OMAHA, Neb. — In recent years, no one has developed pitchers like the Florida baseball team. And Tuesday night, the mythos of the school’s next legend might just begin.
Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan sends Tyler Dyson to the mound for Game 2 against LSU. A freshman from Bradenton, Fla., Dyson is 3-0 with a 3.55 ERA in 33 innings and 23 appearances in 2017. Only one of those outings was a start, a rough outing versus Florida State back in April.
But the Tyler Dyson that Florida fans saw back in April with his 4.40 ERA and inconsistent production is long gone. The Gators are counting on the Dyson of the future taking the mound tonight.
“He’s the next big one to come through our program,” O’Sullivan said of Dyson. “That’s what they look like.”
With a fastball that tops out around 98 mph, a hooking slider that darts in on lefties and away from righties, and a developing command of his changeup, Dyson has all the physical tools to dominate. And what he lacks in College World Series experience — Dyson has faced only four batters this CWS and hasn’t thrown in a week — he makes up for with recent success and experience versus his Tuesday night opponent.
Dyson threw 2 innings in two outings versus LSU back in March, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits with 3 strikeouts and 1 walk. One week after the LSU outings, Dyson threw his start versus Florida State, allowing 3 runs in 1.2 innings. But since then, the freshman has been light’s out.
Across 12 appearances since his April start, Dyson has thrown 19.2 innings, allowing 6 earned runs for an ERA of 2.75. That includes the five shutout innings he threw versus Wake Forest in the super regionals. Dyson struck out 7 batters that day while allowing only 2 hits and no walks.
For O’Sullivan, the most impressive part might’ve been how comfortable he looked doing it.
“He threw five innings against Wake Forest in the super regional and it looked like he could’ve gone two or three [more],” O’Sullivan said. “It’s a different stage for him. But I know he’s excited. And Wake Forest had a really good hitting club. You guys will see, he’s very talented.”
Saying Wake Forest had a good hitting club is an understatement. The Demon Deacons led the NCAA in home runs and were fifth in slugging percentage this season.
LSU presents a different type of challenge. The Tigers are the type of team that puts pressure on pitchers by reaching base and moving around, with a love for hit-and-runs and sacrifice bunts.
It’ll be up to Dyson and catcher Mike Rivera to slow down LSU’s attack, which has averaged 6.8 runs per game this season. O’Sullivan said he’s confident Dyson can be the guy to do that. The Gators are one win from an NCAA championship, but O’Sullivan hasn’t picked out a place on his mantle for the trophy just yet.
“This thing is a long way from over for us from my perspective,” O’Sullivan said. “It was good to get a win [Monday], but we’re not nearly close to the finish line yet.”