GAINESVILLE, Fla. — All Florida pitcher Tyler Dyson needed on Monday was to face Wake Forest’s lineup one time from top to bottom. After that, he knew.
“OK,” Dyson told himself. “I know how to pitch to these guys. I feel like I can do it.”
And boy did he. Hours after throwing two perfect frames in the back half of the 8-6 loss earlier in the day, the freshman threw five shutout innings in the decisive third game of the Gainesville Super Regional.
The end result: A 3-0 Florida win that punched the No. 3 national seed Gators’ ticket back to the College World Series for the third straight year.
The final numbers on top of those seven shutout frames: 2 hits allowed, 10 strikeouts and no walks.
A pretty solid performance for a freshman who just began pitching full-time during his senior year of high school.
“Obviously Tyler Dyson today was really, really good,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said, “and gave us exactly what we needed.”
This was not the Tyler Dyson that Florida saw all season. Heading into the best-of-three super regional, the 6-foot-2 righty threw just 24 2/3 innings and had a 4.74 ERA on the season. He left the ball up in the zone at times, which played a role in him giving up 3 home runs out of the bullpen. He struggled with his secondary pitches, instead relying on his flamethrowing fastball that at points in the season has touched 97 and 98 mph.
But Monday was different.
“There was a whole new monster out there,” said junior JJ Schwarz, who caught Dyson in the first game of the day. “… He was throwing it wherever my glove was. It was awesome.”
The plan in the later game was simple. O’Sullivan wanted to get three innings out of Dyson after the rain delay halted play for 3 hours and 14 minutes after two innings and forced starter Brady Singer out of the game. From there, O’Sullivan would use a combination of Frank Rubio, Nick Horvath and Garrett Milchin until he handed the ball to junior ace Alex Faedo to close out the game.
Instead, Dyson did exactly what fellow freshman Austin Langworthy did in Florida’s 6-1 win against Bethune-Cookman to advance to the super regional: Dominate.
“I knew that we had a plan in place to piece together the next couple innings, but I kind of just wanted to hand the ball off to Alex and let him finish it,” Dyson said.
“I didn’t want to have anyone else coming in.”
He made it look easy. In addition to limiting the Demon Deacons to just the 2 hits overall, he held the heart of Wake Forest’s — Stuart Fairchild (.360 batting average, 17 home runs), Gavin Sheets (.317, 21 homers) and Ben Breazeale (.333, 11 homers) — to a 1-for-8 clip with 2 strikeouts.
“He located the ball really well today,” Sheets said. “Even when he was in the strike zone, they weren’t pitches you wanted to swing at.”
Dyson added: “I trusted my stuff today more than I had all season. It’s just been a lot of fun. I learned a lot from Alex, Brady and Jackson [Kowar] and the way [closer Michael] Byrne’s been out there throwing the ball out there. I’ve just been taking what those guys have been doing and attacking the strike zone and trusting the defense.”
That mindset will be critical as the Gators now head to Omaha, Neb., for another crack at their first national championship.