You couldn’t have scripted a better start to the College World Series than Florida’s 3-0 win over TCU (46-17) Sunday night.
The Gators (48-18) got seven rock solid innings from starter Alex Faedo (8-2, 2.40 ERA) and then two innings for a 17th save for closer Michael Byrne (1.76 ERA). The two combined to strike out 15 Horned Frogs (11 by Faedo, four by Byrne) while limiting them to five hits (two by Faedo, three by Byrne). The Gators didn’t manage a whole lot of offense, but on this night their three runs must have looked like a climb up Mount Everest to a TCU team whose bats spent a lot of time missing the baseball.
The Gators scored one in the first when JJ Schwarz grounded out to score Ryan Larson, who had walked, moved to second on an errant pickoff and to third on a Dalton Guthrie grounder. In the fourth, Christian Hicks singed in Mike Rivera, who walked and moved to third on an Austin Langworthy single to right field. The final run came in the fifth when Guthrie and Schwarz opened the inning with singles and Nelson Madonado delivered a run-scoring single to left.
Here is why getting that first win is so important for UF. By winning game one, the Gators are off until Tuesday night when they face Louisville (53-10) in a winner’s bracket game. If the Gators win that one they won’t have to play again until Friday and whoever they play Friday will have to beat them twice. Bracket winner moves into the best two-of-three championship series, which is set to begin a week from Monday.
This was the perfect start for a Florida pitching staff that really doesn’t have the depth it’s had in recent years. The Gators have three excellent starters in Faedo, Tuesday night starter Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar and an exceptional closer in Byrne. Tyler Dyson is a late bloomer who came through with seven critical innings in the Super Regional, but otherwise, the bullpen is shaky. With the CWS format, the Gators could get away with throwing their regular rotation and if they get through bracket play without a loss, have Faedo and Singer ready for the championship round, both with a week of rest. And, with the days in between games, Kevin O’Sullivan can use Byrne nearly every game.
Game notes: TCU came into the game with one of the most feared running games in the country but the Gators turned the Horned Frogs pedestrian. Catcher Mike Rivera showed why he was a sixth round draft pick in the recent Major League Baseball Draft with a strikeout-throw ‘em out double play pickoff throw to first base to end the TCU second inning and a dart that nailed a runner stealing in the fourth. Faedo ended the fourth with a pickoff at first that nailed Nolan Brown, TCU’s best base stealer … The combined shutout by Faedo and Byrne was Florida’s first shutout at the College World Series since Marc (Exxon) Valdes blanked Florida State, 5-0, in 1991 … Austin Maddox, a key member of Florida’s 2011 team that finished second to South Carolina at the College World Series, pitched Saturday night. He’s the 10th player from that 2011 team to play Major League Baseball ... Monday, Cal State Fullerton and FSU play at 2 p.m. in an elimination game. In the winner’s bracket, LSU faces Oregon State at 7 p.m.
SOME SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Alabama: This is a first for Nick Saban. He’s hired a female recruiting coordinator -- Leah Knight.
Arkansas: Former South Carolina running back David Williams (6-1, 220), will transfer to Arkansas. He’s a graduate so he’s eligible immediately. Williams accumulated 794 yards and scored five touchdowns in three seasons. With the retirement of Rawleigh Williams III (severe neck injury) Williams offers the Razorbacks immediate depth and a solid backup for Devwah Whaley.
Auburn: Auburn plans to sign four or five offensive linemen in its 2018 recruiting class. The Tigers signed three (Calvin Ashley, Nick Brahms and Austin Troxell) in 2017 and all three figure to be in the two-deep rotation.
FLORIDA: In addition to a raise to $4.48 million (he was making $4.16 million) Jim McElwain can earn an additional $825,000 in performance bonuses.
Georgia: Defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt (6-3, 300) has passed all his classwork to be eligible for 2017, but he’s still waiting to hear if he got the necessary ACT score.
Kentucky: Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, who has worked at Florida State, Auburn and Tennessee in the past, says Kentucky’s upgraded football facilities “are second to none.”
LSU: Former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme, now the head ball coach at Belhaven, where he is 6-25 in three seasons, says he has turned LSU coach Ed Orgeron into the NCAA, claiming Coach O is extorting Louisiana high school coaches into refusing out of state coaches from using their facilities for satellite camps. Basically, LSU is laughing this one off.
Mississippi State: Neil Price, who has been the play-by-play voice for Kentucky women’s basketball, is the new play-by-play man for Mississippi State football and men’s basketball.
Missouri: Junior defensive tackle Nate Howard has been suspended indefinitely after his arrest on felony drug possession charges. Found in his possession were hallucinogenic mushrooms and less than 10 grams of marijuana.
Ole Miss: Former Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace was arrested over the weekend on DUI charges. Wallace’s arrest stemmed from an accident in which he allegedly fell asleep at the wheel.
South Carolina: South Carolina pulled off a recruiting shocker when it landed a commitment from quarterback Dakereon Joyner. He’s a dual threat guy from Fort Dorchester, the same school that sent Carlos Dunlap to Florida years ago.
