The bracket has been released, the games have been scheduled, and all that’s left for Florida baseball to do is actually play the games.
As the number two overall seed in the tournament, the Gators will be favored to make it to Omaha, Nebraska, but as Tennessee learned last year, being a top seed doesn’t guarantee anything.
But there are a handful of underlying reasons to feel confident that Gators can navigate both the Regional and Super Regional round.
Florida Baseball: Slug it out
The Gators rank 16th in the country in runs scored, and it’s a bit surprising when one considers that Florida is only 63rd in the country in on-base percentage.
They are able to make up for the relative lack of total base runners by ensuring that they are hitting more than just singles.
Florida ranks 6th in the country in slugging percentage and 3rd in the country in home runs hit.
What this ensures is that no matter how bleak the bats may be going, the Gators are capable of putting up a crooked number on the scoreboard in a heartbeat, as any base runner becomes an instant threat to be brought home.
Florida’s team ERA isn’t the greatest, and there are reasons to be concerned if the Gators have the pitching depth to hold up through the Regional round.
But tournament baseball tends to create tactical, high-leverage situations where getting a strikeout is the only outcome that can prevent a run from getting home.
One good news for the Florida pitching staff is that it ranks 6th in the country in strikeouts with 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings and will almost for sure need a strikeout at some point to prevent the big inning.
The draw itself
Florida first has to survive its Regional round against Florida A&M, UConn, and Texas Tech.
The opener for the Gators, Florida A&M, shouldn’t be a game that scares anyone on paper. It would take a meltdown from the pitching staff to keep the Rattlers in the game, but anything is possible.
After that, there won’t be anywhere to hide from solid competition. But while both UConn and Texas Tech have solid records, neither has the quality wins to match the overall resume Florida has. All things considered, it’s a very fair Regional round for Florida baseball.
After that, the Gators await a potential rematch against South Carolina in the Super Regional round. This seems less than ideal, considering South Carolina swept Florida earlier in the season. But after that series, which at the time vaulted the Gamecocks to third in the country, they went on to lose their final four weekend series and lost midweek games to North Florida and Charlotte.
There is a good chance that Campbell is the team that awaits, and they have a very solid argument they should be hosting Regionals instead of South Carolina, but their overall strength of schedule and lack of quality wins gives them a similar profile to UConn.