Once the rain subsided and Game 3 of the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional was ready to resume, the Gators turned to an unlikely hero to keep Wake Forest’s red-hot offense at bay.
That player? Freshman reliever Tyler Dyson.
Entering the contest, Dyson had never thrown more than two innings in a game and had never struck out more than three batters. But on Monday night at McKethan Stadium, he shattered those amounts.
The Bradenton, Florida, native tossed a career-high five scoreless innings and allowed two hits while striking out seven batters to help UF advance to its sixth College World Series appearance over the last eight years.
Dyson’s performance was so pivotal in the win that it prompted first baseman JJ Schwarz to interrupt the postgame press conference so he could praise the freshman.
“I just wanted to say how big Tyler Dyson’s performance was for us, and we wouldn’t have won today without that,” Schwarz said. “I think it’s huge.”
Dyson’s unlikely performance serves as a microcosm for a much bigger story surrounding this Florida baseball team.
The Gators are starting to get hot at just the right time, specifically with their bats.
UF’s offense, which struggled for a good portion of the regular season, came alive in the Gainesville Super Regional against the Demon Deacons. Florida collected eight hits during Game 2 and 10 hits during Game 3, marking the third time this postseason it recorded 10 or more base knocks in a contest.
Some players also saw an offensive surge to open the NCAA Tournament, putting up 10 runs against Marist and six against Bethune-Cookman.
Only two players on Florida’s roster are hitting above .300 as whole: outfielders Ryan Larson and Nelson Maldonado.
But in his last five games, second baseman Deacon Liput leads the team with a .368 batting average, going 7-for-19 with a home run and five RBIs.
During that same span, third baseman Jonathan India found his stride as well, hitting .350 with seven hits and four runs.
And since the start of the SEC Tournament on May 24, infielder Christian Hicks is batting .346 with seven runs scored.
Even Schwarz, who underperformed for most of this year, blasted two home runs against Wake Forest, one in Game 2 and the other in Game 3.
“Our offense, we’ve been getting production from a lot of different people,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I think that’s the important thing.”
Florida will now look ahead towards the College World Series with a matchup against TCU awaiting on Sunday at 7 p.m.
The Horned Frogs (46-16) haven’t lost a game in the NCAA Tournament this postseason, sweeping both its regional and super regional at home.
They’re no pushover in the batter’s box either.
TCU has a higher batting average (.271), more runs scored (426), more hits (567), more RBIs (383) and more home runs (55) than Florida, meaning pitching could be the difference between a win and a loss for the Gators.
Junior right-hander Alex Faedo is expected to get the starting nod from O’Sullivan, with Schwarz quick to express his confidence in UF’s staff.
“Our starting pitching is so strong and the layout of the games I feel like work out in our favor,” Schwarz said. “So I feel really confident going into this thing.”