By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer
No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (48-16) opened the 2015 Gainesville Super Regional on Friday with a 13-5 thumping of the rival Florida State Seminoles (44-20). The Gators are now one win away from returning to the College World Series for the first time since 2012.
Florida scored early and often in the game. A four-run first inning for the Gators gave sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K) all the cushion he needed. Senior third baseman Josh Tobias (2/5, 3 RBI, R) and freshmen catcher Mike Rivera (1/3, 3 RBI, R) led UF, while freshman C JJ Schwarz (2/3, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, 2 RBI) hit the team’s only homer, a solo shot to deep left in the fifth inning. Schwarz is now batting 19-for-35 (.543) in postseason play.
The Gators can punch their ticket to Omaha with a win Saturday. UF will play as the visiting team at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, sending sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk (9-3, 3.80 ERA) to the mound. Puk has dominated in his two postseason starts this year (14.0 IP, 7 H, 4 BB, 19 K), setting his career high of seven innings pitched against Arkansas on May 22 and matching it against USF last week.
First pitch of game two is scheduled for 5 p.m. on ESPN2.
Here are three takeaways from Florida’s series-opening win:
1. No easy runs: The Seminoles tend to take a lot of pitches, and Shore did his job by keeping walks to a minimum (two). After a rocky 22-pitch first inning, the Florida ace settled in and retired 10-of-12 batters as the Gators added to a comfortable lead.
2. Striking early inflates bullpen advantage: Florida teed off on FSU ace Boomer Biegalski from the get-go and forced a thin Seminoles bullpen to start working in the third inning of game one. The Noles used five pitchers to cover the remaining seven innings. By chasing Biegalski early, the Gators, with a deep bullpen, have an even greater advantage in the series remaining game(s).
3. Defense makes the difference: A big reason the Gators are a national seed is their ability to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes in the field while making few of their own. An FSU miscue in the top of the first inning put junior left fielder Harrison Bader (1/4, RBI, 2 R) in position to score the game’s first run. In the fifth inning, with the bases loaded, Rivera grounded to second for a potential double play that would score one run, but a throwing error on the play allowed a second run to cross the plate and make it 6-0 Gators.
FSU third baseman Darren Miller couldn’t field a Bader liner in the sixth inning, sending the ball deep into foul territory and allowing freshman second baseman Dalton Guthrie (0/2, R, BB) to score from first base and extend the lead to 8-0. Guthrie made a sliding grab to save runs and end an FSU rally in the top of sixth inning.