Offense key to Gators' CWS hopes
Here's an in-depth look at the Florida Gators, one of the eight teams competing in the College World Series, which starts Friday at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Neb.
Bracket 1/No. 7 national seed
Coach: Pat McMahon (fourth season)
CWS History: Fifth trip to Omaha (last in 1998), no titles
How They Got Here: Won the Gainesville, Fla., regional in three games, beating Notre Dame in the final. Swept Florida State at home in the super regional.
Players to Watch: Soph. 1B Matt LaPorta (.335-24-73, .706 slugging percentage), Sr. CF Jeff Corsaletti (.371-10-51), Sr. RHP Connor Falkenbach (3-3, 2.83, nine saves, 47 appearances), Soph. 2B Adam Davis (.321-10-57, 23 steals)
Scouting the Gators: I really like Florida offensively. It has the right fit with a power guy like LaPorta and a guy that's having a great year like Corsaletti. They also have a good mix of right and left-handed hitters. You've got to get Corsaletti out and can't let LaPorta beat you. Those are the two tall orders and hopefully the rest of the guys aren't beating you if you can get those two out. There's no formula to attack them. We had success throwing a lot of fastballs one day, then tried it the next night and they beat us around. There are no real outs in that lineup, but to be honest, I don't see a whole lot of power other than LaPorta. He picks up a lot of slack for them.
They play tremendous defense, especially on the left side with Justin Tordi and Brandon McArthur. The most underrated player is Brian Jeroloman. He's tremendous. He catches every day, he's a left-handed hitter, and every throw is right on the bag. He's the rock.
The pitching formula is a great bullpen, with a great year from Falkenbach and Darren O'Day. They're strike-throwers who do a good job with the running game and pour it in there. Against Falkenbach, move up in the box and you can have some success. The most dangerous thing is those guys can throw every day. It's almost like a softball bullpen. That's what makes Falkenbach so effective. If they can shorten the game, he can eat innings. Starters Ball, Boss and Horne have good command, a plethora of pitches, throw strikes and don't rattle.
Omaha Outlook: Florida proved the best team in the Southeastern Conference during the regular season because of its depth across the board. Matt LaPorta, who is tied with Clemson's Kris Harvey for second in the nation in home runs with 24 and also ranks among the national leaders in slugging (.706), leads a powerful offense that boasts four players with double figures in home runs and five with 10 or more doubles. The Gators have scored six or more runs 38 times, winning 35 of those games.
The pitching staff doesn't feature a dominant starter, but it's a crew of solid strike-throwers led by veterans Alan Horne, Tommy Boss and Bryan Ball that can eat plenty of innings. They hang tough to allow the offense to grab a lead before turning things over to rubber-armed relievers Connor Falkenbach and Darren O'Day. Combined, that pitch-everyday duo has appeared in 77 games and helped Florida to a 38-4 record when leading after six innings.
Coach Pat McMahon went 1-2 in Omaha with Mississippi State in 1998, and he has a club that could finish better this year.
Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.
Editor's note: Baseball America contacted college coaches familiar with the teams for analysis. Anonymity was granted in exchange for their candor.