By Eric Olson
The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — Alex Faedo pitched three-hit ball for 7 1/3 shutout innings in a second straight strong performance against TCU, and Florida moved to the College World Series finals with a 3-0 win Saturday night.
No. 3 national seed Florida (50-19) will play Southeastern Conference rival LSU in the best-of-three finals beginning Monday night. Fourth-seeded LSU (52-18) advanced with a 6-1 win over No. 1 Oregon State on Saturday.
TCU (50-18) had beaten the Gators 9-2 on Friday to force the winner-take-all bracket final and the teams’ third meeting in a week.
Faedo (9-2) struck out 11, just as he did last Sunday in a 3-0 win over the Horned Frogs. Michael Byrne finished for his 18th save.
“(Faedo) just exudes aggressiveness, confidence and our team has the utmost confidence in him,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I don’t want to sound cliche, but he’s an even better kid.”
The Gators had struggled on offense since they arrived in Omaha, but with Faedo holding down the Frogs they were able to muster enough against Jared Janczak (9-2).
Austin Langworthy doubled and scored on a groundout in the second inning, Christian Hicks doubled in a run in the fifth, and he scored in the seventh when he tripled and came home on Deacon Liput’s grounder that deflected off first base.
Faedo reached for his right calf in apparent pain after delivering a pitch to Josh Watson in the seventh, and he grabbed the calf again when he struck Watson out to end the inning. The Detroit Tigers’ first-round draft pick came out for the eighth and got a groundout, but he left after Austen Wade singled.
Zach Humphreys greeted Byrne with a base hit, but the star closer struck out Evan Skoug and got Cam Warner to fly out to end the threat.
Janczak and Faedo were matched up for the second time. Janczak, who struggled against the Gators last Sunday, struck out seven, walked none and scattered seven hits in seven innings.
Skoug singled off Faedo in the first, and the Florida ace walked three in the first four innings before finding a groove. He picked off Ryan Merrill at first in the fourth inning and retired nine of the next 10 batters.
Florida will be playing for its first national championship in baseball. TCU has made it to Omaha four straight years, and a fifth time overall, and is yet to reach the finals. LSU is playing for its seventh national title. The teams shared the SEC regular-season title, while LSU won the league tournament.
Florida shortstop Dalton Guthrie, son of former big league pitcher Mark Guthrie, left the game with back pain after striking out in the top of the third. Liput moved from second base to shortstop, and Blake Reese took over at second.
“I think he just had some back spasms,” O’Sullivan said. “Early indications are he’ll be fine to play (in the finals), but obviously that’ll be up to the medical staff.”
TCU caught a bad break with two outs in the seventh when Liput’s high bouncer heading right at first baseman Connor Wanhanen deflected off the bag toward surprised second baseman Cam Warner, who couldn’t make the play at first. If the Frogs get Liput, the inning’s over. As it was, Hicks was able to score from third for a 3-0 lead.
Florida won two of three regular-season meetings with LSU in Gainesville in March. The Tigers will be the home team in Game 1 of the finals and the Gators in Game 2. LSU would be the home team if a Game 3 is necessary.
“I think they’ve been playing as good as anybody in the country at this point,” O’Sullivan said of LSU. “Offensively, they’ve been clicking.”
O’Sullivan said Faedo is “probably” done for the tournament, but added he’s not thinking that far ahead. He mentioned Tyler Dyson may get a start.