The Florida Gators are in Omaha for the College World Series for the seventh time in the last nine seasons and the fourth consecutive year in a row. The Gators have played most of the season ranked No. 1 in the country after winning the 2017 National Championship.
When the team got back together in the fall the goal was simple: Get back to Omaha and do it all over again. Step one has been achieved step two remains to bee seen. The Gators are in bracket two for the College World Series and will be the last game, playing Texas Tech on Sunday night at 7 p.m.
Let’s take a look at the Gators’ path to immortality and back-to-back National Championships.
CWS history: 9th appearance (1979 runner up), first appearance since 2015
All-time CWS record: 11-16
Record vs. CWS teams: 5-5
Road to Omaha: Won Fayetteville regional: beat Oral Roberts 10-2, beat Southern Mississippi 10-2, beat Dallas Baptist 4-3. Won Fayetteville super regional: beat South Carolina 9-3, lost to South Carolina 8-5, beat South Carolina 14-4.
Starters: Blaine Knight (12-0, 2.84 ERA), Kacey Murphy (8-5, 3.12 ERA), Isaiah Campbell (4-6, 4.19 ERA)
Arkansas has the most dangerous offense in the tournament. It doesn’t matter who is throwing baseballs at them, these Hogs can hit. They rank 13th in batting average, 15th in scoring, 16th in on base percentage, eighth in slugging and third in home runs per game (1.49).
Freshmen Heston Kjerstad (.343) and Casey Martin (.341) were named Freshman All-Americans. Blaine Knight was a First Team All-American and has been a giant killer this year. This season alone Knight has won matchups against Florida’s Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar, Kentucky’s Sean Hjelle, Ole Miss’ Ryan Rolison and Auburn’s Casey Mize.
The Gators got the best of the Razorbacks in a March. It was one of only two series in 2018 that Florida lost the opening game of the series.
CWS History: 12th appearance (2017 National Champion, 2005 & 2011 runner up)
All-time CWS record: 19-22
Record vs. CWS teams: 2-5
Road to Omaha: Won Gainesville regional: beat Columbia 13-5, beat Jacksonville 3-2, lost to Florida Atlantic 7-4, beat Florida Atlantic 5-2. Won Gainesville super regional: beat Auburn 8-2, lost to Auburn 3-2, Beat Auburn 3-2 in 11 innings.
MLB Alumni: Mike Zunino, David Eckstein, Mark Ellis, Darren O’Day, David Ross, Anthony DeSclafani, Austin Maddox, Bobby Poyner, Brian Johnson, Harrison Bader, Preston Tucker, Matt LaPorta, Mike Stanley, Brad Wilkerson, Harrison Bader, Bobby Poyner.
Starters: Brady Singer (12-1, 2.30 ERA), Jackson Kowar (9-5, 3.24 ERA), Jack Leftwich (4-5, 4.32 ERA)
The Gators limped into the NCAA Tournament after losing four of its last five games including a sweep on the road against fellow CWS team, Mississippi State. Florida was then pushed to the brink of elimination in the Gainesville Regional and Super Regional before an Austin Langworthy home run punched their ticket to Omaha.
Florida’s Brady Singer was named the National Player of the Year by Baseball America and D1Baseball.com and is a Golden Spikes Finalist. Jonathan India was the SEC Player of the year and he was a first team All-American along with closer Michael Byrne.
The Gators have belted 96 home runs this year, nearly doubling their mark fro 2017. The offense hasn’t been the same in JJ Schwarz’s absence. The senior captain broke his hand during a loss to Mississippi State but Florida is hopeful that he will be able to play this week. Schwarz hit batting practice on Wednesday before the Gators left for Omaha.
CWS History: 36th appearance (National Champions 1949, 1950, 1975, 1983, 2002 & 2005. Runner up in 1953, 1984, 1985, 1989, 2004, 2009)
All time CWS record: 85-59
Record vs. CWS teams: 2-3
Road To Omaha: Won Austin regional: beat Texas Southern 10-0, beat Texas A&M 8-3, beat Indiana 3-2. Won Austin super regional: lost to Tennessee Tech 5-4, beat Tennessee Tech 4-2, beat Tennessee Tech 5-2.
