June 18, 2017
Faedo Shines on Big Stage; Gators Win CWS Opener
OMAHA, Neb.—Florida starting pitcher Alex Faedo showed why he was a first round MLB Draft pick with his performance on Sunday night.
The junior pitched seven shutout innings and limited the Horned Frogs to just two hits as the Gators won their College World Series opener 3-0 over TCU.
Florida (48-18) advances in the winner’s bracket and will face Louisville on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN. TCU (47-17) will face Texas A&M in an elimination game on Tuesday afternoon.
Sunday’s win was UF’s second 3-0 shutout in a row, also beating Wake Forest in last Monday’s Super Regional finale by the same scoreline.
Faedo was masterful, striking out 11 batters — the most ever by a Florida pitcher in a College World Series game. He now has 146 strikeouts on the season, tied for the most in the nation with Louisville’s Brendan McKay, who pitched in the Cardinals’ win earlier on Sunday.
Florida opened the scoring in the first inning. Ryan Larson drew a leadoff walk then took second on a failed pickoff attempt. Dalton Guthrie advanced him to third with a grounder to the right side.
JJ Schwarz gave UF a 1-0 lead with a RBI groundout that scored Larson from third.
TCU had its first scoring opportunity of the game in the third inning, loading the bases on a pair of walks and an error. Alex Faedo escaped the jam with a pair of strikeouts to end the inning.
After a couple of scoreless innings, Florida threatened again in the fourth. Mike Rivera drew a one-out walk and went to third on Austin Langworthy‘s single into right field.
Christian Hicks gave the Gators a two-run lead with a RBI single into left field.
Florida’s hitters knocked TCU starter Jared Janczak from the game in the fifth inning as three-straight singles added another UF run. Nelson Maldonado‘s RBI single brought home Guthrie to make it 3-0.
After Faedo exited, Michael Byrne entered in the eighth and pitched two scoreless innings for his 17th save of the season.
FLORIDA POSTGAME QUOTES
COACH O’SULLIVAN: Obviously it started on the mound for us. I think it was important for us to get an early lead. I think we got one in the first there with a lead-off walk. And Alex was special. I told some people the other day the last two or three weeks he’s been a little bit different.
And he certainly was the difference tonight. And Michael did a nice job there at the end. We did just enough offensively, but this is who we are and this is what we’ve been doing all year long. It certainly wasn’t the cleanest game on our end.
We missed a couple of signs. I thought there were some base running situations where we could have advanced more base and some bats, runners in scoring position that I thought we could have done a better job. But the most important game is Game 1. Some people asked me about Louisville, what I know about them, and to be honest with you, I don’t know much. I’ll spend the next couple of days working on them. And it’s hard enough to get by a team like TCU.
And I think the big strikeout there obviously with the bases loaded with two outs with Skoug was huge. And obviously Michael almost put us in a situation where Skoug would have come to the plate there in the eighth. And he did a nice job and since struck out the pinch-hitter.
So all in all a great game on the pitching side. Obviously it wasn’t our cleanest game. We played uncharacteristically defense, we made some errors. But I think the first game out here you get some nerves and stuff like that and I’m sure we’ll be better as we move forward.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Mike, Coach said something’s been a little different for Alex here lately. I’m curious from your perspective what that was. Secondly, you obviously caught a lot of great performances from him. Do you think this as good tonight as he’s ever been?
MIKE RIVERA: I think it’s hard to call out for one game because I’ve caught him for so long, he’s been so consistent for us for three years. Yeah, he just stays within himself and he doesn’t get overwhelmed. That’s one of the things I notice. Like no matter how base runners there are, if an error happens or hit here or there, whatever, you never see him fade away from it. So that’s something I respect as a teammate. And it’s actually motivation for all of us.
Q. Alex, talk about your performance tonight and talk about your return to Omaha and the way the season ended last year for you and what happened tonight?
ALEX FAEDO: Well, getting to Omaha last year was awesome. But going two and out was tough on us, the whole team, coaching staff, everything. But I think once we got back to Gainesville, didn’t take too much time to get to work, and we remember especially the juniors and seniors that were here freshman year, or my freshman year, when you win here, it’s just — it’s no feeling like it. So we’ve been putting a lot of effort to get back on the winning side of things over here.
I think that was what drove us all today, to finally get over the hump the last couple of years, to get that W on the first game.
And about the game tonight, I thought it was all-around good game. The offense kept putting pressure on them, and, I mean, it made it a lot more comfortable for me and gave me a lot of rest between innings, and that helped me a lot, especially being a day game.
Q. Alex, getting out of the base jam there, the third strikeout, the last two, what kind of boost do you think that was for the rest of your performance?
ALEX FAEDO: That was huge. Because I feel like there’s always at least one time in the game where something like that will happen to me, where there’s either bases loaded or a couple of guys on, and I just — you have to find a way to get out of that because you know when you get out of that big situation the other team, they kind of maybe fold up a little bit or we get a little bit more confident. And if you can get through that hump, then we always find a way to win, and I think it brings a lot more energy to the team.
Q. Alex, just what do you think has changed in the last three or fours weeks since Kentucky?
ALEX FAEDO: Not much. I thought I threw the ball well against Kentucky, but Kentucky is just a really good hitting team. A lot of lefties, a favorable match-up against me. And they did a great job. Everything was just feeling really good. The training staff and strength coaches here have been doing a great job. And I think usually when guys get tired at the end of the year, maybe our pitching staff is starting to feel better because of the great job they’ve done with us. Maybe that could be a little bit of.
