College World Series Preview: Gators vs Chanticleers

The University of Florida baseball has arrived in Omaha and is preparing to face Big South Conference champion Coastal Carolina (49-16) on Sunday night at 8pm on ESPN2. It is the 10th appearance for a Florida baseball team in the College World Series. This will be Chanticleers first CWS appearance. The Gators look to improve on the 14-19 CWS record and are 9-5 favorites according to Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Florida will start their ace Logan Shore (12-0, 2.24) against the Chanticleers. The Golden Spikes Award finalist has an outstanding WHIP of 0.94 and opposing teams are hitting just .213 against him. He has run his school-record consecutive winning streak to 17 games with the Gators 5-0 win over Florida State in the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional. 

Is there another pitcher in the country that you trust to take the mound in game one more than Logan Shore?

No.

I’m not looking back at one season and I’m not wearing the Orange & Blue glasses. When you talk trust and consistency you have three years of superb production to present as evidence on behalf of Shore. Remember, Perfect Game named Shore the 2014 National Freshman of the Year. He was the SEC Freshman of the Year and received a minimum of five paragraphs worth of accolades. 

 

Lauren Lettelier / LML Photography

Coastal Carolina

Shore will face a Coastal Carolina squad that strangely enough was built to play small ball, but developed unperceived power with four players in double-digit home run production. The Chanticleers lead the nation with 94 home runs.

While the Chanticleers have turned on the power, they haven’t abandoned the ability to play small ball. Coastal is an offensive veteran team that ranks among the nation’s best in sacrifice bunts (8th), walks (8th), and scoring (17th) averaging 7.5 runs per game.  

Senior third baseman Zach Remilliard, a National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association 3rd team All-American selection, led the team with 19 home runs. Remilliard was drafted in the 10th round by the Chicago White Sox.

Junior shortstop Michael Paez hit 15 home runs and was taken in the 4th round by the New York Mets.

“Unless you get a big league team, I don’t know how you’re going to line up against that pitching staff and the defense that Sully rolls out there,” Coastal Carolina head baseball coach Gary Gilmore said. “Honestly, my team, I’m very, very proud of them. What we are is just a group of good baseball players. We don’t have a superstar on our team. We don’t have a first round draft pick guy. We’re just a bunch of good country ball players that show up and compete and that’s kind of how our lineup is. We’re scrappy in the batter’s box and our offense is built around being able to do multipole things.”

Junior designated hitter G.K. Young finished with 17 home runs and was named a first team NCBWA selection. He was taken in the 31st round by the Sand Diego Padres.

Senior right fielder Connor Owings leads the Chanticleers with a .379 average. He too was selected to the NCBWA 1st team. Owings had 44 walks for Coastal and led the squad with a .692 slugging percentage, which included 16 home runs.

The Chanticleers have proven to be aggressive on the bases. They ran 7th nationally with 107 stolen bases. Florida counters with sophomore Mike Rivera, who has been very effective for the Gators behind the plate.

Coastal Carolina will send junior right-hander Andrew Beckwith (12-1, 2.12) against the Gators. Beckwith is the Big South Pitcher of the Year. The 6’0, 180-pounder from Blythewood, South Carolina has the ability to change his arm slot and started seven games and come out of the pen 16 times. He got the initial start against LSU in Baton Rouge and lasted 4.1 innings, surrendering four earned runs.

This is not a deep staff, but has two quality right-handed relievers in closer Mike Morrison (7-1, 1.06) and reliever Bobby Holmes (6-2, 4.44).

Lauren Lettelier / LML Photography

Florida

Win. And win the first two games.

The stage has been set for this Florida team for at least two years. Those of you who watched the Gators last season were pointing to 2016 as the Gators best opportunity to storm Omaha and take a national title.

The biggest questions concerning this team are:

Will they step in the box with the right approach? Who starts in Game 2?

“This group, from day one has talked about winning a national championship,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “The last six innings we were really good today. If we can play in Omaha like we played the last six innings or the way we played Sunday, we’ve got as good a chance as anybody.”

The first three innings were inconsistent with regards to the offensive approach and on the mound by Puk. The offensive inconsistency has been the biggest problem surrounding this team. I touch on it in three of the keys to victory.

 

Keys to beating Coastal Carolina

-      Play emotional, but loose

We’ve seen too many teams, including Florida tighten up in Omaha and look anything but the team we saw all season. Sully has to keep them loose, but a bit fired up. And why shouldn’t they, it’s Omaha? It’s important that they go out and just play their game- great pitching, outstanding defense, and with a solid plate approach. Ameritrade plays big, so use it to your advantage. Personally, I think when Florida plays with emotion when they’re at the plate, they play much smarter (yes smarter) offensively. This is a veteran team, the know what to do and in my opinion they do it much better when they have a little fire in them.

Here are some examples: They crushed Miami twice back in February. They crushed FSU 6-0 back in March (Gainesville). How about the emotional 6-0 win over Georgia when Shore went for the consecutive wins record?  And they crushed FSU in the final two games of the series last weekend. Remember Logan Shore coming off the mound during those final innings against FSU last Sunday night? Alonso, Reed, Rivera, and Schwarz on Monday night? Emotion. 

 

-      Score Early

Coastal is playing at the hallowed grounds for the first time in school history. It couldn’t hurt if you applied a bit of pressure by scoring first and keeping them off the scoreboard early.

-      A Little Help

Pete Alonso has rightfully been the offensive story since his return. Florida must continue getting solid plate appearances by Dalton Guthrie, who was 5 for 14 (.357) in Super Regional play. Do we see a surging J.J. Schwarz, who was 4 for 8 (.500 w/ a Grand Slam) in the two victories over FSU? Jonathan India, Deacon Liput, Nelson Maldonado, Danny Reyes, and some of the other young players have to help Alonso and the Gators.  

-      Defense

Coastal Carolina is a really balanced offensive club. Florida must make defensive plays behind Shore. I’m not sure that you frustrate this team. Their comeback against LSU was awfully impressive, but chances are considering the environment that they might be a little tight.  

Let me finish with a far-too-early scenario. If Florida were to take bracket 2 and Miami bracket 1, they’d play for the national championship. It would set up the potential to beat and in-state rival for a first-ever national championship. Where have we seen that before?

Mark McLeod is co-host on “Sports Time!”- an afternoon drive-time show heard on Florida Sports Talk/Fox Sport Radio (Gainesville/Ocala). He also co-hosts, “The Gator Blitz” with Brent Beaird twice weekly on Gators Sports Radio.

Lauren Lettelier / LML Photography


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