SCHWARZ STAYS HOT: The freshman catcher/designated hitter is putting up gaudy numbers. In 10 games this postseason, Schwarz is hitting .564 (22-39) with five doubles, four homers, 14 runs scored and 17 RBI. He was the SEC Tournament MVP and the Most Outstanding Player of the Gainesville Regional. It would’ve been hard for the freshman to top those two weekends, but somehow, he did against Florida State.
Schwarz hit three home runs in two games, and none of them were cheap ones. His first one on Saturday went so far that no one I’ve talked to seems to know where it actually landed because it went so far over the left field bleachers. Coaches never know how freshmen are going to handle the postseason, but Schwarz is the team’s hottest hitter at the right time.
THE OTHER FRESHMEN, TOO: The other freshmen aren’t so bad either. Florida started four freshmen in the lineup this weekend in both games this weekend. Jeremy Vasquez started in right field, Mike Rivera started at catcher Friday and designated hitter on Saturday and Dalton Guthrie started at second base.
Add in pinch-hitting appearances for Christian Hicks and Mark Kolosvary, and the Florida freshmen hit .391 (9-23) with three home runs (all by Schwarz), nine walks, 10 runs scored and 11 RBI. Vasquez continues to hit line drives to all areas of the field, Rivera had a clutch two-run single in Florida’s first inning on Friday and Guthrie had the go-ahead sacrifice fly on Saturday plus his usual outstanding defense.
EARLY SATURDAY ERRORS: I’ve written this the past few weeks, and it bears repeating again. Florida is playing so well right now that you have to be very critical to find mistakes. The Gators did put themselves in a hole on Saturday by making two errors in the first inning, both that helped the Seminoles get on the board. Buddy Reed couldn’t corral a diving attempt in the first inning to lead off the game, but he picked the ball up and tried to throw behind the base runner at first base, throwing the ball past first baseman Pete Alonso and allowing the runner to reach second base.
Two batters later with a runner on third and one out, Dalton Guthrie threw home and catcher J.J. Schwarz dropped the ball. It was uncharacteristic mistakes, but Kevin O’Sullivan told me after his press conference on Saturday that they didn’t surprise him. He thought the team might be trying to do too much early on Saturday, knowing they were one win from the College World Series. For a young team that has never been in that spot, it can be a concern. O’Sullivan gathered the team together after the first inning to encourage them to relax, and the Gators outscored Florida State 11-2 the rest of the way, keyed on a towering two-run homer by Schwarz in the next inning.
PUK’S OUTING: It wasn’t the best outing for sophomore A.J. Puk, especially after he set the bar so high for himself with four of his last five outings come into Saturday. Puk lasted just four innings, allowing four hits and three walks with three earned runs.
It should also be said that Florida State might be the worst matchup in the country for Puk. The Seminoles led the country in walks, and Puk’s control can be inconsistent at times. Against a team as patient as Florida State, it wasn’t going to be an easy outing for the left-hander. There’s still no question who will start Florida’s second game in Omaha despite Puk’s average outing.