OMAHA, Neb. -- Florida relied heavily this year on a trio of present and future first-round picks who formed the best weekend rotation in college baseball. But with Alex Faedo, Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar not rested enough to start the second game of the College World Series on Tuesday
OMAHA, Neb. -- Florida relied heavily this year on a trio of present and future first-round picks who formed the best weekend rotation in college baseball. But with Alex Faedo, Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar not rested enough to start the second game of the College World Series on Tuesday night, the Gators had to turn to a freshman who had lasted just 1 2/3 innings in his lone start of the year.
Right-hander Tyler Dyson didn't become a full-time pitcher until his senior season at Braden River High (Bradenton, Fla.) in 2016. He became a national champion Tuesday night, stymying Louisiana State for six innings in a 6-1 victory, and showed that he too might become a first-rounder when he's eligible for the Draft in 2019.
Dyson, who worked five scoreless innings in relief against a formidable Wake Forest lineup in the decisive game of the Gainesville Super Regional on June 12, maintained a 92-94 mph fastball and an 82-84 mph slider against the No. 4 national seed Tigers (52-20). He only struck out two batters after the No. 3 national seed Gators (52-19) fanned 65 in their first five CWS games, but he limited the deepest lineup in Omaha to three hits and two walks.
"I think this start went a little better than my first one," Dyson said. "Just being out there and helping these guys win and watching what the pitchers did this week, I learned from that. I didn't get much sleep last night thinking about this game, but I just went out there and tried to execute."
Dyson did exactly that. He didn't allow a runner to get into scoring position until the fourth inning and left with a 2-0 lead after giving up a leadoff single in the seventh.
Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said Dyson continued to get better throughout the season and that he hoped to get five or six innings out of him after he had pitched just once in Omaha, recording four outs against Louisville eight days earlier.
"He sunk the ball and trusted his defense," said O'Sullivan, who presided over the Gators' first CWS championship while making his sixth trip to Omaha in 10 years with the program. "I thought his stuff last week against Wake was even a tick better. He has a chance to be really, really good.
"He's only been pitching two years. That's why he's only in a set position. He's not even in a windup yet and he has to learn a third pitch. . . . Once those things come together for him, I think he's got a chance to be really, really good."
Florida nearly squandered Dyson's fine outing. It pieced together unearned runs in the first and second innings, but also left seven runners on base in the first three frames. Right-hander Michael Byrne, who led NCAA Division I with 19 saves and recorded three at the CWS, relieved Dyson and couldn't nail down his 20th. Byrne immediately gave up an RBI double to third baseman Joshua Smith and a single to first baseman Jake Slaughter, putting the tying run at third with no one out.
Catcher Michael Papierski (the Astros' ninth-round pick) followed with a grounder that Florida second baseman Deacon Liput (29th round, Dodgers) turned into a double play while Smith came home with what appeared to be the tying run. But second-base umpire Steve Mattingly ruled interference on Slaughter sliding into shortstop Daulton Guthrie (sixth round, Phillies), which sent Smith back to third base. DH Beau Jordan ended the inning with a hard line drive right at center fielder Nick Horvath.
The Tigers opened the eighth with singles by shortstop Kramer Robertson (fourth round, Cardinals) and second baseman Cole Freeman (fourth round, Nationals), again putting runners on the corners with no outs. Byrne rallied to strike out left fielder Antoine Duplantis before O'Sullivan summoned Kowar for his first relief outing of the season.
Right fielder Greg Deichmann (second round, Athletics) lashed a hard grounder to Gators first baseman J.J. Schwarz (38th round, Rays), who fired home to barely nail Robertson on a close play that the umpires upheld after a video review.
"It was a heads-up play," O'Sullivan said. "The thing is he bounced off aggressively and he threw the ball on the right side of the bag. If the ball was thrown on the first-base side, he's safe. He made a perfect throw. That probably saved the game, to be honest."
That rally died when center fielder Zach Watson followed with another hard liner to Horvath. When Florida exploded for four runs in the bottom of the eighth -- two on an RBI single by Liput, who scored the first run, drove in the second and was celebrating his 21st birthday -- all that remained was for Kowar to fire 96-98 mph fastballs to close out the battle between the Southeastern Conference's regular-season co-champions. Gators right-hander Alex Faedo, the Tigers' first-round choice (No. 18 overall), won Most Outstanding Player honors after throwing 14 1/3 innings with 22 strikeouts in two starts against Texas Christian.
"In each and every game we won, it seemed like someone new stepped up," Liput said. "I think that's what made our team so special was you never knew who that person was going to be."
In the finale, it was a freshman who was making his second start of the season just a year after becoming a full-time pitcher.
Florida 4, Louisiana State 3
Florida, 6, Louisiana State 1
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.