With a berth at the Men’s College World Series on the line, Florida baseball will take on the South Carolina Gamecocks today in game one of a best-of-three series. The Gators have been rolling all season, and almost no one has been able to take a series off Florida.
But the one team that was able to sweep the Gators this season is the one team that Florida must conquer if It wants to return to Omaha for the first time since 2018.
Florida Baseball: Nice to see you again
Coming off an emotional series win over Georgia, which saw Brandon Neely ejected and suspended for daring to be happy, the Gators traveled to Columbia, SC, on April 20 for game one of their three-game set.
After Colby Halter hit a triple to tie the score at 3-3 in the top of the sixth inning, Florida’s bullpen imploded. Philip Abner came on with two outs and a man on second base. He proceeded to walk the bases loaded, then walked home a run. Nick Ficarrotta couldn’t stop the bleeding and walked home two more runs before a two-run single made it a five-run inning.
Tyler Nesbitt then got lit up in the seventh inning, and the mercy rule was on.
In game two, South Carolina jumped all over Hurston Waldrep in the first two innings and held that to a 5-2 win.
Jac Caglianone’s start in game three wasn’t much better, as he was tagged for four runs in just three innings of work.
So how do the Florida Gators flip the script to get to Omaha?
For starters, South Carolina’s starters from that series, Will Sanders, Jack Mahoney, and Matthew Becker haven’t maintained their form since that game. The trio left that weekend with a combined record of 12-2 on the season. They are a combined 3-7 since, with Mahoney picking up all three of those wins.
Having Neely available will be massive as well. The game one meltdown probably doesn’t happen if Kevin O’Sullivan had been able to utilize him out of the bullpen.
And truthfully, Florida baseball as a whole has seemingly solidified itself and was massive in getting the Gators out of the loser’s bracket last weekend.
But the biggest advantage Florida will have is the fact they will have seen South Carolina pitching and will know what to expect. Now this obviously goes both ways, but Florida’s bats are more potent than South Carolina’s if clicking on all cylinders. And as the Regional round showed, once Florida gets a beat on a pitcher, it’s game over.
The Gators are going to need the one big blast it couldn’t find the first time around against South Carolina if it hopes to advance and make it to Omaha.