Florida and LSU proved to be the top two teams in the SEC this year, wrapping up the schedule last month tied for the regular-season conference championship.
As it turns out, the Gators and Tigers have also staked their claim as the two best teams in the entire country.
No. 3 seed Florida (50-19) will open a best-of-three finals series with No. 4 LSU (52-18) on Monday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., to determine the College World Series champion.
The Gators are in the championship series for the first time since 2011 and just the third time in program history as they seek their first national title.
With only a familiar foe left standing in their way.
Florida took two out of three games from LSU in Gainesville, Fla., back in late March, opening that SEC series with 1-0 and 8-1 wins before dropping the finale 10-6.
The Gators haven’t had the easiest path to this point, but they just keep finding ways to win. They staved off Bethune-Cookman in a winner-take-all NCAA Regional finale, took it to the final game in the Super Regionals before slipping past Wake Forest and then avoided elimination here in Omaha with a 3-0 win over TCU on Saturday night.
Ace Alex Faedo was the star of that game, holding TCU to 3 hits and 4 walks over 7 1/3 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts. He has been incredible this postseason, allowing just 1 run over 27 1/3 innings in the NCAA Tournament while totaling 44 strikeouts. It remains to be determined if he’ll be available in this championship series, but regardless, he’s done his part for the Gators.
The Tigers, meanwhile, punched their ticket to the finals earlier in the day Saturday with a 6-1 win over top-seeded Oregon State. They made an impressive rally through the losers bracket, including back-to-back wins over an Oregon State team that hadn’t lost consecutive games all season.
That’s how the College World Series ended up with an all-SEC final for the first time since South Carolina defeated Florida in 2011.
The Gators will start sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (8-5, 3.18 ERA) on Monday while LSU will start redshirt senior righty Russell Reynolds (1-1, 8.59), who has pitched just 14 2/3 innings this season.
Game 1: Monday, 7 p.m., on ESPN
Game 2: Tuesday, 8 p.m., on ESPN
Game 3 (if necessary): Wednesday, 8 p.m., on ESPN
*All games can be streamed online via WatchESPN.
-Florida’s previous trips to the College World Series finals came in 2011 (loss to South Carolina) and 2005 (loss to Texas).
-Florida has reached 50 wins for the third straight season, sixth time in program history and fourth time in coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s tenure (2011, 2015, 2016, 2017).
-Florida will be the visiting team in Game 1 and Game 3 (if necessary) and the home team in Game 2.
-While Faedo leads the NCAA with 157 strikeouts this season, LSU ace Alex Lange is second with 150. Faedo passed Rob Bonanno (148 Ks in 1994) for the single-season Florida record. He is the fifth pitcher in the last 30 seasons with two 10-strikeout games in the same College World Series.
-In Florida’s four College World Series games, each starting pitcher has totaled at least 9 strikeouts. Prior to this year, only one Gators pitcher had ever struck out 9 in a CWS game.
-LSU has won six national championships in baseball (1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2009).
-Lange, the Tigers’ ace, pitched 7 1/3 innings on Friday and it’s unclear how he might be available in the championship series.