Pitching carries Gators to Super Regionals

Alex Faedo hadn’t been great in his previous four outings before Sunday’s Gainesville Regional final.

That didn’t stop Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan from giving him the ball. Instead of continuing giving up too many base runners, the freshman dominated for six innings and helped the Gators reach the Super Regionals for the fifth time in the last seven years with a 2-1 win over Florida Atlantic.

“I just felt like I needed to keep the ball down and everything would be good, knowing that the wind was blowing in and how good our defense is,” Alex Faedo said. “I wasn’t really worried about it after the first inning. I knew we’d be OK.”

O’Sullivan added, “For a freshman to pitch in a game like this, (Faedo) pitched his best he has all year. He stayed within himself the entire game.”

In his last four starts, Faedo lasted a combined 11 innings, giving up 18 hits and nine earned runs with nine strikeouts. The first inning of Sunday’s game looked like it was more of the same. FAU leadoff hitter Stephen Kerr flew out to the left field wall to open the game, and left fielder Billy Endris tripled to left-center in the next at-bat. He scored on a two-out, line drive single two batters later, and the Owls took a 1-0 lead early.

The next five innings were dominant. Faedo ended the day allowing three hits, one walk and one run in six innings of work while recording six strikeouts on 82 pitches. The freshman retired 15 of the 17 batters he faced to close the game.

His only jam in the last five innings came in his last inning of work. Faedo allowed a leadoff single to Kerr, and he went to second base on a ground out by Endris. After falling behind 3-0 to Conference USA Player of the Year Brendon Sanger, Faedo threw a fastball for a strike and followed it with a swinging strike on a slider to make the count full. The freshman went back to the slider to get a third strike swinging on a pitch that bounced on the plate. A ground out by Ricky Santiago ended the inning.

O’Sullivan could’ve pulled Faedo and brought left-hander Bobby Poyner into the game after the leadoff single in the sixth inning since the next two hitters were left-handed. Instead, he elected to trust his freshman and it worked.

“He was throwing the ball good,” O’Sullivan said. “He did nothing to indicate that he should come out. I kept thinking that if I made this move, it would only be because of the matchup. I knew we were going to use Bobby at some point. Sometimes you just go with your gut. My gut was that he was throwing the ball good. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Bobby Poyner came into the game to start the seventh inning and gave up two singles over two innings of work. After he worked out of the eighth inning, the game was forced into a lightning delay for an hour and seven minutes. When the game restarted, Taylor Lewis came into the game during the bottom of the ninth inning and allowed only a two-out single before closing the game on a fly out.

“(After the sixth inning), it was time to hand the ball to the older guys and let them hold onto the lead,” O’Sullivan said.

The Florida offense collected 19 hits and 27 runs in the first two games of the Gainesville Regional. The offense didn’t put up eye-popping numbers against FAU on Sunday, combining for eight hits and two runs, but the Gators were able to get the runs when they needed them.

The scoring started in the fourth inning after Josh Tobias led off the inning with a double. J.J. Schwarz hit a ground ball to second base that went under the glove of Kerr and into right field, allowing Tobias to score.

Two innings later, the Gators started the inning with a Richie Martin walk and Tobias single. Schwarz lined a single into left field to score Martin and give the Gators a 2-1 lead they would keep.

“Today was dogfight,” O’Sullivan said. “It was not easy. Elimination games, valuable lesson learned. They’re not easy. It was one of those games where we needed to match them pitch-for-pitch. We’re excited about moving forward and playing a Super Regional here next week.”

Florida now advances to the Super Regional round and will host the winner of the Tallahassee Regional. Florida State is the only undefeated team and needs to win just one more game to advance, but severe weather hampered the regional on Sunday. The Tallahassee Regional winner will be decided on Monday.


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