OMAHA, Neb. — Leading up to the College World Series finals, coach Kevin O’Sullivan described freshman right-hander Tyler Dyson as the future of Florida baseball.
The future led the Gators to a national title. Very much in the present. Dyson was stellar Tuesday night, throwing 6 innings of 1-run, 3-hit baseball with 2 strikeouts and 2 walks. It was only the second start of the hard-throwing right-hander’s career, but he kept pace with first-round pick Alex Faedo and future first-round selection Brady Singer in how they were able to control the pace of play in a College World Series start.
It’s hard to live in the moment. So as great as it was to watch Dyson shut down LSU to bring the Gators their first College World Series title, there was also an urge to look forward. Dyson is going to be a sophomore next season. Singer is going to be a junior. So will third-starter Jackson Kowar and saves leader Michael Byrne.
Florida’s pitching staff in 2018 is going to be deeper. But O’Sullivan doesn’t want to think about that yet.
“Just trying to enjoy this one right now,” O’Sullivan said. “You’re putting pressure on me to win another one already? I don’t know. I think Florida baseball is in great shape right now.”
Singer is a known commodity. Pitchers drafted in the second round out of high school with 96 mph fastballs and sinkers that laugh in the face of physics don’t often come to college. He’ll slide into that Friday starter role vacated by Faedo.
Behind him in the rotation will be Kowar (who went 12-1 with a 4.08 ERA in 2017 and saved Florida’s decisive Game 2 victory Tuesday) and Dyson. And while Singer said he hasn’t thought too hard about what that rotation might look like, he knows it sounds good.
“[Wednesday] we start a repeat,” Singer said. “Dyson will probably be on the weekends. He’s a horse. He went 6 tonight in the second start of his career in the College World Series finals. It shows you what he’s about.”
Kowar couldn’t help but rave about his freshman teammate either. The poise Dyson exhibited was impressive to Kowar. For a freshman to make the second start of his career in a World Series clinching game and outduel the winningest pitcher in the history of a six-time national championship program, there isn’t a higher standard to achieve.
For Dyson himself, the bottom line was keeping things simple and making his job easier. Dyson noticed during his bullpen session before the game that the wind was blowing in toward home plate. He knew that meant he could coax a handful of LSU batters into putting the ball in the air and watching the ball die in the spacious outfield of TD Ameritrade Park.
After that, Dyson let his talent take over.
“With the big ballpark like this and the wind blowing in, I felt like if I just threw strikes early in the count then they would try to pop up,” Dyson said. “That’s what they did. I got some ground balls and some fly outs. I didn’t have as many strikeouts as Brady did last night, but I’m glad I could help the team win.”
Dyson has a lot to learn before he’s on the level of Singer or Faedo. As O’Sullivan brought up in his postgame press conference, Dyson has only been pitching for two years. The fact he can throw 98 mph with a wipeout slider disguises the rough edges in his game, particularly his lack of command of a third pitch and his inability to pitch from the windup.
But that can be taught. When Dyson returns to practice this summer, he’ll work on throwing out of the windup and developing his changeup into a reliable third option. If he can achieve those tasks, Dyson has a chance to be as good as Kowar, Singer, Faedo or anyone else who has come through the Florida baseball program.
That is, if he already isn’t there to begin with.
“He has a chance to be really, really good,” O’Sullivan said.