Florida dismantles USF, advances to Regional final

Another day, another easy win for the Florida Gators’ baseball team.

The mysteriously hot Gators are through to the Regional final after blowing out South Florida for the third time this year, 8-2. Tonight’s win makes it a hat trick over the Bulls, as Florida also defeated USF in the regular season by 13-3 and 5-1 scores. USF will play Florida Atlantic tomorrow in an elimination game; the winner will have to beat Florida twice in succession in the regional final to advance for the Super Regional.

But the Gators aren’t going to be playing a second game tomorrow if they get an all around performance half as good as the one we saw today.

AJ Puk turned in a gem from the pitching mound that included a period where he retired 14 straight batters, Buddy Reed and Harrison Bader each blasted two run homers, four other Gators collected multiple hits, Josh Tobias made a tremendous backhanded scoop at third base and threw the runner out and Bader made a phenomenal diving catch to rob USF of a double. It’s all around efforts like these that make Florida so hard to beat. Last night, I cautioned that while Florida looked good, they did it against a bad team. Today, they looked good against a really good team. USF is simply much more talented that FAMU across the board, and Florida made them look almost as bad tonight.

Even in the rare instances when things didn’t go Florida’s way, the Gators found ways to turn them into positives.

Puk took the mound to start the game and immediately found himself in trouble, allowing two runners on. No problem. Three straight strikeouts. End of threat. End of inning. End of USF momentum.

Then there was the bottom of the 8th inning, which saw USF finally score a run on an RBI single down the third base line to cut the lead to 5-1. What did Florida do? They simply scored three more runs to put the game out of reach on a double by Jeremy Vasquez and then a subsequent USF error.

It’s that kind of response to adversity that will get Florida far in this year’s tourney, and it’s also the exact kind of response to adversity the Gators were missing last year, where they got bounced out of their own Regional in consecutive games. So that’s a good sign as we go forward, and it’s something to take pride in after last year.

Now to make it all pay off by advancing out of the Regional for the first time since 2012…