With a trip to Omaha on the line, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan put his trust in a freshman right-hander who has pitched just two seasons of organized baseball.
But freshman righty Tyler Dyson turned out to be the perfect bridge between starters Brady Singer and Alex Faedo in the third and deciding game of the NCAA Super Regional with Wake Forest at McKethan Stadium.
Dyson pitched five scoreless innings after a three-hour, 14-minute weather delay to earn the win and the Gators held on to clinch their third straight trip to the College World Series with a 3-0 win over Wake Forest on Monday night.
“I couldn’t let the seniors and the juniors who were going off to pro ball end their season here,” Dyson said. “I knew that we had a plan in place to piece it all together, but I wanted to hand the ball to Alex, let him finish it. I took that mentality out there and tried to put up zeros for the guys.”
Faedo ended the shutout with two scoreless innings to earn his first career save on a night when he was selected No. 18 overall by the Detroit Tigers in the Major League Baseball draft.
The Gators (47-18), the third national seed, will face No. 6 seed TCU (47-16) in their opener of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha on Sunday at 7 p.m.
College World Series
Who: TCU (47-16) vs. Florida (47-17)
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, Omaha, Neb.
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM
Florida is going to the College World Series for the 11th time in school history and sixth time in 10 seasons under O’Sullivan. The Gators are vying for their first national baseball title in school history.
“I told these guys early in the year that I believe in them, I told them we have as good a chance to win a national championship as any team as we’ve had,” O’Sullivan said. “It starts on the mound and the important thing was to figure out the bullpen and get the bats going.”
Teammates mobbed Faedo at the mound after he struck out Wake Forest catcher Ben Breazeale for the final out. It concluded a wild Super Regional series that includes nine hours and 55 minutes of weather delays and numerous pitching changes.
Less than an hour after being taken in the first round by the Tigers, Faedo took the mound in the top of the eighth to attempt to close the game out. Faedo walked a batter and allowed a bunt single to put the tying runner at the plate, but struck out Wake Forest second baseman Jake Mueller on a 3-2 fastball to get out of the jam.
Faedo said he didn’t know he was picked in the first round until teammate Dalton Guthrie told him in the dogpile after the game was over.
“I knew I had a chance to go back out there today and I just needed to focus on that,” Faedo said. “It wouldn’t be fair to take my mind off the biggest thing now, which was to win the game.”
Offensively, Florida did just enough. With the Gators up 1-0 after the long delay, JJ Schwarz belted his 12th homer of the season, a two-run shot to left to put the Gators up 3-0 in the bottom of the third.
That was all the cushion that Dyson would need. After giving up a single to start the third inning, Dyson (3-0) retired the next 13 straight Wake Forest (43-20) batters before giving up a one-out double to first baseman Gavin Sheets in the seventh. But Dyson was able to keep Sheets stranded at second by striking out Breazeale and getting third baseman Joe Aiello to fly out to right in foul territory.
Dyson allowed just two hits in five innings, striking out seven batters.
“I’ve seen Tyler early in the season getting the ball up, not commanding the secondary (pitches),” Schwarz said. “I thought today there was a whole new monster out there. He was throwing the ball hard, getting ahead of hitters.”
Dyson had retired all six batters he faced in UF’s 8-6, 11-inning loss to Wake Forest in its second Super Regional game earlier Monday afternoon. After that outing, assistant coaches Craig Bell and Lars Davis told Dyson there was a good chance he’d pitch in the deciding third game.
“The first game, I went out there, felt confident out there, threw well in the bullpen and just came out trusted what Sully was calling,” Dyson said.
Dyson, a converted shortstop who didn’t begin pitching until his senior year at Braden River High School in Bradenton, entered this weekend’s series with a 4.34 ERA.
“It’s been an up-and-down season for me,” Dyson said. “The big thing has been just trying to command my secondary pitches.”
The Gators took an 1-0 lead in a second inning that didn’t end without controversy. Jonathan India led off the inning with a double, moved to third on a single by Deacon Liput and scored on an RBI single by Mike Rivera.
Austin Langworthy then lofted a fly ball deep to right field. Wake Forest center fielder Stuart Fairchild made the catch, but dropped the ball on the transfer to his throwing hand. First base umpire Randy Sutton initially called it a dropped ball and called Rivera out at second, with Liput tagging to third on the play. But after a review on video replay, the call was corrected and Langworthy was called out. However, due to NCAA rules that dictate runners are unable to advance once a replay rule is initiated, Liput had to return to second base, instead of being on third with one out.
Designated hitter Mark Kolozsvary then grounded out in front of the plate to the catcher, moving runners up to second and third. Ryan Larson then struck out to end the inning.
Singer started the game for the Gators and pitched two scoreless innings. But as Singer went out to start the third inning, he was held up by home plate umpire Billy Haze due to a tv commercial. Just as Singer was given the go-ahead to take his first pitch, a heavy downpour came and the game was delayed, An agitated Singer walked off the mound, comforted by India as he returned to the dugout.
Wake Forest forced the deciding third game the 8-6, 11-inning win earlier Monday afternoon. Breazeale won the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the 11th off UF closer Michael Byrne. Wake Forest scored all eight of its runs on five home runs.
The Gators came back to tie the score at 6 in the top of the 8th inning on a solo home run by Schwarz to force extra innings. The suspended game from Sunday resumed Monday afternoon with Florida trailing 5-4. The Gators tied the score at 5 on a sacrifice fly from Langworthy, but Wake Forest went back in front 6-5 on a solo home run in seventh from Aiello.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway’s blog at Gatorsports.com.