Down, but not out: Gators crush Miami again to set up rematch with Virginia

As it turned out, Kevin O’Sullivan didn’t need long to be able to tell if his Gators were ready to bounce back from an abysmal performance against Virginia. To be precise: he needed four pitches.

Harrison Bader led off the game by launching a homer into the center field bleachers and Florida never looked back, pounding the Hurricanes 10-2 on a night that more closely resembled a home run derby than a College World Series game. It’s the second time the Gators have slaughtered Miami in this World Series, after a 15-3 rout on Saturday. Florida has now won 21 out of the last 26 against Miami, including the last eight postseason meetings, and have ended Miami’s season four times in the last seven years. The Gators also improve to 16-4 on the year against opponents from the state of Florida.

Next up: a rematch with Virginia, the team that befuddled Gator hitters for nine innings on Monday in an ugly 1-0 loss. Florida will have to beat Virginia twice in order to reach the national championship series next week, since they’re coming out of the loser’s bracket. The good news is that the Gators will get Logan Shore back on the mound, although AJ Puk pitched very well against the Hoos on Monday. He just didn’t get any help.

That wasn’t a problem tonight.

Bader’s leadoff homer was just the start of a long night for Miami pitchers. Later in the first inning, JJ Schwarz singled, and he promptly scored on Buddy Reed’s homer over the right field wall. That made it 3-0 Florida before Miami even came to the plate.

Alex Faedo got the start for Florida on the mound. The youngster didn’t do badly. He gave up one hit in five innings before getting into trouble in the bottom of the sixth, giving up back to back hits, and got yanked. But it didn’t really matter; at that point, Florida had an 8-0 lead. They’d added four more in the top half of the 5th inning on another merry-go-round: Bader doubled down the left field line, Richie Martin laid down a bunt that turned into a single, Josh Tobias scratched out an infield single to score Bader, Buddy Reed bunt-singled Martin home and advanced Tobias, and Jeremy Vasquez doubled them both home. That was the end of that threat, but an inning later, Richie Martin swatted an opposite field homer to push the lead to 8-0.

The Hurricanes did land a punch tonight, as their sixth inning rally plated two runs, but the Gators simply laughed it off and responded with the knockout punch, a two run homer by Peter Alonso in the seventh. End of momentum. End of game. End of Miami’s season.

And just the start of a whole new one for Florida.