Florida, Florida State escape late-night baseball in super regionals

Steven Wells Jr. of Florida State hits a home run during an NCAA Division I Tallahassee Regional baseball game between the Seminoles and Auburn at Dick Howser Stadium on Monday (Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images) After flirting with midnight baseball most of last weekend in NCAA regional tournaments, Florida and Florida State will get early starts when both teams host best two-of-three game super regionals beginning on Saturday.

The NCAA announced on Tuesday that the Seminoles (43-21) will play the first game of their series against Sam Houston State (44-21) at noon Saturday at Dick Howser Stadium, while the Gators (45-17) will play Wake Forest (42-18) at 3 p.m. at McKethan Stadium.

The winners of the eight super regionals will advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., June 17-27.

Each of the first two games for the Gators and ‘Noles will be televised. FSU’s game on Saturday will be on ESPN2 and Florida’s will be aired on ESPN. The Sunday games will be determined later but will be on either network.

The Gators played three night games in the regional last week, including a 12-inning marathon against South Florida on Saturday. The Seminoles played three — including the last two against Auburn, an 8-7 10-inning victory on Sunday and Monday’s 6-0 victory.

Florida won a regional after a loss for the first time under the current NCAA format. FSU has done it five times.

Although the Gators are the national No. 3 seed, coach Kevin O’Sullivan said the regional was a microcosm of the season.

“We’ve won a lot of one-run games and a lot of things have not come easy to us,” he said after Monday’s 6-1 victory over Bethune-Cookman earned UF its seventh trip to a super regional in nine years under O’Sullivan. “Even though our record is really, really good, there’s been a lot of games we’ve had to grind out. I’m awfully proud of our team, our players.”

O’Sullivan said he already had taken notice of Wake’s offense, which produced 27 runs in its three regional games.

“We’re playing at home against a very good Wake Forest team,” he said. “I’ve looked at them just briefly … I know they’ve got some power numbers and they’ve got some guys in the middle of the order that can really hit.”

The Seminoles know all about the Deacons and it was losing a three-game series to Wake in mid-May that was a turning point in the season. Since a 10-9 lossin the Sunday game of that set, FSU has gone 10-1, bouncing back in their regional after an opening-game 3-1 loss to Tennessee Tech.

It’s only the 22nd time in 288 regional tournament since the current format was adopted in 1999 that a team losing the opening game has won the regional.

Clutch pitching was the reason both the Gators and Seminoles survived losses to win their regionals. Florida reliever Michael Byrne threw 10 scoreless innings, with 13 strikeouts and only six hits and two walks allowed. He saved two games and won the […]