The Gators closed out Bethune-Cookman with the help of a sensational weekend for Michael Byrne and face homer-happy Wake Forest in the Super Regional. UF closer Michael Byrne was spectacular during the Gainesville Regional, even adding a sacrifice bunt in Monday’s regional-clinching victory over Bethune-Cookman. (Photo: Tim Casey/UAA Communications) GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Sophomore closer Michael Byrne did everything the Gators asked of him in the Gainesville Regional.
Yes, he even dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt in just his second career plate appearance in Florida’s regional-clinching 6-1 victory Monday against Bethune-Cookman. That wasn’t exactly part of the plan Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan and his staff drew up following Sunday night’s loss to the Wildcats, but Byrne made it work.
"We had to be careful about the DH and where the pitcher would hit in that spot of the order,” O’Sullivan said. "Lo and behold, we have to bring in Michael in the seventh and he gets down a bunt. Hitters should probably take note of that."
Byrne’s bunt set up Jonathan India ‘s RBI sacrifice fly in the eighth inning Monday, adding a cherry on top of a spectacular regional performance from Byrne. In three appearances, Byrne tossed 10 scoreless innings and allowed only six hits to 37 batters faced. He walked two and struck out 13. Michael Byrne, No. 17, is congratulated by his teammates after closing out Monday’s win against Bethune-Cookman. (Photo: Lady Mendoza/UAA Communications) Byrne earned a save in Friday’s win over Marist, a victory in extra innings against USF on Saturday, and his 16th save in Monday’s decisive win over Bethune-Cookman. Without him, there’s a good chance Florida’s season would have ended.
" Michael Byrne is the MVP of this team right now if you ask me,” teammate Blake Reese said after Saturday’s game. "It’s lights out. Good for him. He deserves it. The guys love him."
"He’s done it all year for us,” third baseman Jonathan India said Monday. "We feel so comfortable when he’s out there on the mound."
Projected as a mid-week starter at the beginning of the season, Byrne emerged as the closer and now owns the school record for saves in a season as the Gators prepare to face Wake Forest in the Super Regional starting on Saturday.
In his three outings in the regional, Byrne threw 138 pitches, 97 for strikes. He threw 82 pitches in five innings in the 12-inning victory over USF late Saturday.
He made sure O’Sullivan knew he was ready if needed with the season on the line Monday.
"I wanted to pitch for sure,” he said. "It was all good. My arm wasn’t sore or anything."
Byrne has pitched in 32 games and is 3-4 with a 1.55 ERA over 63 2/3 innings. With a lack of experience and production from the bullpen, Byrne’s reliability at closer has been crucial to Florida advancing to a Super Regional for the seventh time in nine seasons.
After his workhorse weekend, O’Sullivan has a different plan the rest of the week for Byrne.
"He will not pick up a […]