CWS Top Teams Bracket, Round Two: 2017 Florida vs. 2012 ArizonaCollege World Series
Today would have been the day six of the 2020 College World Series. Since we don’t have live baseball to watch, we’re taking a look back at the greatest CWS teams of the modern 64-team NCAA tournament era. In conjunction with NCAA.com, we’ve made our picks for the 32 best Omaha teams since 1999 and seeded them into a bracket.
Now it’s your turn. Each day, we’ll present a few matchups for fans to vote on, as we work our way through the bracket to determine the greatest College World Series team of the super regional era.
2017 Florida Gators (52-19 overall; CWS champion)
No. 6 seed
The Gators made seven trips to Omaha in the 2010s under Kevin O’Sullivan, and they were regularly among the most talented teams in college baseball. But the 2017 Florida team finally broke through and won the first national title in program history, making it the greatest group of Gators ever. After going 21-9 in the SEC to win the Eastern Division by two games and take the top seed in the SEC tournament, Florida landed the No. 3 national seed in the NCAA tournament. UF won its first two regional games before getting upset by Bethune-Cookman, but it bounced back to win the rematch. Then Florida won a compelling super regional matchup against Wake Forest in three games to reach Omaha, where it rode dominant pitching to the title. The Gators led the CWS field with a 2.33 staff ERA in Omaha, and its pitchers struck out 68 in 54 innings. Florida jumped out to a 2-0 record in bracket play with wins over national seeds TCU and Louisville, but the Frogs pushed the Gators to an if-necessary game in the bracket finals. CWS Most Outstanding Player Alex Faedo came up big in that game, working 7.1 shutout innings to lead Florida to a 3-0 victory and a trip to the Finals.
Florida matched up with fellow SEC powerhouse LSU in the Finals, and its pitching continued to shine. First-rounder Brady Singer threw seven strong innings in a 4-3 win in Game One, and then Tyler Dyson worked six strong innings in a 6-1 win in Game Two, completing the sweep. Faedo (2-0, 0.00 in 14 IP in Omaha), Singer (2-0, 2.57) and Jackson Kowar (who came out of the bullpen to finish the CWS clincher) were all first-round picks on the mound for this Florida team, while third baseman Jonathan India would join Faedo as a first-rounder in 2018. Florida also had one of the best closers of the era in Michael Byrne, a two-time first-team All-American who worked seven scoreless innings over four appearances in Omaha. Overpowering pitching was this team’s calling card, making up for the fact that this was one of the least imposing Florida offenses of the decade (it ranked 224th in the nation in batting and 180th in scoring).
2012 Arizona Wildcats (48-17, CWS Champion)
No. 11 seed
As the Wildcats pitched their way to another national title, they did so in dominant fashion. Arizona had an incredible season in 2012. Andy Lopez’s squad finished the regular season tied with UCLA atop the Pac 12 standings before going on an insane run in the postseason, not losing a single game on the way to the national title. Arizona beat Missouri and double dipped Louisville in the Tucson Regional before sweeping St. John’s in two games, 7-6 and 7-4. Once in Omaha, the Wildcats allowed just three runs in their first two games against Florida State and UCLA before crushing Florida State to setup a standoff with back-to-back champion South Carolina. The Wildcats dethroned the dynasty, winning 5-1 and 4-1 to win the national title.
U of A put together a dominant showing in Omaha that year. The offense finished the tournament with a .282 average (second in the CWS), while tallying insane numbers on the mound, a CWS-best 1.12 ERA. The closest pitching staff to the Wildcats? Arkansas with a 1.80 ERA. Konner Wade had a 0.50 ERA in two starts and 18 innings, James Farris had a 1.17 ERA in 7.2 innings and Kurt Heyer had a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings. Furthermore, it’s incredible that Arizona used just five pitchers in its Omaha trip with relievers Mathew Troupe and Tyler Crawford making two appearances each. Offensively, Big Leaguer Robert Refsnyder led the offensive charge with a .476 average in Omaha, while Riley Moore hit .412 and Alex Mejia, another premier player, hit .304 with a pair of RBIs.
It’s one thing for the Wildcats to dethrone the Gamecocks. But how they did it was even more impressive.
How They Match Up: This is a showcase showdown between two teams that were built to win at TD Ameritrade Park, but in different ways. Florida clearly had more firepower on the mound, and its pitching and defense could shut down any opponent. Arizona had fewer power arms and less pitching depth, but the Heyer-Wade-Troupe trio proved very formidable, and its double-and-triples-oriented offense was tailor-made for TDAP. The Wildcats also played their own suffocating defense. Florida had the better overall season from start to finish, but Arizona was actually the more dominant team in Omaha, outscoring its opponents 27-8 in a perfect 5-0 run to glory. Florida outscored its opponents 23-14 during its 5-1 run.
This is a showcase showdown between two teams that were built to win at TD Ameritrade Park, but in different ways.
Who gets the dub?
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 18, 2020