Before the Southeastern Conference and the rest of college baseball begin to exhale now that Florida’s Alex Faedo is playing professionally in the Detroit farm system, it would behoove everyone to remember who the Gators have returning to campus.
Yes, the defending College World Series champions may have lost the hurler who won the Most Outstanding Player award in Omaha. Nevertheless, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s team has two members of its weekend rotation back along with a third ready to join the party and a closer coming off the best season among all relievers in Gator history.
Heading the list of returnees is rising junior Brady Singer, who would have garnered MOP honors in Omaha if not for Faedo. Singer earned his first win of the 2017 CWS by limiting a loaded Louisville lineup to six hits and one earned run over seven innings. He then returned for the first game of the championship series and struck out 12 LSU batters while scattering eight hits and three earned runs over seven frames.
Those two triumphs allowed Singer to finish his sophomore campaign with a 9-5 record and a 3.21 ERA, including three complete games and 129 strikeouts in 126 innings. He also issued only 32 walks. With that performance under his belt, it’s little wonder why scouts are suggesting Singer may be the first overall pick in the 2018 draft.
Jackson Kowar, another rising junior, is coming off a campaign in which he posted a 12-1 mark with a 4.08 ERA. After making starts in his first 18 appearances, he recorded the last five outs versus LSU in the final game of the CWS to notch his first save as a collegian. The 6-foot-5 righthander is projected to serve as the Gators’ Saturday starter in 2018.
Tyler Dyson should round out the weekend rotation next spring after going 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA as a freshman. He earned the victory in the CWS clincher against the Tigers when he made only his second start of the season; the first came in the Super Regional against Wake Forest, when he tossed five strong frames. He responded by allowing one earned run and three hits over six innings versus LSU, which could solidify his move to the rotation as a sophomore.
Making the rotation even more formidable is the support it receives at the end of games. Rising junior Michael Byrne established the Florida single-season record with 19 saves this past spring while posting a 1.67 ERA. For a team that continues to be built on pitching and defense, having a pitcher like Byrne seal the deal late in contests makes defeating the Gators even more challenging.
O’Sullivan and the Gators have reached Omaha six times in his last eight seasons. During that stretch the program has garnered a reputation of having as much pitching as any team in the country. That trend will continue in 2018, which should make Florida a strong contender to win its second national championship in as many years.