College World Series: 10 Reasons Why the Florida Gators Take the Title
With the Road to Omaha now complete, College World Series play begins this Saturday for the final time at Rosenblatt Stadium.
The third-seeded Florida Gators (47-15) will be making just their sixth CWS appearance and first since 2005, when they lost to the Texas Longhorns in the final.
Despite a young core of players, the Gators are talented. They don't show their youth, as evidenced by their flawless 5-0 record in Regional and Super Regional play.
Here are 10 reasons why the Florida Gators will take the title, its first for the program, in Omaha.
Unfazed and talented freshmen
Three freshmen were named All-Americans.
Austin Maddox, the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, leads the team with 17 home runs and 71 RBI. He drove in the game-winning run in the 10th inning to send Florida to Omaha with a 4-3 victory over Miami.
Brian Johnson, who was named the Gainesville Regional MVP, is a dual threat as a lefty starter and designated hitter.
He is batting .413 with four homers, 13 runs, and 19 RBI. On the mound Johnson (6-4) has a 3.97 ERA.
Righty starter Hudson Randall (8-3) matched junior All-American Chris Hernandez pitch-for-pitch in Saturday's clinching game.
With 68 strikeouts and a 2.95 ERA on the year, Randall went 6.2 innings and allowed just two runs on three hits with five strikeouts against the Hurricanes.
Other solid freshman starters include shortstop Nolan Fontana (.281, 3 HR, 23 RBI) and catcher Mike Zunino (.274, 9 HR, 41 RBI).
Reliable senior leaders
Senior outfielder Matt den Dekker decided to come back to the Gators for his final year, and it certainly has paid off.
Selected in the fifth round by the New York Mets, he leads the team with a .358 batting average. Den Dekker is second on the team with 13 homers and 49 RBI.
In Saturday night's 4-3 victory, he reached base four times, on a single and three walks, to spark the middle of the order. Den Dekker also scored twice.
Although junior Josh Adams has struggled offensively this season (.226, 8 HR, 41 RBI), the second baseman has been solid on defense with just five errors.
Unhittable starting pitching
Sophomore lefty Alex Panteliodis (11-2) pitched his first career complete game in a 7-2 win over Miami on Friday night.
He struck out 12 batters and walked just one while allowing two runs on three hits to put Florida one victory away from Omaha.
Freshman righty Hudson Randall (8-3) came back the next night with 6.2 innings of two-run, three-hit ball.
Though he didn't earn a decision, his performance was clearly noted in the post-game press conference by head coach Kevin O'Sullivan and teammates.
Another freshman All-American, lefty Brian Johnson (6-4), didn't have to pitch in a deciding third game during the Super Regional.
But he pitched seven scoreless innings in the final game of the Gainesville Regional. Thanks to his success on the mound and plate, Johnson earned MVP honors.
Junior lefty closer Kevin Chapman (3-0) holds the team's lowest ERA at 1.48.
He has made a team-high 30 appearances and has saved a team-high 11 games.
He has struck out 43 batters in 42.2 innings, compared to just seven walks. Opponents are hitting just .183 against him.
Chapman's stellar season convinced the Kansas City Royals to select him in the fourth round of the MLB Draft.
Although he gave up a three-run opposite field home run to Nathan Melendres on Saturday night, it was just the fourth long ball he has surrendered all year.
Austin Maddox's two-out RBI double in the 10th proved to be the game winner in a 4-3 victory over Miami to clinch the Gainesville Super Regional.
On Friday in a crucial three-run fourth, both Brian Johnson and Mike Zunino singled with two outs and the bases loaded.
In a three-run fourth, Maddox singled in two runs with two outs.
Nine of the 11 runs scored against the Canes came with two outs.
More importantly, the Gators made the Hurricanes pay for costly errors, especially mistakes in the latter innings on Saturday.
Flashing the leather
Florida ranks as the best defensive team in the Southeastern Conference with a .978 fielding percentage.
Freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana has committed just three errors in 61 games.
During the Gainesville Super Regional, senior center fielder Matt den Dekker made a SportsCenter top play.
Three double plays were turned.
Despite two errors Saturday night, the Gators' defense was far better than the Hurricanes', which made seven errors in one game.
Facing top teams
Florida is 15-9 against the 16 teams that competed in Super Regional play.
Beating the best of the best is a great indicator of how successful a team can be during the postseason.
Below are the records:
South Carolina: 2-1
Right man for the job
Third-year head coach Kevin O'Sullivan took over a program that failed to make the NCAA Tournament for two consecutive seasons.
That was the first time in 20 years for the Gators.
Over the past two seasons O'Sullivan has led Florida to 40-plus-win campaigns, hosted Super Regionals, and earned top-eight national seeds.
Gradually, the Gators have taken prized recruits from rivals Florida State and Miami, which are coached by legends Mike Martin and Jim Morris respectively.
Florida has won six of the last seven games against the Hurricanes and have eliminated them from the postseason two years running.
O'Sullivan deserves credit for mentoring a young team with four freshman starters and three underclassman starting pitchers.
Hot down the stretch
It has been more than a month since Florida lost a game.
Alabama took down the Gators 5-2 in an SEC Tournament game on May 29.
Since then, the Orange and Blue is 5-0 in the postseason as the third overall national seed.
Opponents have been outscored 43-10.
There's no better time to start a winning streak than in the postseason, when the games matter most and a trip to Omaha is on the line.
Winning is second nature at Florida
Over the past few years, the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla. has epitomized winning.
The football team has two national championships since 2006.
The basketball team won consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007.
Women's swimming and diving took home the national championship this year, its first since 1982.
Softball made it to the College World Series.
Women's tennis lost to Stanford in the NCAA final.
Men's tennis reached the Sweet 16.
Is it any wonder that winning is contagious as the baseball team heads to Omaha for the College World Series?