Ty Floyd of the LSU Tigers celebrates after the final out of the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NCAA College World Series baseball finals against the Florida Gators at Charles Schwab Field on June 24, 2023 in Omaha, Nebraska. LSU defeated Florida 4-3. (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
OMAHA, Neb. – The wind was blowing out at Charles Schwab Field Saturday night, with 13 mph of warm breeze keeping the flags pointed away from home plate, helping fly balls carry just a little bit further.
But that was no matter for LSU starter Ty Floyd in game one of the Men’s College World Series final. The Gators were only able to muster five hits off Floyd, who were fooled by his slider, baffled when he changed speeds and largely unable to catch up to his fastball.
Floyd gave a masterful performance, throwing eight full innings with 122 pitches, striking out 17 and allowing three runs in the Tigers’ 4-3 win in 11 innings.
“We had a game plan coming in, and he threw good,” said Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “I thought we took some fastballs on the outer half of the plate, early in the count, to get us behind in the count. He threw just enough breaking balls to keep us off his fastballs, and we chased a bunch of fastballs up.”
The only blemishes? One walk, an RBI double by Wyatt Langford in the third, and a sixth-inning solo homer by Florida catcher BT Riopelle that gave Florida a brief 3-2 lead. Riopelle squared up a belt-high fastball and deposited it in the right field seats.
“I think he’s just a great pitcher in general,” Florida catcher BT Riopelle said of Floyd. “He has a fastball that kind of plays like a rise a little bit with him when he does vertical break. It’s a lower slot.”
And as the game went on, Floyd just kept getting better.
“I felt good. With as many people as were here tonight, the adrenaline felt good,” Floyd said.
“I knew that throwing my fastball at the top of the zone, being able to mix in off-speed pitches enough to get them off [balance]was the biggest thing tonight.”
After the homer by Riopelle, Floyd mowed down the next seven batters he faced, striking out six of them.
“I knew my stuff was going to play,” Floyd said. “I know he put a really good swing on a fastball. You’ve gotta tip your cap. But I knew that I’ve got a great offense behind me that’s going to back me up and get us back in the game.”
There was some question in Johnson’s mind about whether or not to send Floyd back out for the eighth inning.
“We had a spot where we thought we would go to Riley,” Johnson said. “It was a little bit of a tricky spot, so for him to get two more hitters was a big deal, and then there was no way with the way he pitched to Curlin and Langford, [Jac] Caglianone was going to be his, and he served to finish that ending and I’m really glad he did.”
Floyd retired the top of the Gators’ lineup in order in the eighth, punctuating the appearance with a 96 mph fastball that Florida’s Jac Caglione couldn’t touch for his 17th strikeout of the night, and letting off a scream of emotion as he walked off the mound. He tied the record for the most strikeouts in a College World Series final game, the most since Ed Bane of Oklahoma fanned 17 on June 11, 1972 against Arizona State.
It’s been a journey over the course of the 2023 season for Floyd, who started the season in the LSU bullpen.
“We needed him in the bullpen until we kind of figured out who we were going to be. He did that, helped us get off to a good start there,” Johnson said. “But we’re not sitting here in this position without Ty Floyd. I feel like he’s one of the most underrated, underappreciated, you know, players in college baseball this season.”
Floyd has been overshadowed on the LSU staff by ace Paul Skenes, who’s larger-than-life presence and ability may very well lead to him being picked first overall in the MLB Draft next month in Seattle.
But this performance by Floyd on college baseball’s biggest stage may have just driven his stock price a little higher. He’s the 87th ranked prospect for the coming draft according to MLB Pipeline.
“Nobody’s really paid attention to him, but the pro people are,” Johnson said. “He’s not going to last very long on the draft board. Somebody will be very, very happy with Ty Floyd.”