The Florida Gators are the second-highest seed left on the road to Omaha. Florida needed to play on Monday to ensure its role as a Super Regional host after losing to Bethune-Cookman the previous day, but is now looking for its first college baseball title ever. The Gators will draw a tough opponent in their Super Regional, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Wake Forest easily won its own regional with wins over UMBC and West Virginia last week, but now have to deal with the Florida heat.
This series will be contested from Friday, June 9, 2017 through Sunday, June 11, 2017 at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium at Perry Field in Gainesville. The start time for Friday and Saturday’s games will be 3 p.m. ET with Friday’s game being broadcast on ESPN. If there is a Game 3, it’s time and network will be determined on Saturday.
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Pitchers to Watch
Florida’s bally-hooed staff has lived on a razor’s edge all season long, particularly Jackson Kowar. Kowar is 12-0 in 16 starts this season, but his advanced numbers aren’t good and he has been consistently bailed out by a solid offense. He has walked 39 batters and only struck out 68 in 96.2 innings of work and gives up big hits. Kowar has allowed 28 extra-base hits and plunked 13 batters too. There are way too many baserunners when he is on the mound and it’s only a matter of time before it bites him.
The Gators do have one of the best closers in college baseball in Michael Byrne. Sure, Byrne doesn’t have the razor-thin ERA that other closers might, but he can last more than an inning and that’s much more valuable. He has allowed less than a baserunner an inning in 31 appearances.
Wake Forest has a couple pitchers that have been bailed out by good offense as well. Connor Johnstone and Parker Dunshee are a combined 17-1 on the year, but neither one is the lights-out starter you would imagine with a record like that. Johnstone has a strikeout-to-walk ratio under two and Dunshee has given up 11 home runs this year.
The Demon Deacons fall apart if you can knock out their starter before they get to Griffin Roberts. The rest of the bullpen has been mediocre at best.
Hitters to Watch
Nelson Maldonado has one of the best eyes in baseball. He is the best hitter on the Gators and draws by far the most walks as well. Maldonado has reached base by walking 44 times this season. When you see that he has only struck out 19 times, you realize why he is so valuable to the school.
Who shouldn’t you watch out for on Wake Forest? This team hit more home runs than any other team in college baseball this season and won’t stop now. Five different players hit at least 12 home runs and as a whole, the team is slugging .513. That’s a ridiculous number to think about and Gators pitchers will have their work cut out for them.
What to Expect
Florida would prefer to play low-scoring games in this series. Although the pitchers aren’t as good as they have been in recent years, they are still better than what Wake Forest has brought to the table this season.
The Demon Deacons will need to score runs in order to win. This isn’t a team that can feel confident with a one or two-run lead and needs to keep swinging for the fences to feel comfortable.
If the series is tied at one apiece, don’t expect the decisive third game to happen on Sunday. The weather forecast calls for thunderstorms all day long on Sunday in Gainesville and it’s unlikely the teams will be able to play until Monday.
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