OMAHA, Neb. — Just like Super Regionals and just like Regionals before them, the Florida baseball team is staring elimination in the face.
Because of its 9-2 loss to TCU Friday night, Florida has another game to play Saturday. The stakes are simple. With a win, the Gators will advance to the best-of-three College World Series finals for the first time since 2011. With a loss, the Gators will return to Gainesville, bounced from the College World Series early for the third time in three years.
The situation is as familiar for the Florida baseball team as the stakes are simple. Saturday will be Florida’s third elimination game in three postseason series. And just as the Gators defeated Bethune Cookman to win the Gainesville Regional and Wake Forest to win the Gainesville Super Regional, the Gators will look to avenge a could’ve-been-series-clinching loss with an actual series-clinching win.
It’s a particularly similar case to Super Regionals. Against Wake Forest and against TCU, the Gators won the first game they played against their opponent before falling in Game 2. But this time, there was enough time in between games that the Gators will be able to return ace Alex Faedo to start on regular rest.
Sure, TCU has seen Faedo before. But the Horned Frogs couldn’t do anything against him last time out, striking out 11 times in seven innings. And they’ll have to prove they can do it this time before Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan gets concerned.
“They’ve still got to hit him. If he executes, it’s just like [he’s facing] anybody else,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s all about execution. I’m sure they’re familiar with him but we are with [TCU pitcher Jared Janczak] as well. If they can hit Alex’s stuff, kudos to them.”
To Faedo, facing a familiar opponent is nothing new. He has three years of SEC play under his belt, in which he’s seen the same teams year after year after year. And he pitched twice against Wake Forest, albeit in shorter outings.
And Faedo won’t be the only Gators pitcher fresh for Saturday. Relief aces Michael Byrne and Tyler Dyson will both be available to throw since neither of them were called upon to throw Friday. That makes for nearly a full week of rest for two relief arms, which is more than plenty.
As O’Sullivan and catcher Mike Rivera both brought up postgame, every team has one loss at this point. Florida’s lost once. So has TCU. And so have Oregon State and LSU on the other side. Everything is equal. Now all that’s left is a situation Florida has already been successful in twice.
That’s why, to Faedo, facing an elimination game is nothing to be afraid of.
“We’ve done it before,” Faedo said. “So I guess we can surely do it again.”
Stay posted to SEC Country all weekend for more updates on the Florida baseball team and their quest for a College World Series title. The Gators play next Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.