These are the five reasons that Florida will win the national championship.
1. Hudson Randall
The game one starter for the Florida Gators has already proved that he can beat the Gamecocks all by himself. Well, at least a complete-game 5-hitter while allowing no earned runs on March 26th in Gainesville.
Florida coach Kevin O' Sullivan has already announced that he's going with his ace in game one. Over the course of the season Randall has a WHIP of under 1. That's walks + hits per inning pitched. Basically meaning that he doesn't allow many base-runners and he's generally in control of the game when he's pitching. And he's pitched a lot for Florida. He threw 116.2 innings so far this season and Florida is hoping that he can throw around 125. If Florida is going to pull this thing out then Randall has to be a big part of it.
2. The Long ball
Florida finished in the top 5 in the country in home runs during the season. They hit 68 long balls as a team. Led by SEC Player of the Year-Mike Zunino's 18 homers, followed by Preston Tucker's 15, the Gators like to score in bunches and it generally comes from the ball leaving the yard.
It's hard to single a team to death in a championship situation because coaches won't hesitate to bring out the next pitcher. It's generally hard for teams to sustain long innings without walks or errors and when teams are on the top of their game like Florida and South Carolina are right now. It could come down to a fastball tailing back across the middle of the plate or a hung-curve ball that is sent flying into the crowd. Florida has done pretty well with this over the course of the season.
3. Mike Zunino
Catchers touch the ball more than any other player on the field throughout the course of the game. They know what's going on out there and they are the "field general" that controls what the defense is doing. It helps when your team has a pretty good one and suffice it to say, Florida has a pretty good one.
In the series back in March between these two teams, South Carolina may have won two of three, but it had nothing to do with their catchers production at the plate. Zunino finished the series 7-12 after 3-4 performances in games one and three. With an offensive-dominated lineup that has been carried by the long-ball this season, you have to count their best hitter and leading home run hitter as a key component in their quest for a national championship.
4. Bryson Smith
The Florida Gators have been led offensively this NCAA tournament by their center fielder, Bryson Smith. Smith has led all players in the NCAA tournament with 17 hits. In nine games he's batted .472 along with a 13-game hitting streak.
This coming from a player that hit just .325 for the season. Smith's hot bat will need to continue and getting Smith in the 1/2-hole on-base sets the stage nicely for their big hitters in the heart of the order to do some damage.
5. Karsten Whitson
Whitson has already been named as the starter for game two on Tuesday. Obviously his performance is either for a championship-clincher, or a season-extender. Either way he could very well be looking at pitching a game that sets up Florida to either face, or not face South Carolina ace-Michael Roth.
Whitson has had success in his limited outing back in March. In just 5 innings pitched he gave up just two hits and one run, while striking out five. It's an advantage for Whitson to know in advance that he is going to be the starter. His preparation in the days leading up to his start will be normal in terms of bullpen work and throwing schedule. He'll be watching very intently on Monday night to see what tendencies, if any, he can try and take advantage of from South Carolina hitters. Randall and Whitson take the ball in the most important two-games of their lives so far. It should be fun to watch.