Kevin O’Sullivan only thought he’d need three more innings out of Tyler Dyson. Until the rain came.
Dyson had already thrown two innings during the first part of a doubleheader with Florida’s season on the line. Now the Gators needed five more. A rain delay limited Brady Singer to two innings, leaving O’Sullivan to turn to Dyson with a one-run lead and seven innings separating Florida from Omaha, Neb., at an NCAA super regional in Gainesville.
The freshman had been shaky for most of the year after competing for the closer’s job at the start of the season. His ERA hovered near 5.00, and he threw fewer than 25 innings during the regular season. On one day, he delivered a season-defining performance.
Dyson threw a total of seven shutout innings. The Braden River High School alumnus allowed two hits. He struck out 10 batters. With five innings during the Game 3 rubber match, Dyson earned the win to send the Gators on to the College World Series with a 3-0 win.
The seven innings were the first Dyson threw during the postseason and now Florida is four wins away from hoisting the national championship trophy in Nebraska. The Gators open the World Series on Sunday at 7 p.m. against Texas Christian. Dyson discussed his performance, his freshman season and Florida’s postseason run with the Herald on Saturday.
The Bradenton Herald: Let’s start broad. What has this run been like?
Tyler Dyson: It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve had some adversity we’ve had to face this season with injuries and trying to figure out different roles and everything, but it’s been a great ride. We’re happy to be in Omaha. We’ve come a long way as a team since the first SEC series in Auburn, but we’re just trying to finish it out and win a national title.
BH: You’ve played a lot of different roles this season. How has that experience been?
TD: It’s been fun. I started off the year possibly as the closer, but Michael Byrne’s done a great job in the back end of the pen. Since he’s taken over that role he’s got a school record. ... He’s got the saves record for the school, so I’m happy for him, but it’s been kind of fun because I never know what role I’ll be in, when I’ll be used or anything like that, so it’s been weird because it’s hard to kind of set into a role, especially when you’re a freshman you don’t know what’s going on or anything. It’s been a lot of fun — mixing, matching and just trying to get opportunities.
BH: Did you have a sense at the start of the year that they wanted to use you like this?
TD: Going into the first SEC weekend I was the closer and then after LSU I kind of struggled a little bit. The next week they tried Byrne out there because no one had a set role, so they put Byrne in the back end of the pen, and he just kind of took off from there, and I’m happy for him. From there it was kind of, OK, we need to find a role for me. It was kind of difficult at first, but I’m happy I got a couple innings the other day against Wake Forest to help us get here. It’s been kind of fun because you never know when you’re going to pitch as a reliever. I’ve had a start in a midweek game, but coming out of the pen on the weekends is pretty fun.
BH: What was it like to get on the mound in super regionals?
TD: It was fun. I knew that there was the possibility of me pitching in that game. I pitched the first game that day, too — we had a doubleheader to finish the game before that was rained out, so we had to finish that one. I knew that with the bullpen the way it was and with (Alex) Faedo, Singer and (Jackson) Kowar going and pitching their games — even though they kind of got rain delayed with Singer in the last game — I knew that there was going to be a possibility I could go in for that game. O’Sullivan came up to me and told me that he had a plan in place to kind of piece together the bullpen. I wanted to get the ball to Faedo at the end of the game to finish it.
BH: Seven innings is a big ask for your first NCAA tournament outing.
TD: It felt like a high school game trying to go out there and throw that many innings.
BH: When did you think this sort of a run would be possible?
TD: We knew coming into the spring that with our starting rotation and some key guys in the lineup we’d be able to get back to Omaha. It was just kind of everybody stepping up in their roles. Really, after Tennessee — I think we were 9-8 in the league going into that Sunday game — after that we won nine straight in the SEC, so at that point we knew that we could take off and we could cause some damage because at Florida anything besides the College World Series is a disappointment.