June 17, 2017
CWS Primer: Gators vs. Texas Christian
The Gators and Horned Frogs, both regulars at the CWS in recent years, meet for the first time.
OMAHA, Neb. — There are no surprises in store for Florida or Texas Christian. Both are regulars at the College World Series in recent years. Only one of the last eight CWS was played without either Florida or TCU.
The Gators and Horned Frogs are the only teams in this year’s eight-team field who were here a year ago. Each suffered the same fate. They returned home without the first national title in school history.
Both seek a different outcome in 2017, and the winner of Sunday night’s game has a big advantage in making that a reality.
Still, Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle offered similar views when it comes to reaching the premier event in college baseball.
“From a baseball standpoint, we all try to prepare out teams all year long for this moment,” Schlossnagle said. “There are no bad days in this town, ever. I’ve never, ever had a bad day here and I refuse to allow our players to have a bad day.”
Schlossnagle has led TCU to Omaha five times in the last eight years. The only coach in the country with more trips over that span is O’Sullivan, who has guided the Gators to Omaha six times in eight years.
The closest O’Sullivan ever got to a national title was in 2011 when the Gators advanced to the championship series against Southeastern Conference rival South Carolina. The Gators lost both games.
O’Sullivan has tried to learn something new with each visit.
“I know everybody wants your team to win the last game of the year, but when you’re one of the last eight teams standing, I can’t look at this as a failure, and I don’t want our players to feel that way either,” O’Sullivan said. It’s so hard to get to this point.”
The Gators opened the season as a favorite to return to the CWS, but at times during an up-and-down season, some wrote them off.
Instead, the Gators enter Sunday’s matchup against TCU with 27 wins in its last 34 games.
O’Sullivan spoke to the media Friday with his young son, Finn, sitting behind him playing a video game. Finn appeared to be enjoying the trip.
One of the lessons O’Sullivan has learned over the years is to allow the players to have more fun, too. He hopes that can make a difference and maybe help the Gators finally bring a championship trophy back to Gainesville.
“First couple years came out, maybe too restrictive,” he said. “Probably trying to keep too much of a stranglehold on the players and what they were able to do on off days. That’s didn’t work. You need to learn, there’s a fine line. They have families out here and girlfriends, and they need to enjoy themselves.
“I think the thing to keep in mind and remember, just getting to this point is a success.”
For a closer look at the Gators-Horned Frogs matchup, here is our CWS Primer:
Regular Season: 40-15 (first in SEC East)
Record vs. Top 25: 19-6
Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan, 10th year (443-207, .682)
All-Time CWS Record: 14-21
CWS Appearances: 11 (1988, ’91, ’96, ’98, 2005, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’15, ’16, ’17)
CWS Titles: None
Road to Omaha: Gainesville Regional – W vs. Marist 10-6; W vs. USF 2-1 (12); L vs. Bethune-Cookman 6-2; W vs. Bethune-Cookman 6-1. Gainesville Super Regional – W vs. Wake Forest 2-1 (11); L vs. Wake Forest 8-6 (11); W vs. Wake Forest 3-0.
— Florida Gators (@FloridaGators) June 17, 2017
NOTEWORTHY: This is Florida’s first game against TCU … The Gators are in the CWS for the third consecutive year, which matches the school record from 2010-12 … This is the sixth time in eight years UF has advanced to Omaha … Florida is seeking its first appearance in the best-of-three CWS final since 2011 … Junior starter Alex Faedo (7-2, 2.55 ERA) struck out 12 in six innings of work in the Gainesville Super Regional victory over Wake Forest. Faedo now has 61 career strikeouts in the NCAA Tournament, a school record … Faedo made his first relief appearance since April 2015 in Monday’s 3-0 win over the Demon Deacons, earning the first save of his career … 2B Deacon Liput hit a team-high .412 (5-for-12) in the super regional with a homer and three RBIs … Sophomore right-hander Brady Singer was outstanding in the super regional, striking out 11 and giving up just three hits in 11 innings … Junior C/1B J.J. Schwarz leads the team in home runs (12) and RBIs (53), including a pair of homers in the super regional … Schwarz has 29 RBIs in 25 career NCAA Tournament games … The Gators are 18-7 in one-run games, which has been an issue on Omaha; UF’s last five losses in the CWS have been by one run, including both a season ago (2-1 to Coastal Carolina and 3-2 to Texas Tech) … Closer Michael Byrne has a school-record 16 saves and has struck out 84 in 68 2/3 IP … Gators OF Nelson Maldonado was 0-for-9 in the super regional but did draw four walks … Maldonado and senior OF Ryan Larson lead the Gators in hitting at .304 … Like Maldonado, Larson was cold (2-for-14, .143) against Wake Forest but did deliver the game-winning single in Game 1.
QUOTE OF NOTE: “We’re a different type of offense this year than we’ve maybe had in years past. We’re more aggressive on the base paths and hit and run a bit more.” – O’Sullivan on overcoming past offensive slumps at CWS
Regular Season: 39-14 (T-first in Big 12)
Record vs. Top 25: 13-2
Coach: Jim Schlossnagle, 14th year (612-270, .694)
All-Time CWS Record: 8-8
CWS Appearances: 5 (2010, ’14, ’15, ’16, ’17)
CWS Titles: None
Road to Omaha: Fort Worth Regional – W vs. Central Connecticut 9-6; W vs. Virginia 5-1; W vs. Dallas Baptist 15-3. Fort Worth Super Regional – W vs. Missouri State 3-2; W vs. Missouri State 8-1.
— TCU Baseball (@TCU_Baseball) June 17, 2017
NOTEWORTHY: TCU swept its way through its super regional for the first time in school history … This is the fourth consecutive year the Horned Frogs have advanced to Omaha, becoming just the 12th program in CWS history to accomplish that feat and first since North Carolina (2006-09) … TCU’s 57 home runs are its most since 2010 … The Horned Frogs can run, too, ranked 10th in the country with 102 stolen bases … OF Nolan Brown has stolen 26 bases on 28 attempts … C Evan Skoug is the first TCU player to hit 20 home runs in a season in 20 years … Skoug (.277, 20, 67) was named co-Big 12 Conference Player of the Year … Horned Frogs closer Durbin Feltman leads the country with 17 saves, one ahead of Byrne … Sophomore starter Jared Janczak ranks third nationally by allowing 5.14 hits per nine innings … TCU is without injured Luken Baker, its 6-foot-4, 265-pound 1B who made headlines at last year’s CWS with two home runs; Baker suffered an arm injury on May 12 that required surgery … Baker was hitting .317 with eight HRs and 41 RBIs when his season ended … The Horned Frogs are 11-5 since Baker’s injury … Six-foot-9 starter Brian Howard, nicknamed “Big Game Howie,” is 11-3 and leads TCU with 101 strikeouts in 98 innings.
QUOTE OF NOTE: “When you play good defense and strike everybody out like Florida, it really helps fielding percentage.” – Schlossnagle on UF’s excellent defense and powerful pitching staff