OMAHA, Neb. — Alex Faedo wasn’t just good for the Florida baseball team Sunday night. He darn near won a game single-handedly.
Faedo was stellar Sunday, tossing seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts and just 2 hits allowed, as No. 3-seed Florida defeated No. 6 TCU, 3-0.
With the win, the Gators (48-18) advance to face Louisville (53-10) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, one win closer to the College World Series final.
“I’d like to be known as the guy that pitches good in the big game,” Faedo said. “But I don’t know. I felt comfortable today just knowing I’d been out here and pitched on this mound before, pitching in this great atmosphere. I felt comfortable and didn’t make too big of a deal about it.”
TCU (47-17) did an admirable job of driving Faedo’s pitch count up, forcing him to throw more than 30 pitches in the third inning alone and pushing the count above 100 in the seventh inning, but Faedo didn’t let the Horned Frogs’ patience slow him down. If anything, Faedo began to pitch better as his pitch count elevated, as the junior right-hander set down the last 10 batters he faced in order, striking out 5 of them.
“They were patient, but I’m trying to throw strikes,” Faedo said. “That third inning I might’ve thrown too many balls, so they did a good job there. But as the game went on, they started to chase a little bit more. That definitely helped me get back into the pitch count and go an extra inning.”
After Faedo left, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan called on closer Michael Byrne for the eighth inning. Byrne wasn’t as untouchable as Faedo, allowing 2 hits and putting a runner on third base in the eighth, but he worked out of the frame unscathed, stranding two runners.
Byrne came back out and tossed a scoreless ninth to finish the game, stranding Cam Warner on second base after his one-out double.
“It’s tough building off what [Faedo] did after he threw seven innings of outstanding baseball,” Byrne said. “But it was nice keeping the W and getting the shutout.”
What about Florida baseball’s offense?
Through three innings, the matchup between Faedo and TCU’s Jared Janczak was living up to its billing as an ace-off. Janczak allowed 1 early run off an RBI groundout from first baseman JJ Schwarz, but he settled in afterward, allowing just 1 hit in three frames.
However, Florida started getting to Janczak in the fourth, patching together a walk and 2 singles to push a second run across. After a 1-2-3 top of the fifth from Faedo, the Gators added another run in the bottom of the fifth off 3 consecutive singles from Dalton Guthrie, Schwarz and Nelson Maldonado. Maldonado’s single scored Guthrie and chased Janczak from the game.
Janczak left having allowed 6 hits in four innings. Coming into the game, the TCU ace had a batting average against of .164, one of the five best marks in the nation.
After his fifth-inning single, Maldonado appeared to tweak his ankle running the bases. He stayed in the game until the eighth inning, running with a noticeable limp on the field, and spent a little bit of time in between innings inside the dugout with trainers.
Maldonado sat in the locker room wearing a boot on his right ankle but was confident he won’t miss any time with it.
“Just coming around third, I tried to stop a little bit too quick and I rolled my ankle,” Maldonado explained after the game. “But I should be fine by Tuesday.”
Prior to the tweak, Maldonado was Florida’s most productive hitter, going 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. In his one at-bat post limp, Maldonado flew out to right field.
What’s next for Florida baseball?
With the win, the Florida baseball team needs just two more to advance to the College World Series finals. The next team in Florida’s way is No. 7 Louisville, a fellow national seed that defeated Texas A&M earlier Sunday afternoon to advance.
Florida and Louisville will play Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The winner will move within one win of the final series, while the loser will face the winner of Texas A&M and TCU on Thursday night.