Although LSU pitcher Ty Floyd has been underappreciated for most of the year, he is now finally getting his flowers.
In the bottom of the eighth inning in game one of the College World Series finals, Florida first baseman Jac Caglianone, the nation’s leader in home runs and a Golden Spikes Award finalist, stepped up to the plate. After Caglianone was behind on a 0-2 count, Floyd went through his motion and hurled his signature fastball, making Caglianone whiff for strike three to end the inning. Not only was that a huge strikeout due to the circumstances, but history also happened.
That strikeout was Floyd’s 17th of the game. 14 of those 17 strikeouts were on fastballs according to Creighton baseball analytics.
“I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing predominately all year, but in this big of a ballpark, I know they have to really hit it to get it out of here,” Floyd said. “But I felt like I had really good command of all my other pitches. I was able to locate it well enough for me to be able to get them off my fastball.”
Not only was it a career game for Floyd and his potential swan song, but he also broke the single-game record for the most strikeouts in a College World Series finals, ascending over the number of 13 that was set last year by Oklahoma pitcher Cade Horton. Floyd also tied Arizona State pitcher Ed Bane for the second-most strikeouts in a CWS game that was set in 1972.
In both of his starts, Floyd has a combined 27 strikeouts, the most by an LSU and SEC pitcher in a single CWS. His 27 strikeouts helped him surpass the 100-strikeout mark, now making his season total. Floyd and Paul Skenes are the first pair of LSU pitchers to surpass 100 strikeouts in a single season since 2009 when Anthony Ranaudo and Louis Coleman recorded the feat. Ironically, that was the last time the Tigers won the national championship.
Although Floyd wrote his chapter on college baseball history, the most important thing was that it propelled LSU to a 4-3 extra innings victory over Florida in the national championship series. Along with his 17 punchouts, he allowed three runs on five hits while only issuing one walk and threw a career-high 122 pitches through eight innings.
Floyd also pitched extremely well in his first CWS start against Wake Forest last Monday as he hurled 10 strikeouts. However, his strike zone got smaller in the sixth inning, leading to two costly runs that propelled a comeback victory for the Demon Deacons. However, Floyd kept the same routine because he knew that his signature fastball benefitted from being in a pitcher-friendly ballpark.
LSU head coach Jay Johnson has praised Floyd all year and for good reason. He is still undefeated on the year with a 7-0 record, and it stayed that way throughout SEC play, something that Johnson has reminded the media. Johnson feels as if people forget how good Floyd can be when he is at his best.
“I think it’s probably just because of Paul — you know what I mean? — and Paul being so out of this world good,” Johnson said. “Nobody’s really paid attention to him, but the pro people are. He’s not going to last very long on the draft board. Somebody will be very, very happy with Ty Floyd.”
Despite his strong play throughout the game and the trust he has in Floyd, Johnson was thinking about pulling him and warming up his relievers, freshman Gavin Guidry and veteran Riley Cooper. This is due to Floyd’s pitch count reaching 111 pitches and Florida had its deathly top-of-the-order lineup with All-SEC Cade Kurland, All-American and future first-round pick Wyatt Langford and Caglianone.
However, Johnson kept him on the mound and it paid off as Floyd retired the side in order, striking out Kurland and Caglianone while forcing Langford to pop out.
“That’s pitching at the highest level,” Johnson said, “especially when he emptied the tank to put us in the position he did for the first seven innings.”
You are wrong to say Floyd’s 17-strikeout effort was heroic. It is legendary, and it will be something the LSU faithful will remember for a very, very long time.