GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When Florida pitcher Greg Larson found out the Gators’ first game in the College World Series is against SEC rival South Carolina, he got excited.
"They’ve had a great run," Larson said of the two-time defending national champion Gamecocks. "Just kind of thinking about last year, we were going to run into them sooner or later, so why not first game in Omaha?"
What Larson was thinking about from last year was South Carolina’s sweep over Florida in the best-of-three CWS championship series. The Gamecocks won the first game 2-1 in 11 innings and the second game 5-2. But Larson said while the Gators remember that heartbreak, they aren’t talking about revenge or anything like that.
"The year has dulled it," he said. "I don’t think there’s any bitterness. We’ve kind of moved on from last year and are trying to make this year count."
Top-seeded Florida (47-18) is the favorite to win the national title despite South Carolina (45-17) winning the last two titles and riding a 21-game NCAA tournament winning streak. The Gators have outscored opponents 41-14 this postseason, which the majority of the runs allowed coming in Sunday’s 9-8 victory over N.C. State to sweep the Super Regional.
The Gamecocks’ pitching has been superb during its postseason winning streak, which dates back to a 4-3 loss to Oklahoma in their first game of the 2010 CWS. Since then, they have outscored opponents 114-41 and have allowed more than four runs just once.
"They have experience," UF pitcher Brian Johnson said. "They have core pitching with [Michael] Roth and [Matt] Price. They’re a great ball team. They know what it takes, for sure."
Florida is 5-5 against South Carolina the past two seasons and went 3-2 against the Gamecocks this season. UF took two-of-three in Columbia in March and also beat South Carolina 7-2 on May 25 to knock the Gamecocks out of the SEC tournament.
Johnson threw the first complete game of his career, and catcher Mike Zunino drove in three runs in that game.
"That definitely boosted our confidence a little bit, beating them in the SEC in tournament and taking two out of three from them in Columbia, but that doesn’t mean anything," Larson said. "In Omaha it’s just one game and you just look forward to that one game. I don’t think us beating them three out of four really means anything to them.
"They’re looking forward to Saturday night and we are, too."