Florida State (40-20, 16-10) hits the road to face off against the Florida Gators (50-13, 19-10) in a rematch of last season's Super Regional which was won by UF. If the 'Noles are victorious in two of the three games this weekend, FSU will earn its first trip to Omaha for the College World Series since 2012.
The teams met up three time this season, once at each school and a neutral site game in Jacksonville, with the Gators coming out on top each time with a combined victory margin of 13 runs. As those games were all in the middle of the week, neither team threw out their top pitchers, saving them for the weekend. This time however, both teams are at full strength and will send their aces out with a trip to the CWS on the line.
In the first two rounds of the 2016 MLB Draft last night, the Gators had two position players taken. Outfielder Buddy Reid was taken 48th overall after hitting .255 with four home runs and 32 RBI. He is always a threat to run once on base, stealing a team leading 24 bags on 26 attempts. First baseman Peter Alonso was selected a few picks later at No. 64 and is much more of a threat at the plate. The junior lead the team with a .368 average, 12 home runs and 55 RBI while staying disciplined at the plate, holding a .464 on-base-percentage. He was named Gainesville Regional MVP after going 8-13 with three homers and eight RBI in the three games. Out of the bullpen, UF will have first round pick Dane Dunning available. The righty has not given up an earned run in his past four appearances (11 innings) while striking out nine in that span. If the 'Noles are able to break through one of the pitchers this weekend early, expect Dunning to come out and try to limit the damage.
Florida State has a Regional MVP of their own in first baseman Dylan Busby who went 8-17. In the seven postseason games the 'Noles have participated in, Busby is hitting .500 with six homers and 18 RBI. At the other infield corner, John Sansone looks to end his collegiate career on a high note. The senior is hitting a team leading .374 with nine home runs and 65 RBI. His plate discipline has been excellent, walking 27 times while only getting caught on strikes 30 times in 246 at bats. At short, Taylor Walls has excelled at the leadoff spot since being moved there early in the season, with a team high .488 OBP and 71 runs. Shifting to the outfield, freshman Jackson Lueck still has his batting average at .408 in 120 at bats, solidifying the top of the lineup.
On Saturday, FSU will send out Drew Carlton (7-3, 4.36 ERA) who is looking to rebound from his last start which ended abruptly. In the Tallahassee Regional against Alabama State, the right hander only allowed one run through his first six innings, before surrendering a total of four in the seventh and subsequently getting removed. He has been a workhorse for the 'Noles all season, leading in innings pitched with 84 2/3 in 16 starts. UF will counter with Alex Faedo (13-1, 3.19 ERA) who has not thrown less than five innings in any of his 15 starts. His pitch command is excellent, only handing out 18 free passes while striking out 117 in 93 innings this year.
Sunday, Florida State will look for another solid outing by freshman Tyler Holton (3-3, 2.92 ERA). The southpaw ended his last start in the Regionals by retiring the last 14 batters he faced, en route to the victory. The two starts before that, Holton faced Miami both times and only allowed a total of three runs in 13 innings while striking out 17 against the D1Baseball.com No. 2 team in the nation. UF will send out 2016 second round pick Logan Shore (11-0, 2.44 ERA) to compete against Carlton. The 2014 SEC Freshman of the Year has allowed at least one run in each of his last six appearances, but the pitcher's durability still allows him to go deep into starts, completing three games this season. Unlike the starter on Friday, Shore is not a dominant strikeout hitter, but has the command and control to get the job done.
If a third and final game is necessary on Monday, Florida State's Cole Sands (6-6, 4.21 ERA) will face the 2016 No. 6 overall pick in UF's AJ Puk (2-3, 3.21 ERA). Sands will pitch to contact, and will have the defense behind him tested as the freshman has allowed 64 hits and 31 walks in 66 1/3 innings. Sands got the win in his last start, throwing five innings and only allowed one run and two total baserunners. Puk is not coming off as good as an outing, allowing four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. Of the last seven games he has pitched in, UF is 1-6 and the junior has given up at least one earned run in each of those games.
Tomahawk Nation will have coverage of each of the games this weekend. If you would like to watch the series on TV, you may do so by tuning into ESPN2 at 6 PM on Saturday and Sunday.