GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The road to Omaha begins Friday for the Florida Gators baseball team.
After spending the past month mostly on the road, UF will be back home for the start of the 2016 NCAA Baseball Tournament.
Florida (47-13) is the No. 1 overall seed in the bracket for the second time in school history (2012) and opens the Gainesville Regional against Bethune-Cookman on Friday at 6 p.m.
Nine of Florida’s losses this year came on the road, and seven of the 13 happened within the last five weeks, with six of those being away games. So the next two weekends will be an opportunity for UF to get back into their groove before a potential trip to Omaha.
If the Gators continue winning at home like they’ve done all season, their next game away from McKethan Stadium will be at the College World Series.
3 reasons why Florida got here
The 2016 team set a school record with 44 regular-season wins and was also the fastest to reach 40. The Gators have been dominant in Gainesville, winning their first 22 home games and only losing one series at McKethan.
UF came into this season with high expectations because of the returning talent, and those players didn’t disappoint. Junior right-hander Logan Shore was named SEC Pitcher of the Year and also made the All-SEC First Team for the second time in his career. The Gators finished with five All-SEC selections, the most they’ve had since 2012.
Coach Kevin O’Sullivan is ultimately the reason Florida should once again contend for a national championship. UF has now been a national seed in seven of his nine years at the helm, the highest amount nationally in that time frame. He’s also led the Gators to more conference wins than any other SEC program since 2008.
Florida swept Texas A&M at home in early April. The Aggies won the SEC tournament last week and earned a No. 4 overall seed in the NCAA tourney. The Gators also went undefeated against Florida State this season, including an 8-2 win in Tallahassee.
After dropping the opening game at home against Georgia, Shore set a school record (13 straight wins) in a 6-0 shutout and UF went on to clinch the series.
Last time Florida made it to Omaha
The Gators made it to the College World Series last year, losing 5-4 in the semifinals to the eventual national champion, Virginia. Florida has made four CWS appearances under Sullivan and finished as the runner-up in 2011.
Opponent to watch
The toughest opponent UF will face this weekend is Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are the No. 2 seed in the Gainesville Regional and earned an at-large bid to the tournament. However, GT lost series to FSU, UGA and Miami, three teams Florida beat during the regular season.