Photo by Danny Parker

The Gators won with what got them here

The matchup between Florida and Wake Forest was billed as a classic matchup between good and powerful pitching along with good and powerful hitting. Florida came in with the olden arms while Wake Forest came in with the mashers at the plate that could turn a game with a single swing. Florida won the weekend with those golden arms while the Demon Deacons stole one game with the big hits.

It was the most convoluted weekend with several weather delays including one delay that postponed a game two a day later and starting on Sunday. The Florida-Wake Forest series was the only one of all eight Super Regionals that was still playing on Monday… and they had to basically play a double header.

The Gator bats and offense seemed to struggle most of the weekend, maybe especially in the two wins. Florida scored a total of five runs in 20 innings in the two wins on the weekend. This is nothing new. This is what we have seen from the offense almost all year.

Still, what has mattered for this team maybe more than any at Florida, has been the pitching and defense… most specifically the pitching.

While Florida scored just five runs in their two wins, they only allowed two runs in those same two games. They shut the high flying Demon Deacon offense in the two wins with a repeat performance from two of their year-long stars, an appearance by a third one, and then five innings of release from a freshman that threw his best game of the year.

If Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan could throw Alex Faedo and Brady Singer in every game the Gators played, he wouldn’t complain. Because of the weather and delay issues, the two guys got opportunities that they haven’t had all year long. Both started a game, but both also came in relief in two games that the other started. It was the first relief appearance for each all season.

They handled it like champs with neither pitcher giving up a run, and both giving six innings on the mound. Sophomore closer worked his magic in game one although was victimized in game two. And then they got the surprise five innings from freshman Tyler Dyson in the last contest, something O’Sullivan said was much needed.

“That was a very difficult lineup to get through,” O’Sullivan would say following the final game that pushed the Gators to the College World Series. “They battled us tooth and nail. They’re very tough… well coached. It was a difficult weekend with the rain, but both teams had to deal with it. Brady and Alex only got six innings [each] in this weekend so we had to have some other guys step up and they did. Obviously Tyler Dyson today was really, really good and gave us exactly what we needed.

Dyson was probably the hero of game three with O’Sullivan really not knowing what he was going to get and just hoping for a few innings from his freshman.

“During the rain delay in the second game, there was no choice but to go to Tyler,” O’Sullivan said. “Really, we were hoping to get three innings out of him and then maybe piece it together with (Garrett) Milchin, (Frank) Rubio and (Nick) Horvath and try to get to the eighth. But he kept throwing the ball well and we kept running him back out there.”

It was the longest outing of the year for Dyson who hasn’t pitched much since the start of the SEC schedule started a few months ago. He got a taste of things in game two throwing an inning of good work and so was ready for his second opportunity.

“After the first game, (assistant coaches) Craig Bell and Lars Davis told me that there was a good possibility that I would pitch again in the second game,” Dyson said. “The first game I felt confident out there, threw well in the bullpen and then just came out and trusted what Sully was calling and how J.J. (Schwarz) was behind the plate in the first game and just took that into the second game. I felt confident because after I went through the lineup in the first game I thought, ‘Ok, I’ve got an idea how to pitch to these guys. If I just execute I feel like I can do it.’”

So the Gators recipe for success is one that goes through the mound and a handful of pitchers and then wait for the offense to add a few runs. That isn’t always the easiest thing to watch, but it has led to 48 wins on the season.

Now they head to Omaha and will take on Texas Christian on Sunday and will carry the same recipe, knowing also that the offense can come to life like it has a few times late in the season.

“I take numbers and throw them out the window at this point,” O’Sullivan said. “Virginia a couple years ago was one of the last teams in and ended up winning it. I remember Vandy won it in 2013 and I think they finished sixth in our league. All the numbers are out the window at this point. It’s all about winning, and we’ve won a lot of tough games, a lot of ugly wins. But an ugly win is better than a pretty loss, I know that.”

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