Many expected the College World Series, which opens Saturday, would be populated by multiple teams from the SEC and ACC. The two conferences earned six of the top eight national seeds, led by number one seed Florida. Louisville was number two and Miami earned the third seed.
Only the Gators and Hurricanes made it to Omaha. Texas Tech, at No. 5, is the only other national seed to make the final eight.
Both are making their second straight appearance in the event. The Gators knocked Miami out of last year’s CWS.
Las Vegas odds makers have installed the Gators as 9-5 favorites to win the school’s first-ever championship. Both Miami and Oklahoma State come next at 5-1.
A very real possibility exists for an all-Florida final. Florida and Miami are in opposite brackets and are the highest seeds remaining in the tournament.
It would not be the first time. In 1999, Miami edged Florida State, 6-5 to claim the title.
While Florida was favored to get by Florida State in the Super Regional, few could honestly say they expected Coastal Carolina to sweep LSU in Baton Rouge to get to Omaha. The Chanticleers will try to shock their second consecutive SEC team when they face the Gators on Sunday.
“We’re just going to compete and play the way we have for the last three or four weeks,” said Coastal Carolina Coach Gary Gilmore. “There’s absolutely nothing to hold us back.”
Miami will take on Arizona, another surprise Super Regional winner, on Saturday night. Arizona, like Coastal Carolina, won both their regional and Super Regional on the road.
The strongest weapon for a successful run at the 10-day, double elimination event is pitching. Florida and Miami are well stocked, which could carry them to a championship game matchup.
In the end, the Gator staff is second to none. With two first-round draft picks in Dane Dunning and A.J. Puk, plus second-rounder Logan Shore (the SEC Pitcher of the Year), Florida is loaded. Throw in Alex Faedo, who is 13-2 this season, and Coach Kevin O’Sullivan always has a quality arm waiting to take the ball.
Throw in a little offense, which they can do, and there is plenty of reason to believe Florida will be doing a dog pile on the infield of T.D. Ameritrade Park. Miami and six other teams will have something to say about that, but the Gators come in as favorites for good reason.
It should be an interesting 10 days.