The highlight of the first weekend at the College World Series sets up to be Florida against Texas Christian at 7 p.m. Sunday, the only meeting of national seeds in the opening games.
No. 3 seed Florida (47-18) was the last team to qualify for the CWS, doing so by overcoming 9 hours, 55 minutes in weather delays and power-hitting Wake Forest in the Gainesville Super Regional. There were four delays total, including one for lightning and another that eventually resulted in the postponement of Game 2.
Wake Forest scored all nine of its runs of the super regional on long balls, no real surprise given the Demon Deacons led the nation in home runs this season. Ben Breazeale had a third of them against Florida, including a walk-off, two-run shot in the 11th inning in Game 2 that started Sunday and finished Monday. Gavin Sheets had a three-run blast that put Wake Forest up early in that game, but he was mostly quiet the rest of the series. The Demon Deacons finished the season with 107 homers, eight more than second-place Tennessee Tech.
The Gators advance to the College World Series for the third year in a row and sixth time in the past eight seasons. This will be UF’s 11th trip to the CWS in school history with the past six coming under coach Kevin O’Sullivan.
“Number one you’ve got to pitch out there,” O’Sullivan said of pitching at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha. “It’s a big ballpark and you can’t walk people. It’s not an easy ballpark to hit in. You’ve got to play great defense and you’ve got to limit your strikeouts. You’ve got to put the ball in play. I think we’ve been able to do that.
“We’re a different offense than we’ve been in the past. We hit-and-run a little bit more, we run a little bit more. But I do know this, your starting pitching has to be top notch and we have top-notch starting pitching.”
Sixth-seeded TCU (47-16) reached Omaha for the fourth straight year and fifth time since 2010 with an 8-1 win over Missouri State in Game 2 on Sunday. TCU came into Sunday with an all-time record of 5-1 in Game 1’s of super regionals but 0-5 in Game 2’s. The Frogs finally broke through with their win over Missouri State. The Frogs have won all five of their games in the national tournament. They’re the fifth program in 30 years to make four straight trips to the CWS.
“I take numbers and throw them out the window at this point,” O’Sullivan said. “Virginia a couple years ago was one of the last teams in and ended up winning it. I remember Vandy won it in 2013 and I think they finished sixth in our league. All the numbers are out the window at this point. It’s all about winning, and we’ve won a lot of tough games, a lot of ugly wins. But an ugly win is better than a pretty loss, I know that.”
UF has won 18 one-run games, the most in the nation.
“You just have to tip your cap to him and the Gator ball club, they’ve got a heck of a club and obviously will be a dangerous club in Omaha,” Wake Forest coach Tom Walter said.
Top national seed Oregon State will play Cal State Fullerton in the College World Series opener Saturday. Oregon State (54-4) will bring a 21-game win streak into the Bracket 1 afternoon game against Fullerton (39-22). The night game pits No. 4 seed LSU (48-17), a winner of 16 in a row, against Florida State (45-21).
Bracket 2 games Sunday have No. 7 seed Louisville (52-10) playing Texas A&M (41-21) in the afternoon and UF-TCU at night.
Five of the eight national seeds reached the CWS: No. 1 Oregon State, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 LSU, No. 6 TCU and No. 7 Louisville. The previous time so many national seeds made it to Omaha was 2011, when six advanced. The Southeastern Conference has three teams in the CWS for the second time in three years.
“This is our third time, our class,” UF junior standout JJ Schwarz said. “Each year we try to take something out of it and, personally, what I’ve taken out of it is seeing what the teams that win it have and what the teams that don’t, don’t have. Whatever that might be I feel like we have this year. Our starting pitching is so strong and with the layout of the games, I feel like that works out in our favor. I feel really confident going into this thing.”