Now, for the big one.
Facing elimination at the hands of their bitter rivals, the top ranked Gators responded with a 5-0 shutout win over FSU. That notched the best of three series at one game apiece, and sets up a showdown tomorrow night for the final spot in the College World Series.
In contrast to an anemic offensive effort last night, this time the Gators got off to a hot start. Peter Alonso, by far Florida’s best hitter in the NCAA Tournament, doubled home Dalton Guthrie, who reached on an error; as it turned out, that first inning run would be all Florida needed. Because this time, it was FSU who looked dazed and confused at the plate, courtesy of a brilliant performance by Logan Shore (two hits and nine strikeouts in eight innings.)
The Gators added another run a few innings later when Alonso’s ground out scored Guthrie, and then the game turned into an old fashioned pitching duel. As the game progressed and the 2-0 score remained, a sense of uneasiness began to develop. After all, Louisville blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning to lose to UCSB just hours earlier, and Logan Shore just couldn’t realistically be counted on to go forever. Would two runs be enough?
Thankfully, Deacon Liput didn’t let us find out. The freshman drove in two huge insurance runs in a critical two out, bases loaded situatio
n in the 8th with a clean liner into right field. How’s that for clutch?
JJ Schwarz then added another run in the ninth with an RBI double, and that gave us our final 5-0 score. So, here we go. Game Three. Tomorrow night. 7:00pm. ESPN2.
Florida was able to launch a solid run at last year’s World Series after losing the 1-0 game to Virginia, so it’s not like playing with their backs to the wall is a foreign concept to them this year. And now, they’ve got all the momentum. FSU had their shot to knock out the Gators, a rare minimal pressure game with that first W in their back pocket, and they couldn’t do it. So, advantage Florida tomorrow night.
Now, winning with AJ Puk is far from a sure thing. He’s won just two decisions all year, and has struggled with consistency and location of late. But the overall quality of his stuff was impressive enough for Oakland to take him 6th overall in last week’s MLB Draft, and if he’s on, FSU doesn’t have a prayer… unless of course Florida’s bats go dormant as they did in Game One.
It just feels as though Florida is a team of destiny. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.