Brian Johnson Ready for Saturday's Start

OMAHA, Neb.— Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan sat down with Brian Johnson and Hudson Randall earlier this week and told his juniors to prepare for change. O'Sullivan was tossing around the idea of starting Johnson in Florida's first game of the College World Series, and on Thursday in Omaha, he made it official. Johnson's success against the Gamecocks this year earned him the start on Saturday.

Hudson Randall has served as the team's ace since the start of the 2011 season. Whenever there's a must-win game, Randall (9-2, 2.61) is the one jogging to the mound to get things started for his team. He'll be watching from the dugout on Saturday night at 9 p.m. EST when Florida takes the field to open the College World Series against South Carolina.

Brian Johnson (8-4, 3.56) will get the ball to face South Carolina, the same team he threw a complete game against just a little over three weeks ago. His success against the Gamecocks has been a theme this year after allowing two runs in six innings against them in a win to even the series earlier this year in Columbia.

"I don't know if it's confidence," O'Sullivan said on Thursday. "Obviously he pitched well against them, but every game is different. He is matching up against Michael Roth this time."

It's not just the success against South Carolina that helped O'Sullivan make the move. In his last four starts, the junior left-hander is 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA and a .156 batting average against him.

That strong stretch stems from Johnson missing one start against Mississippi State on May 12 with a hamstring injury. It allowed Johnson to take a week off and get a chance to regain the strength in his legs. Since that week off, the junior left-hander has been on fire.

"I'm very excited for the opportunity to get that," Johnson said. "I'm going to embrace it."

After that rest helped Johnson last month, he's on a similar stretch now. The junior hasn't thrown since he picked up a win to end the Gainesville Regional over Georgia Tech on June 3.

"At some point, he was going to pitch," O'Sullivan said. "Any further of a layoff wouldn't have done him justice. The bottom line is you have to win both (of the first two games) or you've got to win three in a row."

The rest gave Johnson a chance to catch his breath the first time, and he's feeling the same now. Florida's final practice before leaving for Omaha was on Tuesday afternoon, and O'Sullivan had the left-hander throw to Florida hitters to make sure he was sharp and felt "really good."

The rest can help over the course of a season.

For South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner, it didn't matter who took the mound for the Gators. They were curious who it would be that gets the ball to start the game, but Tanner has seen Florida's pitching depth grow throughout the year.

"It'll probably be Smoltz, Glavine or Maddux—what difference does it make?" Tanner joked about the conversation he had with his coaches earlier this week. "You're going to face one of them. If they play as good as they're capable, they're almost impossible to beat. We'll have to play as good as we can play to have an opportunity."

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