Tennessee: New athletic director John Currie says the Neyland Stadium is in need of some cosmetic changes, among them changing the entrance on the Tennessee River side of the almost 100-year-old stadium. “We’ve got that back entrance to Neyland Stadium, which is right on the river,” Currie said. “It’s riverfront property and we’ve basically got a service entrance down there.”
Texas A&M: How hot is the seat for Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin? On NBC5 in Dallas-Fort Worth, sports anchor Newy Suggs says he could see TCU coach Gary Patterson taking over at A&M if Sumlin doesn’t win enough games this season to satisfy the Aggie faithful. When the sports casters in your own state not only express their doubts but are already penciling in your replacement, your fanny is on fire.
Vanderbilt: Four star recruits are rare at Vanderbilt, so it’s a very big deal that 2018 wide receiver Camron Johnson (6-1, 182, Brentwood, TN Brentwood Academy) has committed to the Commodores. If he can run fast, he’s just what the Commodores need. One reason their offense is so sluggish is a lack of speed at the skill positions.
BILL BELICHICK ON WHAT HE LEARNED FROM HIS FATHER
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, the son of a football coach, shared on Father’s Day the best football lesson he learned from his dad: “Keep your head down, work hard, keep your mouth shut. Actions speak louder than words. That’s basically what he did. Do what you can do to help the team. The team is bigger than you.”
KOEPKA GETS OPEN COMA
Dan Jenkins, the greatest golf writer in history, would call what Brooks Koepka did on the back nine Sunday a case of open coma. Open coma is when you are so hot that you could be brain dead and your tee shots would find the fairway, your irons would nail the greens and your putts would find the bottom of the cup. He came in with a 67 Sunday to suck all the oxygen out of an Erin Hills course that turned into a target course instead of the par-killing monster it was billed to be when the US Open began on Thursday. Koepka went birdie-birdie-birdie on 14, 15 and 16 to put the field away and finished the tournament 16-under par, a full four shots ahead of second place Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman. While nearly everyone else was wilting to the pressure Sunday, Koepka just kept making shots to record a rather easy win. He only missed seven fairways the entire tournament.
What was strange about this open was the fact that the leaderboard was filled with all these guys who had never won a big one. As for the guys you would expect to challenge, they were no shows. Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Rory McIroy didn’t make the cut. Jordan Spieth finished +1 and in a tie for 35th after flirting with missing the cut.
While it was so exciting to see 15 golfers with a chance to win it and so many under par when Sunday began, bet the farm that the USGA will not allow a second year of target golf next year when the Open heads east to Bethpage. Expect the rough to be ankle high in the first cut, knee high or greater in the next cut, deep traps and greens slicker than wet snot on a brass doorknob.
There may not be a smarter general manager in the NBA than Danny Ainge. By agreeing to swap places in the upcoming draft with the Philadelphia 76ers (Sixers get the #1 overall which they will use to take point guard Markelle Fultz while Boston drops to #3). The Celtics will get the player they really want in do-it-all Kansas forward Josh Jackson plus they get ANOTHER future #1), the Celtics also got a future #1 draft pick and they’ll get the player they genuinely want and need in do-it-all forward Josh Jackson of Kansas. The Sixers will get the point guard they covet in Markelle Fultz which will give them a potentially scary starting five in the future, but Ainge will have a quality team for next season and SEVEN #1s in the next two drafts. With that many #1s, Ainge has options to go young or trade for quality veterans. It’s already expected the Celtics will add free agents Gordon Hayward and either Blake Griffin or Paul Millsap in this offseason.
Paul George will opt out of Indiana in 2018 so the Pacers are trying to make a deal for their all-star. The Cleveland Cavaliers are certainly interested. You have to wonder if Danny Ainge might get involved in this one. He’s got plenty of draft choices to dangle in front of the Pacers front office.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has asked former president Barak Obama and first lady Michelle Obama to serve as honorary captains for a home game this year.
Vince Young’s attempted football comeback is probably over. Young was waived over the weekend by the Saskatchewan Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League. Young tore a hamstring during training camp. He last played in the NFL in 2011.
By tanking the 2017 season, the New York Jets are expected to clear $80 million of cap space for 2018.
Former Mississippi State forward Mario Kegler (6-7, 220) has transferred to Baylor.
Former UConn All-American Diana Taurasi is now the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer after she scored 19 points Sunday in the Phoenix Mercury’s 90-59 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. Taurasi has scored 7,494 points in 13 seasons. Former record holder Tina Thompson needed 17 seasons to hold the former record.
The death of Kent State football player Tyler Heintz is being attributed to hyperthermia when the body fails to cool after exposure to extreme heat.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Would you rather watch a US Open in which so many players are well under par or do you prefer to see a four-day grind when the winner is maybe 3- or 4-under?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
U2’s Joshua Tree Tour will continue Tuesday night at FedEx Field in Washington DC. Today’s music is a May 20 concert by U2 at the Rose Bowl.