Maybe it’s just baseball, but Florida has added another SEC Championship to its collection- by far the most of any school in the SEC.
Alex Panteliodis got his first win against an SEC team of the season as Florida blanked the Commodores 5-0 to finalize their reservations for home field until the College World Series.
Ranked 5 in the country, the Gators got to the championship by beating Mississippi State, Alabama, losing to Georgia and then beating Georgia in the elimination game.
Vanderbilt was ranked #2 in the nation, but they looked lost at the plate. Considering that Vandy may very well be a CWS team, it’s good to see Florida get the job done with what was nothing more than a midweek starter in Panteliodis. We’ve got lots of guys that can get the job done on the mound, and at the plate as well.
Let’s face it, Preston Tucker is no Albert Pujols. He’s not the freak of nature we thought he was after tearing up the SEC as a freshman and even as a sophomore. He doesn’t need to be. He’s merely a contributor, and that’s just fine and dandy with me. Because between Bryson Smith, Nolan Fontana, Austin Maddox and Mike Zunino, we’ve got plenty of firepower.
Two years ago, Florida seemed a cinch to make the CWS and maybe even win a game. But they were stunned by Southern Miss in the Super Regional in Gainesville. Last year, the Gators again appeared a likely CWS candidate, and got there. But then they didn’t know what to do. They got swamped by UCLA and then by FSU. It took them 17 innings to wake up and adjust to life in Omaha, and although they put up an impressive rally against FSU, it wasn’t enough.
Sure, call this the baseball equivalent of Ryan’s What Makes This Gators Team Different piece. If there’s a simple answer to that question here, it’s this: comfort level.
The Gators simply trust more players to do more and this has paid off in spades. Even Cody Dent, one of our weakest hitters, has produced in big moments at times this year.
So how far can we go?
I’d say if we don’t make it to the CWS, it’s a disappointment.
We’ve got the pitching, we’ve got the hitting, we’ve got the defense.
Especially the defense.
Defense wins championships, in any sport. And Florida’s got a catcher with a laser arm, a good, healthy pitching staff and above average fielders.
Simply put, Florida will win it all if they do not self destruct. And they don’t appear to be on the verge of it at all. Rather, they’re playing their best baseball now and if they continue at this pace, they will do it.