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Super Regional Preview: Florida Gators

Saturday Match-up: Drew Carlton (7-3 4.36ERA) vs. Alex Faedo (13-1 3.19ERA)

Sunday Match-up: Tyler Holton (3-3 2.92ERA) vs. Logan Shore (11-0 2.44ERA)

Monday Match-up: Cole Sands (6-6 4.21ERA) vs. AJ Puk (2-3 3.21ERA)

Key Player for FSU: Dylan Busby

Key Player for UF: Alex Faedo

 

Florida State has advanced to the Super Regionals where they will take on a familiar opponent, the Florida Gators. Coming into the postseason as the no. 1 overall seed in the tournament, the Gators have won 50 games this season and have only lost 4 in Gainesville. The Seminoles will travel to Gainesville with their College World Series hopes alive and well after rolling through the Tallahassee Regional.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the Seminoles don’t have a shot to win this, because it’s college baseball and it’s the postseason so anything can happen. That being said, the 2016 Gators are one of the most complete collegiate teams of recent memory. Florida State was 0-3 against the Gators this season. The Gators biggest strength comes from its outstanding pitching staff and they have a lineup filled with quality hitters and high draft picks.

Sophomore Alex Faedo will get the nod on Saturday night to open the series for the Gators. Saturday night is arguably the most important game of the series for the Seminoles: they avoid Shore, Puk, and Dane Dunning, and they can take a 1-0 lead on the series. Drew Carlton will get the ball for the Seminoles and has been pitching much better as of late. Mike Compton’s injury seemed to be a turning point for the entire pitching staff but Carlton’s efforts have been admirable and he has really turned it around.

Logan Shore has been Florida’s Friday night starter for the past two seasons and was just drafted in the second round of the MLB Draft. Matching up against him is the hottest pitcher on the staff, freshman Tyler Holton. Fastball command has benefited Holton as he has been able to set up his filthy curveball with the fastball.

AJ Puk, arguably the teams best starter and drafted no. 6 overall by the Oakland Athletics, will get the ball on Monday if there is a game and it will be a tall task to generate runs off him. Puk is a tall lefty with a plus plus fastball, plus slider, and feel for the changeup as well. Florida State is a lineup stacked with righties and switch hitters so they will have the platoon advantage, but it may not matter with the stuff that Puk has. Freshman Cole Sands will take the ball and oppose Puk and this looks like a mismatch for the Seminoles. Sands has been consistently better as of late, but he has been a mixed bag of inconsistent location and hard contact all season. 

As far as the Seminoles pitching is concerned, I wouldn’t bet on any of the starters making it past the fifth inning. These are extremely high-stakes games and Mike Martin has never been hesitatnt to go to the bullpen earlier in the season so I do not suspect he will balk at calling in fresh arms in the postseason. Look for Jim Voyles, Alec Byrd, and Chase Haney to be some of the first arms out of the ‘pen and thrust into the highest leverage situations. It’s impossible to trust Tyler Warmoth at this point, so the late inning situations look for Matthew Kinney and any of both Voyles’, Byrd, and Haney.

First baseman Dylan Busby will be the key player for Florida State. Busby has been on an absolute tear since the ACC Tournament and will look to continue his hot streak heading into the weekend against Florida. Busby is slotted fifth  in the lineup and will have plenty of opportunities to knock in runs as Taylor Walls, John Sansone (Congrats to Soni! Drafted in the 8th round by the Cincinnati Reds), and Jackson Lueck (top three of the order) all have on-base percentages well above .450. Busby has seemed to have found the power stroke as his homeruns have lived off the scoreboard in left field this season. In addition to Busby, the top three of the lineup will have to be dynamite to win this series. Walls was recently named a Baseball America First Team All-American at shortstop and his .488 on-base percentage is a big reason why.

Alex Faedo will be the key player for the Gators this series. He will take the ball in game 1 and set the tone for the series. I would’ve expected Shore to get the ball for game 1 but now it is up to Faedo, who is a projected top 10 draft pick in 2017, to get the lead for the Gators. The 6-foot-5 starter has a very live fastball which he relies heavily upon, but can also get outs with his secondary pitches.

The lineup for the Florida Gators is certainly not an easy one to navigate. First baseman Peter Alonso missed about a month with a broken hand, but he is healthy now and is Florida’s best power hitter in the lineup. Alonso has 12 homeruns on the season and a .632 slugging percentage, look for Florida State pitching to avoid pitching to him especially with runners on base. Outfielder Buddy Reed has the lowest batting average of any of the Gators’ regulars (.255), but he was also Florida’s second highest drafted position player (48th overall San Diego Padres). Reed has, perhaps, the most talent and ceiling of any of the Florida position players, but he has scuffled with the bat last season. Reed has the second-lowest slugging percentage (.397) among Florida regulars but he has been using the singles in combination with his great speed (24/26 on stolen base attempts this season) to consistently get into scoring position. JJ Schwarz, the sophomore catcher for Florida, is one of the more talented players on this Florida roster. Schwarz hits well and is athletic and good defensively behind the plate.

Kevin O’Sullivan is the Gators coach and many believe he will be there for the long haul. Florida has thrived under O’Sullivan and according to Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball, he will not consider taking the job at Texas so it looks as if Sully will be in the sunshine state for a long time.

This is win or go home for the Seminoles against arguable the best team in the country. If they win and advance to Omaha, there will be almost no better team and their chances at winning their first national title will be high. If they lose, the season comes to an end, nothing like postseason baseball to get the blood pumping right?!

Vinnie Cervino
Lead Baseball Writer, Perpetually Pessimistic Sport Fan, Proprietor of My Own Delusions and Fallacies, 80 Grade Takes. Twitter @cervino_vinnie.

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