Florida and Florida State will renew their rivalry this weekend with a berth in the College World Series on the line. Both teams swept through Regionals after winning their conference tournaments.
Florida defeated the three other teams, Florida A&M, South Florida and Florida Atlantic, that joined the Gators in Gainesville and advanced on Sunday. Weather delayed the Tallahassee Regional by a day as Florida State advanced Monday. During their regional, the Seminoles beat Mercer and then College of Charleston twice.
The Gainesville Super Regional will be a best-of-three series beginning on Friday night. Florida State got the better of Florida during the regular season, winning two of three, but FSU did lose 14-8 in its only trip to Gainesville.
After losing five straight to close the regular season, the Seminoles come in riding a 7-game winning streak. FSU went a perfect 4-0 to win the ACC Tournament before sweeping through the regional.
The staple of the Florida State lineup for most of the season has been junior outfielder D.J. Stewart, who leads the Seminoles in virtually every offensive category. Stewart is hitting .322 this season with 13 home runs, 55 RBIs and a ridiculous on-base percentage of .509.
During the Tallahassee Regional, the Seminoles got major contributions from first baseman Quincy Nieporte and outfielder Josh Delph. Nieporte drove in five runs during the regional and homered twice, including the go-ahead shot in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 3-2 win over College of Charleston. Nieporte happened to play the role of hero the last time Florida and Florida State met as he hit a walk-off home run in the 12th inning in a 4-3 FSU victory back in mid-April.
Delph, Florida State’s lead-off man, was 6-for-13 during the regional with two runs and a pair of RBIs. Delph made sure the regional began on the right foot Friday with a walk-off single in the 10th inning in a 5-4 win over Mercer.
With a .367 batting average, Florida’s Josh Tobias ranks fifth in the SEC. J.J. Schwarz has supplied the power this season for Florida, with 15 home runs and a SEC-leading 66 RBIs. Schwarz homered twice against Florida State this season .
Junior Richie Martin and sophomore Buddy Reed have also each had solid years for Florida. Reed is hitting .316 for the year while Martin leads the squad with 58 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. Martin scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 2-1 win over Florida Atlantic.
Sophomore Logan Shore has been the ace of the Florida pitching staff. Shore is 8-6 on the season with a 2.84 ERA and two complete games. Shore threw five shutout innings in the Gators’ 19-0 victory over Florida A&M on Friday night.
In the bullpen, Taylor Lewis and Bobby Poyner have been solid all season. Poyner has an ERA below three and a remarkable 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Lewis is 6-1 with a minuscule 1.27 ERA in 28 appearances with a team-high 7 saves.
Entering the season, Mike Compton was regarded as the ace of the FSU rotation, but of late, it’s been sophomore Boomer Biegalski and freshman Drew Carlton who have anchored the rotation. Since the start of the ACC Tournament, Biegalski and Carlton have combined for four of the seven Florida State victories. Over that span, the two have combined to allow just two runs in more than 31 innings.
Seminoles’ senior closer Billy Strode is tied for the ACC lead with 14 saves. With a 3-0 record and a 1.85 ERA, Strode has been outstanding all season. He picked up a win and a save during the Tallahassee Regional.
The Super Regional will be the third NCAA Tournament meeting between Florida State and Florida since 2008. FSU eliminated Florida in an elimination game in the Tallahassee Regional in 2008 and got the better of the Gators again in an elimination game in the 2010 College World Series.
Florida State hopes for similar results while the Gators try to avoid having their season end at the hands of their arch-rivals for the third time in eight years.
Schedule (All Times PM and Eastern)
Friday, June 5th at 7:30 (ESPN2)
Saturday, June 6th at 5:00 (ESPN2)
Sunday, June 7th at 6:00 or 7:00 (if necessary)
Featured image courtesy of Larry Novey/Florida State Athletics