CWS Preview: Third time a charm

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For the third year in a row the No. 1 Gators are back in Omaha, picking up right where they left off.
In the opening round of the College World Series, Florida (47-18) and South Carolina (45-17) will square off in a rematch of last year's CWS finale.
One year later, it's all about the numbers surrounding the game.
Even if the Gators are the de facto favorite as the No. 1 overall seed, they might feel like the underdog against the two-time defending champion Gamecocks.
USC has won 21 postseason games in a row, including the two-game sweep of Florida for the 2011 national title.
But it's the Gators who have the advantage as of late. UF took two of three from the Gamecocks in Columbia back in March and more recently eliminated USC from the SEC tournament with a 7-2 win on May 25.
Instead of going with the staff ace, Hudson Randall (9-2, 2.61), Florida will send Brian Johnson (8-4, 3.56) to the mound on Saturday night.
By the numbers, Johnson is Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan's best bet to put UF in the winners bracket. In two starts against the Gamecocks, Johnson has tossed 15 innings, allowing four runs, striking out nine and issuing only two walks.
The junior left-hander did not see action on the mound during the Super Regional. Johnson's last start came on June 3 when the Gators routed Georgia Tech 15-3 in the Gainesville Regional. The junior lefty went five innings, allowing only one run on an efficient 65 pitches.
South Carolina surprised no one by choosing Michael Roth (7-1, 2.50) to start on Saturday.
Roth's last two starts against the Gators are game two of the CWS final series and USC's 9-3 win on March 22. In those two starts, Roth has combined for 14 and one-third innings, 241 pitches, allowing only five walks and four earned runs.
The senior left-hander most recently threw seven and two-thirds scoreless innings in USC's 5-0 win over Oklahoma on June 9.
The other two teams on Florida's side of the bracket are Arkansas (44-20) and Kent State (46-18). The Gators will play the Razorbacks or the Golden Flashes on Monday.
CWS Bracket 2 opponents at a glance
South Carolina
Record: 45-17
Winner: Columbia Regional, Columbia Super Regional
Head Coach: Ray Tanner (734-313 16th season at South Carolina, 1129-486-3 25th season overall)
Team ERA: 3.06
Team batting average: .271
Top hitter for average: Christian Walker (.315)
Team home runs: 41
Top hitter for power: Christian Walker (11 HR)
Team fielding percentage: .979
Record: 44-20
Winner: Houston Regional, Waco Super Regional
Head Coach: Dave Van Horn (403-221 10th season at Arkansas, 723-378 18th season overall)
Team ERA: 2.90
Team batting average: 2.73
Top hitter for average: Matt Reynolds (.338)
Team home runs: 38
Top hitter for power: Matt Reynolds (7 HR)
Team fielding percentage: .969
Kent State
Record: 46-18
Winner: Gary Regional, Eugene Super Regional
Head Coach: Scott Stricklin (313-163 eighth season)
Team ERA: 3.49
Team batting average: .302
Top hitter for average: George Roberts (.368)
Team home runs: 43
Top hitter for power: David Lyon (10 HR)
Team fielding percentage: .974
This and That
Mike Zunino continues to add to an unforgettable season. On Friday in Omaha, Neb., Zunino was awarded the Dick Howser Trophy, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association's award for the national player of the year. The junior catcher and No. 3 overall pick in the MLB Draft has hit .322, including 19 home runs and 64 RBI, in what will likely be his final season at Florida. Zunino is the first player in UF history to win the distinguished award.
The Gators could be in for trouble if they have to face Arkansas. UF has struggled mightily against the Razorbacks, going 6-12 in the Kevin O'Sullivan era. The Hogs took two of three from Florida in Gainesville during the late April regular-season series.
One lingering issue for O'Sullivan is how he will approach a save situation. Florida closer Austin Maddox has struggled in two of his last three outings, blowing a save in the 8-6 loss to Vanderbilt and letting a potential win slip away twice in UF's 9-8 win over N.C. State. Junior left-hander Steven Rodriguez (3-2, 2.19) has four saves.