MLB alumni: Burt Hooton, David Chalk, Keith Moreland, Ron Gardenhire, Spike Owen, Roger Clemens, Calvin Schiraldi, Greg Swindell, Shane Reynolds, Brooks Kieschnick, Huston Street, J.P. Howell, Brandon Belt.
Starters: Chase Shugart (6-3, 4.07 ERA), Nolan Kingham (8-4, 4.34 ERA), Blair Henley (6-6, 3.32 ERA)
The most storied program in college baseball history is back in Omaha just two years after parting ways with baseball legend Augie Garrido. Second year head coach David Pierce had the task of replacing a legend but has the Horns back where they belong.
Cody Clemens, the son of Roger Clemens, has been on a tear this offseason. The third round pick of the Detroit Tigers has 24 home runs this season, second best in the league. Clemens was 5-8 with three home runs in the Austin Super Regional.
Texas’ starting pitching has been serviceable but the Longhorns tend to lean on its bullpen. Shugart has been at his best down the stretch but won’t start in the opener. And Parker Joe Robinson has been nails at the back end of the bullpen. He threw 2.2 innings of relief to close out Tennessee Tech in game three of the Austin regional after entering in the sixth inning with the bases loaded.
Texas Tech (44-18)
CWS History: 3rd appearance (2014, 2016, 2018)
All-time CWS record: 1-4
Record vs. CWS teams: 1-3
Road to Omaha: Won Lubbock regional: beat New Mexico State 9-2, beat Louisville 10-4, beat Louisville 11-6. Won Lubbock super regional: beat Duke 6-4, lost to Duke 11-2, beat Duke 6-2.
MLB Alumni: Dallas Braden, Doug Ault, Mark Brandenburg, Keith Ginter, Travis Driskill, Joe Dillon, Chris Sampson, Jeff Karstens, AJ Ramos, Chad Bettis, Daniel Coulombe.
Starters: Davis Martin (7-5, 4.50 ERA), Caleb Kilian (9-2, 3.04 ERA), Ryan Shetter (5-0, 3.03 ERA)
This is just the third trip the Red Raiders have made to Omaha but they’ll face a familiar foe in Florida. The Gators were the No. 1 seed in 2016 when Texas Tech eliminated them with Davis Martin, a freshman at the time, threw seven scoreless innings. Martin could be an option to start against Florida but manager Tim Tadlock hasn’t revealed his pitching plans yet.
The Red Raiders are eighth in the country in home runs, 9th in home runs per game and 46th in doubles per game. Josh Jung, who plays a mean third base as well, leads the offensive attack. Jung has 12 home runs and 16 doubles this season. Grant Little leads the club with 24 doubles and has 12 home runs of his own.
Bracket Two Numbers (pitching)
1. Florida (3.46)
2. Arkansas (3.55)
3. Texas (4.09)
4. Texas Tech (4.40)
Batting Average against
1. Florida (.230)
2. Arkansas (.237)
3. Texas Tech (.244)
4. Texas (.260)
1. Arkansas (9.14)
2. Texas Tech (8.88)
3. Florida (8.79)
4. Texas (7.45)
1. Florida (2.87)
2. Arkansas (2.67)
3. Texas Tech (2.02)
4. Texas (1.74)
Bracket Two Numbers (hitting)
1. Texas Tech (.311)
2. Arkansas (.301)
3. Florida (.278)
4. Texas (.272)
1. Texas Tech (665)
2. Arkansas (643)
3. Florida (612)
4. Texas (560)
1. Florida (96)
2. Arkansas (94)
3. Texas Tech (82)
4. Texas (62)
1. Texas Tech (513)
2. Arkansas (452)
3. Florida (439)
4. Texas (374)