Florida's Josh Rivera (24) celebrates with teammates after hitting a two-run home run against South Carolina during the first inning of an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game Friday, June 9, 2023, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Gators Gear Up For 2023 College World Series Against Virginia

Only eight teams remain in the 2023 Men’s College World Series. Among them lies the heavy-hitting Florida Gators, who are hungry to snatch their second NCAA Tournament Championship in program history. But before the Gators can make a run for the Finals, they first must take care of business in their opening matchup against the Virginia Cavaliers.

Florida currently sits as the top seed in Bracket 1 of the MCWS. Their bracket also includes the TCU Horned Frogs, the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles and the Cavaliers. TCU and Oral Roberts have survived as underdogs throughout their postseason campaigns, with both squads taking down another team in their own Regional before pulling off an upset in the Super Regionals, as well.

On the other hand, Florida and Virginia have been favored to advance to the College World Series since tournament play began. Needless to say, both squads have lived up to their respective expectations.

Now the roads between these two powerhouse squads have finally crossed, and only one will make it out of their bracket alive. While neither team is currently on the brink of elimination, this opening matchup may play a major role in determining who advances to the CWS Finals and who ends up back home earlier than expected.

How the Gators Got Here

Florida has looked virtually unstoppable throughout their 2023 campaign. The Gators finished the regular season with a 42-13 record, marking their first regular season conference championship since 2018. They nearly saw their season come to an end in the Gainesville Regional after a tough 5-4 loss to Texas Tech. However, the Gators responded with three consecutive wins (two of which came against Texas Tech) to advance to the Super Regionals. Florida then swept South Carolina in the Gainesville Super Regional for their first MCWS appearance since 2018.

The Gators have rode their electrifying offense to success all season long, averaging 8.0 runs per game. All-Americans Wyatt Langford and Jac Caglianone have led the charge for UF in the batter’s box. Langford leads the team in batting average (.373), doubles (24), OPS (1.267) and runs scored (76). Meanwhile, Caglianone has knocked out a program-record 31 home runs this year and leads Florida in RBIs (84).

UF has recently received major contributions from Josh Rivera and BT Riopelle, as well. Riopelle has blasted out six home runs for the Gators this postseason, while Rivera turned in a pair of three-hit performances against Texas Tech and South Carolina in the last two weeks.

While Florida boasts multiple big names in their lineup, they also have a strong roster from top to bottom. The Gators saw six different players hit at least 10 home runs this season, while nine players maintained a batting average of .250 or higher. Longtime Gators broadcaster Nick Belmonte noted that the team’s depth might serve as the X-factor for this year’s College World Series.

On the mound, Caglianone leads Florida’s starting pitchers with a 3.78 ERA and a .184 batting average allowed. Hurtson Waldrep and Brandon Sproat round out UF’s starting rotation, with Waldrep leading the Gators in wins (nine) and Sproat maintaining a rotational-best 1.31 WHIP. All-SEC First Team nod Brandon Neely has served as the Gators’ go-to closer, with 13 saves and a 3.66 ERA.

The Tale Of The Tape For Virginia

The Gators have proven themselves time and time again this year, but the Cavaliers will likely not go down without a fight. Virginia finished the 2023 regular season with a 44-11 record and an ACC Coastal Division championship. They took care of business in the Charlottesville Regional, going 3-0 to advance to a Super Regionals showdown against Duke. The Cavaliers stumbled at first, dropping their first game in the Charlottesville Super Regional. Nevertheless, they bounced back to win their next two and advance to the College World Series.

Virginia has rode the success of their starting pitching throughout their 2023 campaign. Connelly Early, Brian Edgington and Nick Parker have served as the team’s three primary pitchers this season. All three have played an integral role in the team’s deep playoff run. For instance, the Cavaliers have yet to allow more than five runs in a postseason game this year. Virginia radio broadcaster Adam Hawes noted that while the bullpen could serve as a potential cause for concern, the Cavaliers’ starting pitching will likely be the team’s key to going all the way.

The Cavaliers also feature some firepower at the plate, as well. Reigning ACC Player of the Year Kyle Teel has maintained a .418 batting average throughout the 2023 season. He has also knocked out 13 home runs and drove in 69 RBIs along the way. Teel and Griff O’Ferrall are the first pair of Virginia teammates to tally 100 hits each in the same season. O’Ferrall has recorded a .398 batting average and leads Virginia with 74 runs scored.

While Teel and O’Ferrall nearly always find a way to get on base, Jake Gelof helps to bring them home. Gelof has held onto a .331 batting average this season, and when he gets a hit, he makes it count. He leads the Cavaliers in home runs (23), RBIs (89) and slugging percentage (.731).

Let the Games Begin

If previous seasons have proven anything, it is that anything can happen in the College World Series. With two juggernaut programs facing off on Day 1, there will definitely be plenty of fireworks to kick things off. First pitch between the Gators and Cavaliers is set for 7 p.m. at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska.

About Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year student at the University of Florida. He is majoring in Journalism and specializing in Sports and Media.

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