One down, and one big one—the biggest of the year—to go.
After sweeping through the NCAA Gainesville Regional with three straight victories, the Florida Gators (48-16) are suddenly a win away from advancing to the College World Series—taking the first of a three-game Super Regional series against Florida State, 13-5, Friday night at McKethan Stadium.
The No. 4 national seed Gators were dominant early and throughout, rattling FSU starting pitcher Boomer Biegalski and finding an offensive groove that seemed to never let up all night.
Four of the first five UF batters reached base in the first inning, with Josh Tobias, JJ Schwarz, and Mike Rivera all driving in early run support. By the end of the inning, Florida’s entire lineup appeared at the plate and the upper hand was established in no uncertain terms. It was also a good omen of things to come, as Florida entered the game 21-1 when scoring in the first inning.
Uh, let’s make that 22-1.
Meanwhile, Logan Shore was brilliant in 5.2 innings of work, holding the Noles scoreless and giving up just four hits, while providing five strikeouts. And something must be said about the way Florida’s offense is producing with Shore on the mound. Counting tonight’s ballgame, the Gators have put 43 runs on the scoreboard over the last three starts for its dominant right-hander. That’s right, 43 runs over the last three games in which Logan Shore has started for the Gators. Unbelievable, particularly when you realize that only a few weeks ago, the Gators couldn’t win an opening game to save their lives.
FSU was able to threaten in the 5th inning, putting runners on first and third with only one out. This could have become a momentum building sequence for the Noles. But Shore had other ideas, responding with a huge strikeout for the 2nd out of the inning which was followed by the sure handed Josh Tobias, who plucked a line drive from the air to end the inning.
But as it turned out, the fun was just beginning.
Freshman sensation JJ Schwarz- who is 9 of 15 in the NCAA Tournament and 19 of 34 since the SEC Tournament- launched a solo homer past the deepest part of center field, and into orbit. Schwarz now has 16 home runs and 68 RBI for the season—one which, again, is oh so close to extending even longer. Just another reminder of that.
Florida State would score, but by the time it found the scoreboard the Gators were 13 runs deep and thinking about Saturday, along with the crowd of 5,709 at McKethan Stadium (the 10th-largest in school history).
Speaking of which, the Gators will start sophomore AJ Puk, fresh off consecutive 7-inning scoreless outings against Arkansas and USF, in Saturday’s game two at 5pm. A win will send the Gators to the College World Series for the first time since 2012.
This team is close to making some history. And another performance like the one we just saw, and they’ll make it.