It will be an All-SEC affair in Gainesville this weekend as the No. 1 seed Florida Gators (45-18) host the Auburn Tigers (42-21) for a best-of-three series with a trip to Omaha and the College World Series on the line. The Gators were able to keep their season alive by beating the Florida Atlantic Owls late Monday night in Game 7 of the Gainesville Regional. As for the Tigers, they ran through their competition in the Raleigh Regional, going 3-0 on the weekend to move onto supers. The weekend series will begin Saturday at noon.
The #RoadToOmaha continues this weekend!
Saturday | Noon (ESPN)
Sunday | Noon (ESPN)
Monday | 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)) – if necessary
The two teams met early this season in April in Gainesville, when the Gators were able to take the series winning two games. The series earlier this season opened with a marquee pitching matchup and so should this Super Regional, with Casey Mize (10-5, 2.95 ERA) and Brady Singer (11-1, 2.27 ERA) facing off as opposing pitchers.
The two finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, awarded to the nation’s best collegiate player, both heard they names on Monday during the MLB Draft. Mize was taken first overall by the Detroit Tigers, as Singer fell down to 18, where he was picked by the Kansas City Royals. Singer had been thought of as a top-pick in the draft since his sophomore season concluded, so his slide to 18 came as a surprise. It will be key for the Gators how Singer can respond to his slide, as most expect this to put a chip on the shoulder of an already fiery pitcher.
When the two faced off in April, Singer and the Gators got the best of Mize and the Tigers. Singer threw 7 innings while striking out 8 while giving up one. As for Mize, the Gators touched him up for 3 runs over 7 innings of work, including a Jonathan India 2-run homerun in the first inning.
Like the two dominant starting pitchers, India too was drafted Monday night, when he was selected fifth overall to the Cincinnati Reds. India played a pivotal role in the Gators regional final clinching win, when he drove in 2 runs and hit a towering homer as the Gators bested the Owls 5-2. India hit 2 homers during the regional, and found his power stroke along with Wil Dalton, who returned to slugging form this past weekend.
Dalton opened the Gainesville Regional with a 4-4, 6 RBI performance against the Columbia Lions, and didn’t stop there. India and Dalton hit back-to-back homers twice this weekend, once in their win over the Jacksonville Dolphins, and then again on Monday night verse the Owls. The duo will look to continue to perform and help the Gators move onto Omaha.
The biggest storyline from the Gainesville Regional may have been the emergence of catcher Jonah Girand, who was award MVP of the regional after he hit 3 homeruns on the weekend, including the go-ahead 2-run bomb on Monday night. Girand, who almost once quit playing baseball, is playing for senior caption JJ Schwarz, who remained out with a hand injury. Schwarz health will once again be a big question mark in Gainesville, but with the emergence of Girand, the Gators have to be comfortable with him behind the plate.
As for the Tigers, they travel to Gainesville as a confident offensive unit, after scoring 40 runs in three games going undefeated in the Raleigh Regional. 1st baseman Josh Anthony was named Raleigh Regional MVP, after going 9-for-13, with one homer, 3 doubles and 7 RBIs.
Much like the Gators, the Tiger have a strong cast of talented offensive players. There’s OF Jay Estes, who leads the team hitting .338. Estes is backed by the power of SS Will Holland and 3B Edouard Julien. Holland is hitting .319 with 12 homeruns, as Julien has 17 homeruns and 68 RBIs, tops on the Tigers.
The Tigers will need other arms to step up this weekend, as Mize will only be able to pitch one game. That’s where Tanner Burns (7-4, 3.12 ERA) comes in for the Tigers as their No. 2 starter. The Tigers will need Burns to pitch well, as he is likely to face the Gators No. 2 Jackson Kowar (9-5, 3.37 ERA), who was also drafted in the 1st round of the MLB Draft on Monday getting selected 33rd overall by the Royals. Whoever the two teams turn to for a potential third game will likely decide who moves on to Omaha, and the bullpen units of the two teams will have to be lights out.
With the two teams matching up pretty well, it should make for a good weekend of Super Regional action in Gainesville. After a regional filled with rain delays, the Gators will hope for some better weather on their home diamond as they continue their quest to repeat as champions. As for the Tigers, they look to play the ultimate spoiler role, and punch their tickets to Omaha while knocking out college baseball’s current kings.