Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Faedo dominates in CWS opener as Gators beat TCU 3-0

The No. 4 Florida Gators (48-19) got off to the start they needed in the College World Series, beating No. 7 Texas Christian 3-0 on Sunday to head to the winner’s bracket matchup with Louisville on Tuesday. The gators did it behind yet another sterling pitching performance by starter Alex Faedo and closer Michael Byrne.

Faedo pitched seven complete innings, striking out 11 batters, while allowing just two hits and two walks. Byrne came and closed down the last two innings finishing his 17th save of the season, which continues a Gator season record and is now tied with the most saves in the entire country.

The Gators seemed to have the upper hand over TCU (45-17) starting early in the contest. With Faedo dishing it on the mound to start the game, Florida got on the scoreboard in the first inning.

Senior Ryan Larson led off the Gator bats on the day with a walk in the first.  An errant pickoff move to first then moved Larson to second. Larson would advance to third on a ground out to first by junior Dalton Guthrie. Junior J.J. Schwarz would then gather the RBI with a hard hit grounder up the middle that was fielded by short and thrown out, but scored Larson for the 1-0 lead.

It wasn’t always easy for Faedo or Byrne.  Faedo worked himself out of a jam in the third inning. A couple of walks and an unusual error by shortstop Guthrie had the bases loaded with one out. Frustrated with the strike zone being called by the home plate umpire, Faedo would finally strike out Zach Humphreys and Evan Skoug to end the stanza and keep the Horned Frogs off of the scoreboard.

Meanwhile, the Gators struck for the second time in the fourth inning. Junior mike Rivera hit the bases with a one-out walk. Freshman Austin Langworthy followed Rivera with a hard chopper over first base for a single and advancing Rivera to third.  Rivera would score one batter later when junior Christian Hicks singled through the left side scoring Rivera and giving the Gators a 2-0 lead.

Rivera was also spectacular behind the plate. He threw out runners at second and first base, while Faedo also picked a runner off at first during the middle innings of the game. It seemed to cause the normally very aggressive Horned Frogs to back off trying to take any extra bases after the third pick off.

The Gators added another run in the fifth when Guthrie led off the inning with a single to left-center field. Schwarz followed with a single off of the short stop’s glove as Guthrie advanced to third. Maldonado added the third hit in a row with a single to left, scoring Guthrie and that is all the Gators would get in the inning and for the game as they set what would be the final 3-0 score.

Byrne would do what Byrne does by coming in and finishing off the contest. With two complete innings left, he did face a little trouble in the eighth inning. Connor Wanhanen surprised everyone in the building when the he led off the eighth with a bunt on a team that has bunted less than a hand full of times all year long. Then with one out, Ryan Merrill would single through the left side. Austen Wade then hit a sharp ball at second baseman Deacon Liput who had a hard time collecting the ball, but got Merrill out at second. With runners on the corners, and two outs, Byrne would strike out pinch hitter Evan Williams to end the threat and on to the ninth.

With the Gators not adding any more in the ninth it was up to Byrne to complete his task. He did give up a deep one-out double to Cam Warner, but that was all the Horned Frogs could muster and the Gators completed the shutout.

For the Gators, it was important for Faedo to keep TCU catcher Evan Skoug in check. The Team USA teammates are two of the best players in America and Faedo won the battle on Sunday with Skoug going 0-3 against Faedo and 0-1 against Byrne.

“I just wanted to make sure he didn’t beat me the whole game,” Faedo said on TV shortly after the contest. “He’s a great hitter so I just tried not to give him anything good to hit. I’ve been in that situation before, so I just tried to slow my heart rate down and get the job done.

Faedo upped his record to 8-2 on the season and his 11 strikeouts is a new Florida record for the College World Series. As usual, he deflected his success Sunday to head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

“I think Sully’s calling good games and I’m trying to execute what he calls,” the All-American pitcher said. “This whole thing is coming to an end and we want to come out on top, that’s the biggest thing.

The Gators will now play Louisville on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET in the winner’s bracket. The Cardinals (53-10) defeated Texas A&M 8-4 earlier Sunday.  Sophomore Brady Singer is expected to start for the Gators Tuesday. 

Courtesy NCAA

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