In a NCAA regional littered with pressure-packed situations, the Florida Gators were able to stave off elimination by turning to leaders on their pitching staff. Alex Faedo and Michael Byrne responded to huge challenges throughout the Gainesville Regional with a series of brilliant outings. These type of performances have become a familiar, consistent sight for the Gators and they’ll need to see a similar effort this weekend if they want to advance past their Super Regional opponent, Wake Forest. The two right-handed hurlers were named 2017 All-Americans on Thursday by Baseball America. Faedo was named to the second team and Byrne to the the third team.
Stepping Up When It Matters Most
Florida had to battle a bit against the Marist Red Foxes in their regional opener. The Gators led by a score of 7-6 in the top of the seventh inning, but quickly found themselves in a stressful situation after surrendering a one-out single. That’s when Florida turned to their reliable closer, Michael Byrne. As expected, he responded by finishing the final 2.2 innings almost flawlessly. He struck out three Marist hitters and gave up only a two-out single in the ninth. Florida won the game 10-6.
On the following evening, Alex Faedo picked up right where Byrne left off. This time the two would work together to silence the USF Bulls’ batters. Faedo persevered through a 40-minute lightning delay to keep the game close while the Gators struggled to find their offensive rhythm. He exited the game after seven innings of work with the Gators tied 1-1. Once again, Florida then handed the ball to Byrne, who threw five scoreless innings to get the win. The All-Americans finished the 12-inning win with 18 combined strikeouts. They surrendered just one run on seven hits and walked only four USF hitters. Florida won by a score of 5-1.
After the first loss to Bethune-Cookman in program history on Sunday, the Gators responded with a 6-1 victory in a do-or-die game on Monday night. Who pitched the final 2.1 innings? To no one’s surprise it was Byrne again.
Coming in to the 2017 season, Michael Byrne wasn’t necessarily expecting to be the closer, but he says the role has been great so far. He’s currently tied for the NCAA lead in saves this season with 16. The sophomore also has a 1.55 ERA, good for seventh lowest in the NCAA. Alex Faedo, who is projected by many to be drafted in the first round of this year’s MLB draft, has been a tone-setter for Florida all year. He spoke about how important it is for him to put the team in a position to win the first game of every series. Faedo has been striking opposing hitters out all season long. Entering this weekend, he is tied for 12th in the NCAA with 123 strikeouts on the year.
The duo need to be sharp this weekend against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons lead the NCAA with 100 home runs this season. The first game of the best-of-three Super Regional will start on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Gainesville and will be televised on ESPN.