Tim Casey / UAA Communications

Florida’s Weekend Warriors Leading Arms Race

When I spoke with Kevin O’Sullivan before the season, he said that the quality of the Gators weekend starters should provide a huge boost for the Florida bullpen. The starting trio’s ability to throw strikes and pitch deep into games would afford his bullpen some time to mature without having to be thrust into immediate pressure situations with the game hanging in the balance.

He was right.

While junior All-American Alex Faedo struggled in the season opener against William & Mary, sophomores Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar were outstanding in their respective outings versus the Tribe. The weekend warriors were superb versus the Hurricanes. Florida has had quality starting pitching in five of their six opportunities the first two weeks of the baseball season. Junior Michael Byrne’s Tuesday night start against Jacksonville gave Florida six quality starts this season. 

The Terror Trio of Faedo, Singer, & Kowar all stand 6’5 and pack a punch. A knockout punch.

They have led Florida (6-1) to the #2 national ranking (in every poll) while amassing some eye-popping numbers. How about a .169 ERA and .916 WHIP playing against a 2016 NCAA Regional finalist and #17 Miami?

And the fans have taken notice. An all-time series attendance record was established with 16,807 coming through the gates to see the gators sweep the Hurricanes. Florida is currently averaging 5,072 fans per game at McKethan Stadium. 

The Florida bullpen which worked 12.1 innings against William & Mary got limited opportunities versus Miami, which included two tight ballgames where they were only needed for 1.2 innings.  

Obviously, Sully wants to get the pen some much needed experience. He is anxious to see how they perform under pressure in situations, but it’s difficult when you have one or two run leads against the Hurricanes with an opportunity to jump out to a 2-0 lead and sweep the series on Sunday.

It certainly didn’t help Florida to get washed out versus Jacksonville last Wednesday. There are two mid-week opportunities against UCF (7-0) this week that will get those pitchers who will make up the Gators bullpen some much-needed time on the hill.

Freshman right-hander Nate Brown (0-0, 27.0) will get the start on Tuesday night. Sully will definitely get left-hander Andrew Baker (0-1, 3.86) into one or both of the UCF games. Two other Florida right-handed freshmen who should get looks are Tyler Dyson and Nick Long. He would like to get freshman RHP Garrett Milchin some work too. 

Faedo: Mastery over Miami

One year ago, Logan Shore embarrassed Miami in the opening game of the series by pitching a complete game four-hit shutout in Coral Gables. It was about as clean a game as you can pitch against the Hurricanes. Only one Miami player advanced beyond first base while Shore picked yet another runner off from the stretch. Meanwhile, he struck out eight ‘Canes in the Gators 5-0 win.

This year it was junior Alex Faedo (1-0, 2.70) who did a phenomenal job of setting the table against the Miami Hurricanes with an 8.2 inning shutout performance. Faedo allowed just two hits and one walk, while striking out eight Hurricanes.

Faedo’s 8.2 inning outing are the most by any pitcher in the SEC this season.  

He located his fastball 91-94 throughout the game and his breaking balls were terrific. Faedo struck out the first two batter she faced in the 9th inning, before shortstop Dalton Guthrie lost the handle on a ground ball by Michael Burns. O’Sullivan lifted him after having thrown 119 pitches. 

Fittingly, Faedo was named SEC Pitcher of the Week for his performance.

"He just made pitches. He didn't try to strike out everybody,'' O'Sullivan said. "It felt like he didn't have to make that many pressure-packed pitches because he was only in the stretch a few times. Friday night guys are different. Alex is one of those guys. He was awfully special."

The next time Miami head coach Jim Morris sees Faedo, it will be too soon. Faedo has dominated the Orange & Green throughout his Florida career. His numbers against the ‘Canes are stellar. In four outings, which includes a College World Series start as a freshman, Faedo has blistered Miami.

2/20/15

1.1 ip

2h

0r

0er

0bb

0k

 

6/17/15

5 ip

3h

2r

1er

4bb

7k

Win

2/28/16

6.1 ip

0h

0r

0er

2bb

12k

Win

2/24/17

8.2 ip

2h

0r

0er

1bb

8k

Win

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Career vs Miami

21.1 ip

7h

2r

1er

7bb

27k

(3-0, .043)

 

“I felt good out there,” Faedo said. “Sully talked to me a lot about just working down more and not trying to do too much and I just tried to simplify the game a little bit more.”