Q. Alex, looked like you had a lot of move on your fastball. Was that something you’ve done all season or more pronounced tonight than typical?
ALEX FAEDO: I don’t really know. It’s kind of hard to see how much the ball moves. I don’t know just because you’re pitching or not. I figure Mike over here would know more than me. I felt like I was getting on top of the ball pretty good today. That was the only thing I felt like I was locating pretty well, and that always helps.
Q. Alex, you mentioned Kentucky, all those dangerous left-handed hitters maybe gave you some trouble. But you didn’t have much trouble with TCU’s lefties. I think ten of the strikeouts were against those guys. What was the way you would attack those guys?
ALEX FAEDO: Just throwing whatever Sully wanted me to throw, trusting him and Mike, the amount of time they put in. They know the hitters more than anyone. And just trusting them and just attacking the zone with whatever they call.
Q. Dalton, you’ve seen both sides of that here, winning the first game and losing the first game. When you win, what difference does that make just mentally?
DALTON GUTHRIE: Yeah, I think it’s definitely a little sigh of relief. And you don’t want to start out playing from the loser’s bracket and have to play — I think it would be four games two get into the finals. Getting the first one out of the way is the biggest one. It’s nice to be on the right side of it this time.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. Coach, just Maldonado’s status? I know he slipped coming around third base in the fifth inning. How is he feeling right now?
COACH O’SULLIVAN: He’ll be fine. He’ll be fine. He just tweaked it a little bit. But I expect him to be fine on Tuesday.
Q. You kind of mentioned it earlier, that he’s been different down the stretch. Obviously he’s been a great pitcher for three years, but specifically what have you seen about him that’s been different lately versus earlier in the year?
COACH O’SULLIVAN: I don’t know. I get kind of confused when people ask me questions like that, to be honest with you. I think he’s had over 140 strikeouts with less than 37 walks on the year.
He hasn’t got much run support. There’s been a couple of games where he’s been hit a little bit. I think the Auburn game. And I think I take a lot of blame for that one. We played four straight home series at home, didn’t go on the road at all, and sometimes you go on the road in the SEC for the first time and weird things happen. So maybe it’s a scheduling thing that I need to look at, maybe get on the road the years we’re not playing Miami, down in Miami.
But the Kentucky game was one that at that point of the season Kentucky was arguably one of the hottest hitting teams in the country.
So I think he’s been great all year. Have there been a couple of starts where he hasn’t been great, sure, that happens to everybody. But the fastball is different. The slider’s been different. He threw really good change-ups today again.
He made a heck of a play on a drag bunt today. And it might have been one of the plays that kind of gets overlooked. And I do know this. Tiger has a pretty good one pick at 18. I’ve said that all along. He’s been our workhorse. And the thing about him, too, we keep talking about how talented he is on the mound, but I honestly mean that he’s probably even a better person, better clubhouse guy. You can see by talking to him. He deflects, does not like to talk about himself. Loves to talk about his teammates. He’s just different. He’s a different kid.
Q. What do you know about Louisville, and do you know who you’re going to start on Tuesday night?
COACH O’SULLIVAN: Well, I know we’re going to start Singer. Other than that, I am honest, I don’t know much of anything, other than McKay is the best player in the country.
So I know they’ve got a really good shortstop. I know they’re offensive. I know they’ve got pitching. They’re well coached. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with them. It’s one of the things I’ve learned about coming out here, you spend so much time on all three teams in your bracket, and you kind of get lost. Things get kind of lost in the shuffle. I’ve really spent all my time on TCU.
And obviously the next two days we’ll spend all of our time on Louisville and try to figure them out. But the bottom line comes down to Singer. Obviously we all have scouting reports on other teams. But it just comes down to our guy on the mound. And if he executes, we’ve got a chance. If he doesn’t, you know, we won’t be successful.
But I do know this: If Brady throws like he’s been throwing as well as, he’s similar to Alex, he’s been a little bit different the last couple of weeks as well, so we’ll see.
Q. Mike talked about how Alex doesn’t get overwhelmed by the moment. Do you feel like the tournament and Omaha brings out a different side of him, something better?
COACH O’SULLIVAN: No, I think he’s always consistent. I remember in the fall of his freshman year, I’m not saying he threw at one of our guys on purpose, but, I mean, he got after it. He’s competitive now.
He just — I don’t think today’s game is any different than the one he pitched against Kentucky, I don’t think it’s any different than the one he pitched against Auburn. I think he approaches every game the same.
Certainly he’s pitched in a lot of big games for us, but I don’t think he approaches any game differently.
Q. When a pitcher performs the way Alex did, sometimes there’s some subtleties that maybe might go unnoticed from our perspective. I wonder just from the dugout, was there anything that you saw in particular that he did really well tonight. You mentioned the defensive play. But just something about his game? We see the 11 Ks, but I’m sure there’s other parts that he really executed well from a baseball strategic standpoint?
COACH O’SULLIVAN: You know, TCU is an aggressive fastball hitting team. They want to get to the pull side. I thought he located the fastball well on those lefties well, and he was able to do a good job manipulating his slider early in the count, where he would back door it for a strike, and he got underneath their barrel and got to the back foot with two strikes. Did a really good job and mixed up just enough change-ups and fastballs as well in the late in the count, because a lot of their hitters do good with two strikes, and he threw some fastballs late in the count tonight that opened up the other half a little bit more.
Quotes provided by ASAP sports transcripts.