— Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) June 21, 2017
OMAHA—For seven innings Tuesday at the College World Series, Florida righthander Brady Singer mowed through the Louisville lineup. The Cardinals’ potent offense had no answer for the sophomore’s darting mid-90s fastball and biting slider.
Singer struck out 11 batters and held Louisville to one run, and Florida rolled to a 5-1 victory. Florida advances to Friday’s bracket final, where it will await the winner of Thursday’s game between Louisville and Texas Christian.
Singer’s dominant start followed rotation-mate Alex Faedo’s gem Saturday night. Through two games in Omaha, the Gators’ top two starters have struck out a total of 20 batters, while holding opponents to one run on eight hits and three walks in 14 innings.
After a disappointing 0-2 showing at last year’s CWS, Florida has found its Omaha form this year. It has used a familiar script of superb starting pitching, clean defense and timely hitting to get off to a 2-0 start.
“The last two nights you saw two big leaguers,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We’re fortunate. Faedo is a big leaguer and so is Brady Singer. They both pitched great.”
As it has all season long, everything for the Gators has started with their starting pitchers. Faedo, the 18th overall pick in last week’s draft, and Singer, an early favorite to be the top pick in next year’s draft, set the tone on the mound.
Singer said Faedo helped him prepare for his start Tuesday.
“He taught me how to pitch in a big ballpark, how to slow your heart rate down and pretty much, like he said Sunday night, just execute what (O’Sullivan) calls,” Singer said. “Sully does his homework. If you execute what he calls, you’ll have a pretty good game.”
Faedo’s advice worked. Singer was masterful, shutting down the Cardinals’ offense, which O’Sullivan said was one of the best lineups the Gators have faced this season.
Singer throws from a lower arm slot and gets lots of movement on his fastball, often making for a difficult matchup for hitters. It was even more difficult early in Tuesday’s game due to the early evening shadows at TD Ameritrade Park. To make matters worse for hitters, Singer was able to throw his slider for strikes.
The total package was overwhelming for the Cardinals.
“He’s got a little funky angle to him,” said Louisville first baseman Brendan McKay, the College Player of the Year. “He can spot up. Obviously, when you combine that with velocity and good offspeed pitches—as you see in any level, it’s tough to hit.”
The Cardinals finally were able to get to Singer in the seventh. McKay led off the inning with a double and, after Singer retired the next two hitters, Colin Lyman broke through with an RBI single. The next two hitters both reached, loading the bases for leadoff hitter Logan Taylor. Singer was pushing 100 pitches and was facing his last batter with Colby Fitch, a lefthanded hitter, on deck. He buckled down and got Taylor to hit a ground ball to end the threat.
The seventh proved to be Louisville’s best chance of the game. Relievers Nick Horvath and Tyler Dyson combined for two scoreless innings to finish the game.
Florida also showed off the depth of its lineup Tuesday. Its first four hitters went hitless, but Deacon Liput, Mike Rivera and Austin Langworthy all stepped up and delivered RBIs from the bottom of the order. Langworthy opened the scoring with a solo homer off the left-field foul pole in the third and Liput struck the big blow with a three-run homer an inning later. Rivera finished the scoring with an RBI double in the seventh.
Louisville’s seventh-inning run snapped Florida’s 24-inning scoreless streak. With the Gators pitching that well, five runs was more than enough support Tuesday.
“Let’s give Florida a lot of credit,” Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. “They’ve got two games under their belt giving up a run against TCU and Louisville. So they’ve got great pitchers and they executed.”
For Florida to continue its CWS run, it will need its pitchers to continue to execute. This is Florida’s sixth CWS appearance under O’Sullivan in the last eight years. Some of those teams have had deeper pitching staffs, but Florida’s frontline arms this season are as good as ever.
The Gators will turn to another one Friday night when they send righthander Jackson Kowar to the mound. The sophomore is undefeated this season and could join Singer as a first-round pick in next year’s draft. It is the situation Florida hoped to find itself in after the first two games, but the Gators know they’re not home yet.
“We’re excited we’re 2-0,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re not foolish to not know that we have a long way to go in this thing. There’s three really good teams left in our bracket. We’re not going to take anything for granted.”