It was only about 15 months ago when Tyler Dyson trotted to the mound for what, at the time, was the highest-profile start of his career.
A couple of video cameras dotted the edges of the baseball field at Braden River High School, and about 100 fans filled the tiny sets of bleachers along the first- and third-base lines.
When Braden River baseball coach Craig Page fired off his customary pregame text to Dyson on Tuesday, he made sure to mention the four-hitter Dyson threw for Braden River to beat rival Lakewood Ranch High School in a game televised by Bright House Sports Network, now called Spectrum Sports.
On the other end of Tuesday’s text, Dyson was preparing to start a Game 2 of the College World Series finals as a freshman for the University of Florida in Omaha, Neb. The gem against Lakewood Ranch was still the closest analog the Pirates head coach could consider.
“It was obviously on a lot bigger scale, but just to go out with the same mindset and enjoy it,” Page said. “I really had no doubt that he was going to go out and put together a good performance.”
Dyson delivered the Gators to a 6-1 win and their first national championship. He pitched six innings, allowing three hits and one earned run. He was efficient, logging only two strikeouts but only walking two. It was as impressive as it was improbable for Dyson had started only once previously during the season, and hadn’t blown away hitters out of the bullpen during the regular season, entering the NCAA tournament with a 4.74 ERA and no set role.
Then there were the circumstances that led him to pitching for Florida. Dyson only became a full-time starter during his senior season at Braden River after a growth spurt after his sophomore season first turned him into the Pirates’ closer as a junior. The Gators recruited him as both an infielder and pitcher before settling on him coming out of the bullpen full-time as a freshman in Gainesville. Even now, he throws exclusively out of the stretch and uses only two pitches.
“My expectation, to be honest with you, was probably five or six and then you see where we’re at in the ball game,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the win at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha late Tuesday. “He was good tonight. He sunk the ball and trusted his defense. I thought his stuff last week against Wake (Forest) was even a tick better. He has a chance to be really, really good.”
Dyson’s improbable run through the postseason began against Wake Forest when rain delays and a depleted bullpen forced Dyson into seven innings of relief across a single day’s doubleheader. The second half of the doubleheader was the rubber match of an NCAA tournament super regional in Florida and the Gators needed five innings from him. With seven strikeouts and no walks, the right-hander picked up the win to send UF to Nebraska.
Dyson’s first effort at the CWS […]