By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer
For the first time since 2012, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (47-16) has returned to the Super Regionals after defeating the Florida Atlantic Owls 2-1 in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2015 NCAA Tournament behind a strong outing from freshman right-handed pitcher Alex Faedo (6.0 IP, 3 H, ER, BB, 6 K).
UF trailed on Sunday at McKethan Stadium for the first time this weekend when FAU took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Senior third baseman Josh Tobias (3/4, R) scored Florida’s first run when Florida Atlantic second baseman Stephen Kerr booted a ground ball hit by freshman catcher JJ Schwarz (1/4, RBI). In the sixth inning, Schwarz collected a legitimate RBI on a single to left field that scored junior shortstop Richie Martin (0/3, R, BB).
The Gators were one inning away from winning the regional before lightning in the area stopped play for 67 minutes. The delay ended an impressive relief outing from senior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (2.0 IP, 2 H, 4 K). Junior RHP Taylor Lewis (1.0 IP, H) successfully closed out the ninth, punching Florida’s ticket to the Super Regional, which it will play in for the fifth time in the last seven seasons.
Here are three takeaways from the Gators’ big win:
1. Career day: In three of his last four starts, Faedo was unable to pitch into the fourth inning. Sunday, Faedo set a new career-high with six innings pitched and matched his career-high of six strikeouts. The No. 3 starter has been viewed as one of Florida’s few roster vulnerabilities. If Faedo has turned the corner, that problem may very well be solved for the Gators.
2. Seniors lead the final push: Tobias and Poyner are the only two current Florida players who know what it’s like to advance past the regional round, and Sunday they carried the team to victory in a tight game. Tobias led all Gators with three hits and helped UF score both of its two runs. Poyner provided two key shutdown innings after Faedo’s exit in the seventh inning.
3. Mistake-free baseball: UF played 27 innings without committing an error in the Gainesville Regional. FAU made two miscues early in Sunday’s game, including the error in the fourth inning that allowed Tobias to score.
Up next: As the No. 4 national seed, Florida will host the winner of the Tallahassee Regional in Gainesville in Super Regional play. Florida State currently leads its regional, which will not conclude until Monday.