Today, Florida baseball officially begins its quest in Omaha to bring home the 2023 national title for college baseball. The Gators are in a bracket with Virginia, Oral Roberts, and TCU, and the survivor of their double-elimination bracket will take on the survivor of the bracket with Wake Forest, LSU, Tennessee, and Stanford.
Florida opens up play tonight at 7 PM against the 7th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers, and Kevin O’Sullivan and his team will have their hands full.
Florida Baseball: Bring on the cavalry
UVA enters play today with a record of 50-13. They started out the year 14-0 but did run into a handful of roadblocks once in ACC play.
The Cavaliers dropped their series against Virginia Tech, Pitt, Notre Dame, and Duke during the regular season. In post-season play, they breezed through their Regional after beating ECU twice. During their Super Regional, they avenged their regular season loss to Duke by taking two out of three, with wins of 14-4 and 12-2.
The strength of Virginia lies in their ability to simply get guys on base. They lead the country in batting average with a team average of .335, and they are sixth in on-base percentage with a team average of .429.
So while both Florida and Virginia are among the top in the country this season in total runs scored (UVA is 7th and Florida is 11th), the fact that Virginia is only 68th in total home runs hit this season plays to their advantage today as Charles Schwab Field is not a home run friendly ballpark.
The Cavaliers have six guys with an on-base percentage above .400, led by Kyle Teel (.418 BA and .484 OBA). Griff O’Ferrall is close behind with a .398 BA and a .457 OBA (along with 16 steals on the season on 18 attempts).
The long ball threat for Virginia will be Jake Gelof, who has 23 home runs on the season and an astounding 89 RBIs, fourth best in the country.
Nick Parker will take the mound for Virginia to try and slow down Florida baseball. He is one of Virginia’s more hittable pitchers with a 3.81 ERA and has 78 strikeouts in 75 innings pitched (that is a ratio far less than UVA’s other starters).
The importance of this game is simple, the loser of this game will have to win four straight games in order to advance to the championship series. Only three times since the current format of the Men’s College World Series was instituted in 2003 has a team lost their opening game in Omaha and still won the national championship.
The first pitch is at 7 PM.