The Florida Gators (49-16) withstood a shaky first inning to come back and beat the Florida State Seminoles (44-21) 11-4 on Saturday afternoon. The win sends the Florida Gators to the College World Series for the first time since 2012.
“The first three times we went in ’10, ’11 and ’12, I didn’t really realize how difficult it is to get there,” said. “You just kind of get this momentum and beat some really good teams. Then you miss in ’13 and you miss in ’14 and you start thinking, wait, this is not easy.”
Florida went quietly in the first frame and A.J. Puk, who has been sensational for over a month, struggled with his command and didn’t get any favors from his defense.
Josh Delph led the game off with a single (his second leadoff single in as many games). Buddy Reed almost made a great catch, but ended up throwing the ball away at first, trying to catch Delph off of the bag. The error moved Delph to second and a sacrifice bunt put him just 90-feet away from home.
D.J. Stewart grounded sharply to Dalton Guthrie, who fired home to JJ Schwarz. The catcher couldn’t handle the throw giving FSU a run, the lead and a base runner. Stewart was driven in by a Quincy Nieporte double.
The Gators didn’t waste any time erasing the deficit. Josh Tobias walked on four pitches and JJ Schwarz launched a ball high over the wall, clearing the netting in left field for his 17th home run of the season, tying a record for a freshman at Florida.
Pete Alonso reached on an error, Jeremy Vasquez singled up the middle and Dalton Guthrie sent a sacrifice fly to left field to give Florida a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish.
Puk settled down, setting the Noles down in order including two strikeouts. The Florida bats continued to be relentless. Richie Martin led the inning off with a solo home run. After two quick outs, JJ Schwarz worked a walk and scored all the way from first on a Pete Alonso triple — the second triple of the season for the sophomore. After a pitching change, Vasquez lined a ball back up the middle to give Florida a 6-2 lead.
The Gators added runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to stretch their lead to 10-4 before finally putting up a zero in the seventh. JJ Schwarz hit his second home run of the game in the sixth inning, breaking the school record for home runs in a season by a freshman.
“He’s gotten to the point where he’s kind of carrying us right now,” O’Sullivan said.
Bobby Poyner entered the game in the fifth inning and threw five scoreless innings to close it out. It was the last time that Poyner will pitch on the mound at McKethan Stadium, something he was well aware of.
“The year before I got here they had won the SEC Championship. We were one game out of the SEC Championship my freshman year and then we go to Omaha,” Poyner reflected. “I didn’t realize how difficult it was to actually win a SEC Championship and then advance on to Omaha.
“We’ve gotten hot at the right time.”
This is the Florida Gators ninth trip to the College World Series and the fourth trip under Kevin O’Sullivan. Only two players on the current roster (Josh Tobias, Bobby Poyner) were on the team the last time Florida made the trip out to Omaha.
The Gators are playing their best baseball of the season and looking a lot like the best team in the country. They will face the Miami Hurricanes in their first game of the World Series on Saturday.
“They’re certainly a team that can take this momentum to Omaha and come back with a championship,” Florida State manager Mike Martin said.