“I don’t know,” Faedo added when asked about his mastery over Miami. “It’s a good rivalry game and it just really amps me up to pitch against them all of the time.”

Opponents are hitting just .130 against Faedo. His .75 WHIP is among the nation’s best for pitchers that have thrown at least 13 innings. Next weekend, Faedo will face Columbia, who will open their season against the hard-throwing right-hander.  

 

Singer silences the ‘Canes

Brady Singer (2-0, 0.71) threw several fastballs with good movement to start the Miami game that came in between 94-96 mph. The Hurricanes offense never caught up to those pitches, so he just kept throwing them.

He was dominating. Singer pitched 7.2 shutout innings allowing only five hits and three walks, while striking out 11 Hurricanes. He faced the top of the Miami order in the 6th- Carl Chester, Michael Burns, and Johnny Ruiz and struck out the side.

 “It’s just one of those days where everything was working,” Singer said. “I just lived off the fastball and sunk it as much as I could. It was a good outing. It felt good. I threw a few sliders, that’s something I’m going to work on coming into next weekend.”

He threw five innings a week ago versus William & Mary surrendering just three hits and one earned run, while walking three and striking out six.

He’s pitching with much more confidence than he did as a freshman. It will be interesting to watch as he continues to develop the slider in the weeks before conference play begins.   

Singer, who was the top pitcher in the Cape Cod League kept the Hurricanes bats off balance with his change-up and that slider. Opponents are hitting just .182 versus him. 

 

Singer

12.2 ip

8h

1r

1er

6bb

17k

 

Kowar: Is he the top Sunday hurler in college baseball?

After getting pounded by Faedo and Singer, Miami was looking for a break from “the Sunday guy”. 

And this is where we all begin laughing.

We all remember when too often the Sunday pitching projection was TBA or by committee. Enter Kevin O’Sullivan and that changes at the University of Florida.

It was evident that Morris and the Hurricanes were in for a long day when the first inning ended.  

Sophomore Jackson Kowar (2-0, 1.59) threw two quick strikes to the first two batters in the Miami lineup, James Davison and Carl Chester using fastballs that arrived on location between 94-95 mph and finished both batters off with a nasty change-up strikeouts.

Kowar then worked a 2-2 count to three-hole batter Johnny Ruiz before sending him back to the dugout with a blistering 95 mph fastball as home plate umpire punched him out with a right fist.

The highlight of Kowar’s performance occurred in the 5th inning. Miami shortstop Brandon Gali led off the inning with a single for the Hurricanes. He advanced to second base on Davison’s ground ball. With the Gators leading 3-1 and Chester at the plate, Kowar took over and got him with a ground out before striking out Ruiz to get out of the jam, stranding Gali at third.

“My slider was not great at all today,” Kowar said. “I knew that my change-up was going to big and I thought J.J. (Schwarz) called a phenomenal game today. We were on the same page at the same time. I think the 2-0 change-up that I threw to Chester was the biggest pitch of the game. It kind of got me back in the zone.”

Kowar pitched 5.2 innings, surrendering just four hits and one earned run. He walked three and struck out seven to give him 17 K’s in just two appearances.

“Obviously, the two guys before me (Alex Faedo and Brady Singer) were dynamite, so I felt a little bit of pressure there to live up to that, but at the end of the day as a starter as long as were in the game it doesn’t really matter of its’ 8-7 or 1-0, I just have to keep us in there as long as I can.”

Opponents are hitting just .146 against Kowar.

 

Kowar

11.1 ip

6h

4r

2er

4bb

17k

 

There is a competition among the three Florida starters, but as Kowar pointed out it’s a healthy competition. Overall, Florida’s starting staff manhandled #17 Miami limiting the ‘Canes to just one run in 22 innings.

A few superlatives…

-The pitching staff as a whole leads the Southeastern Conference with a 2.02 ERA- 12th best in the nation.

-Their strikeout to walks ration ranks 14th nationally at 4.00

-Right-hander batters are averaging a pathetic .152 against the Gators this season.

-Opponents are hitting just .192 with runners on base against Florida.

The final piece of the puzzle is the Florida defense which afford the Gators trio to throw the ball with confidence.  The Gators .985 fielding percentage is the best in the Southeastern Conference and among the nation’s best. Florida has turned five double plays, which is among the best in the conference.

 


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