Another national seed is going home on Tuesday, when two of the top schools standing clash in a College World Series elimination game.
The No. 1-ranked Florida Gators started their trip to Omaha, Nebraska, on a sour note, losing a 2-1 pitchers' duel to Coastal Carolina on Sunday. After slugging their way this far, the Chanticleers won their first-ever College World Series contest behind a complete-game gem from Andrew Beckwith.
On the same day, Luken Baker propelled TCU to a 5-3 upset over No. 5 Texas Tech with a three-run homer in the ninth inning. With one loss apiece in the double-elimination bracket, the Red Raiders and Gators will collide on Tuesday in a must-win showdown. Someone will follow the No. 3 Miami Hurricanes—eliminated Monday—in suffering a swift exit from the final eight.
Whichever powerhouse stays alive will then face the winner of Tuesday's other bout between Coastal Carolina and TCU. The victor, meanwhile, will be one triumph away from advancing to the championship series.
A pair of upsets quickly altered the perception of this grouping. On Tuesday, one top contender will pay the price while an underdog takes a step closer to glory.
|Tuesday's College World Series Schedule|
|5 p.m.||No. 1 Florida vs. No. 5 Texas Tech||ESPN2||Elimination|
|9 p.m.||TCU vs. Coastal Carolina||ESPN||Winners'|
Games are available for live-streaming on WatchESPN.
Florida vs. Texas Tech
For the second straight weekend, Florida's bats failed to string together a single run. After dropping the first of a best-of-three Super Regionals slate to Florida State, the Gators stormed back to score a dozen runs while recording two shutouts of their own.
They'll need another quick turnaround on Tuesday. Per the Gainesville Sun's Kevin Brockway, head coach Kevin O'Sullivan is confident he'll receive another stellar pitching performance:
Sophomore Alex Faedo has won 13 of his 16 starts, earning a 3.25 ERA with 124 strikeouts and 21 walks in 97 innings. Before Gators fans grow too confident, he uncharacteristically struggled with his command in the Gators' loss to the Seminoles, issuing three walks and two runs over four innings.
During his previous tournament outing, however, he notched 10 strikeouts over eight scoreless innings to take down Georgia Tech. He'll face an offense that has surged in on-and-off spurts this postseason.
Although they have allowed six runs over their last three games, the Red Raiders shouldn't aspire to eliminate the Gators with another low-scoring stalemate. Their pitchers collectively hold a 4.15 ERA on the year with a subpar 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). Florida, on the other hand, boasts a 2.92 ERA and 9.9 K/9.
Texas Tech instead needs to hit its way off the chopping block. While the Red Raiders collected four doubles against TCU, they only drew two walks while striking out 15 times. Tyler Neslony, who sports a .308/.402/.542 slash line, wore the golden sombrero with four punchouts.
A similar performance will prove troublesome against Faedo, who wields an 11.5 K/9 and usually doesn't give out free tickets to first. Yet Texas Tech is typically far more patient, building up a .399 on-base percentage.
The favorite entering the tournament, Florida wants to avoid another CWS disappointment. To fend off elimination, it can use a big game from first baseman Peter Alonso. Believe it or not, the Gators will indeed lose if they again don't score any runs.
TCU vs. Coastal Carolina
No team can match Coastal Carolina's power, but Baker will try.
The behemoth first baseman—listed on the school's athletics page at 6'4" and 265 pounds—struck again with a massive blast to give TCU a come-from-behind victory on Sunday. NCAA Baseball's Twitter page provided footage of the game-winning dinger:
Cam Warner, who homered earlier in Sunday's victory, marveled at his teammate's hulking power.
"It's unreal," Warner said, per ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman. "You can even hear the crowd gasp a little bit whenever he hits the ball."
The Horned Frogs have heard a lot of gasping lately, as Baker went deep four times in the Big 12 tournament and once in the Super Regionals. He's now hitting a pretty .380/.486/.570, but the Horned Frogs can't celebrate yet.
They made it to Omaha each of the last two years, both times winning their opening game. Their opponents then booted them both times.
Their next opponent is also riding high after triumphing in atypical fashion. Fueled by the long ball, the Chanticleers have averaged 7.4 runs per contest, but they managed to shock Florida despite only tallying two.
They don't have another premium hurler like Beckwith, who improved his ERA to 2.02, so expect a slugfest. That'd bode well for the Big South underdogs making their CWS debut behind the bats of Connor Owings, Zach Remillard and G.K. Young.