six outs. Faedo’s name was called 54 minutes before he took the mound but, according to him, it was the last thing on his mind.
“I was just focused on the game. No one talked to me about (the draft). The biggest thing for me was going back to Omaha. I knew I had a chance to go back out there to today so I just needed to focus on that, get my mind right on the game,” Faedo said. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other guys to take my mind off the biggest thing for me right now. That’s winning games and trying to go to Omaha.”
Faedo gave up a walk and a bunt single but struck out Jake Mueller to get out of the frame.
“I forgot how hard it is to come out of the bullpen,” he said. “I’ve only done that a couple of times. You feel kind of lost when you first get out there… when I first got out there I was trying to take the closer mentality and I didn’t need to do that. After I got that first out I tried to settle back in and I think I was able to do that.”
He returned to the mound in the ninth inning without drama. Faedo struck out Stuart Fairchild to start the inning, got Gavin Sheets to fly out weakly to left and struck out Ben Breazeale to strike out swinging, the 135th strikeout of Faedo’s season (4th all time for a season in UF history) and final pitch he’ll ever throw at McKethan Stadium.
— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) June 13, 2017
The Gators will move on to the World Series and play TCU in the final first round game on Sunday night at 7 p.m. They’ll look to get over the hump at the College World Series and O’Sullivan likes his ball club’s chances.
“I told them they have as good of a chance to win a National Championship as any team we’ve had,” he said of his team.
Florida has plenty of experience; Schwarz, Faedo, Mike Rivera, Dalton Guthrie and the rest of the juniors have finished every season in Omaha. They’ve felt the sting of defeat, now they want to finally win the last game of the season.