Alex Faedo remembered the pain of last year’s College World Series.
He remembered the disappointment of going two-and-out against Coastal Carolina and Texas Tech.
He remembered the aspirations of winning a national championship slip away.
He remembered the frustration of his season ending in Omaha.
So when Faedo took the mound on Sunday in UF’s first game back at TD Ameritrade Park, he became determined to not relieve those same emotions.
Facing TCU in the opening round of the 2017 College World Series, the Gators right-hander made quick work of the Horned Frogs lineup, tossing seven scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.
Faedo fooled hitters left and right, allowing only two base hits and recording 11 strikeouts for the most by a Florida pitcher in a College World Series game. The junior also kept TCU out of scoring position in six of the seven frames he threw, leading UF to a crucial victory in its quest for a national title.
“Alex was special,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said in a release. “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.”
The only scoring threat the Horned Frogs (47-17) posed against Faedo came in the third inning.
After an RBI groundout from first baseman JJ Schwarz gave the Gators an early 1-0 lead, TCU answered back by loading the bases off a pair of walks and an error from shortstop Dalton Guthrie.
Faedo wasn’t fazed, however, notching back-to-back strikeouts to escape the jam and keep Florida (48-18) ahead in the contest.
“That was huge,” Faedo said in a release. “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 are on… 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.”
The Gators found that energy in a pair of RBIs from designated hitter Christian Hicks and right fielder Nelson Maldonado in the fourth and fifth inning, respectively.
Hicks and Maldonado both stepped to the plate with a runner on third and took advantage of the opportunity, slapping singles into left field to increase UF’s lead to 3-0.
With a solid three-run advantage on the board heading to the top of the eighth, O’Sullivan replaced Faedo on the mound with sophomore closer Michael Byrne.
Byrne, who broke Florida’s single-season saves record earlier this year, continued his dominant postseason with four strikeouts in two scoreless innings of work, clinching the the victory and sending the Gators to the winner’s bracket.
UF will now face Louisville (53-10) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Cardinals defeated Texas A&M 8-4 in their opening game of the College World Series and possess one of the top players in the country in pitcher/first baseman Brendan McKay.
Sophomore right-hander Brady Singer is getting the starting nod for Florida, a player O’Sullivan said will be the difference between his team winning and losing.
“The bottom line comes down to (Brady) Singer,” he said. “If he executes, we’ve got a chance. If he doesn’t, we won’t be successful.”