Gainesville Super Regional Game 2: Auburn evens series

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Auburn infielder Brendan Venter tags out Florida baserunner Deacon Liput on the third base line during the eighth inning Sunday of an NCAA Super Regional at McKethan Staium. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

Nothing has come easy for No. 1 national seed Florida over the past two postseasons.

For the fifth time during that span, Florida faces an elimination game after suffering a 3-2, walk-off loss to Auburn on Sunday in Game 2 of the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional before 4,537 at McKethan Stadium.

The good news? Florida is 4-0 in those prior elimination contests, with wins over Bethune Cookman, Wake Forest, TCU and Florida Atlantic.

“Obviously, everyone is disappointed,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We’ve been here before. Hopefully we’ll feed off that experience.”

The Gators (46–19) and Auburn (43–22) will conclude the series Monday night at McKethan Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN) with a trip to the College World Series on the line. O’Sullivan said he will start either one of two freshman — righty Jack Leftwich or righty Tommy Mace — and is leaning toward starting Leftwich because of Mace’s ability to warm up quicker out of the bullpen. Auburn will counter with fifth-year senior lefty Andrew Mitchell.

O’Sullivan said he has faith that either freshman can get the job done Monday with the season on the line. Leftwich and Mace combined to allow just two runs in six innings last Monday when Florida faced elimination against FAU, with Mace picking up the win in UF’s regional-clinching 5-2 win over the Owls.

“We’ve got to pitch well if we want to move on,” O’Sullivan said. “They are not freshman anymore. They’ve been through the SEC and both Jack and Tommy have pitched in high-leverage situations. It comes down to locating and executing.”

Florida had chances to close out the series Sunday after besting Auburn ace Casey Mize in an 8-2 win Saturday. Junior righty Jackson Kowar delivered his best start in about a month for the Gators, allowing just one run on three hits over seven innings with no walks and six strikeouts. Kowar left at 93 pitches with the score tied at 1.

Florida also played its best game defensively of the postseason, with no errors, a diving play at second base by Blake Reese to complete an out, and a quick-reflex catch by Jonathan India to snag a line drive at third base.

But UF was done in by some questionable baserunning decisions, an inability to come up with timely hits and its bullpen. Freshman lefty Jordan Butler and closer Michael Byrne surrendered two runs on four hits in the final 1.1 innings. As the home team in the second game of the regional, Auburn won the game in the bottom of the ninth with one out when senior second baseman Luke Jarvis lined a fastball from Byrne into the left-center field gap, scoring pinch runner Cade Evans from second base.

Butler (6-2) took the loss after walking Auburn third baseman Brendan Venter to lead off the ninth inning with the score tied at 2. After Butler fell behind the next batter, designated hitter Edouard Julien, 2-1, O’Sullivan summoned Byrne from the bullpen. Byrne came back to strike out Julien, but allowed a single to center fielder Jay Estes, then the single to Jarvis that won the game.

The Gators jumped ahead 1-0 in the top of the fourth, with center fielder Nick Horvath delivering a two-out RBI double. But Auburn answered quickly, tying the score at 1 in the bottom of the fourth on a solo home run by right fielder Steven Williams.

The score remained tied at 1 until the eighth inning. Florida had a chance to take the lead in the top of the 8th when Deacon Liput led off with a single, stole second and moved to third with one out on a throwing error by catcher Brett Wright. But with the infield in, India hit a line grounder to shortstop Will Holland, who threw home. Liput got caught in the rundown between third and home long enough to get India to second base before being tagged out. But with India on second, right fielder Wil Dalton then popped out to second base to end the inning.

Florida left six runners on base, including four in scoring position. Auburn freshman starter Tanner Burns worked out of trouble throughout the game, allowing a run on five hits and four walks. The Tigers turned three double plays in the game, including two behind Burns.

Auburn took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth when Butler allowed a one-out single to first baseman Joel Anthony and an RBI double by Holland. But Florida came back to tie the score at 2 in the top of the ninth when sophomore left fielder Austin Langworthy blasted his third home of the season, a solo shot deep to right off Auburn reliever Cody Greenhill (6-2), who allowed one run in three innings of relief to earn the win.

Auburn will be vying for its fifth trip to the College World Series in school history on Monday and its first trip since 1997.

“I didn’t think our guys blinked” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “Langworthy hit the big home run after we worked really hard to score the run and we come right back in the bottom half and found a way to score with Byrne on the mound.”

 

 

27 COMMENTS

  1. Baserunning errors and refusing to bunt runners into scoring position has Gators on the brink of elimination. With one out, the runner on third has to make sure the ball gets through the infield before heading for home, he didn’t and was thrown out. Kevin O’Sullivan, for whatever reason, refuses to bunt runners into scoring position, and so we are headed to a Monday evening winner take all game, I don’t have a good feeling about this.

    • Yes, this loss is heartbreaking, but is the sky falling? Oh my God, we are in an elimination game!!! oh my! Please…clam down. We still have the odds to win the series. Why don’t you have a good feeling about the game? Like, what inside info do you have to suggest that we are going to lose? We are at home, we will have the last at bat, we have a better pitcher left to start than they do and we do well in the elimination games, as proven. Need I say more?

      • Do we get to be home team for sure, or is there a coin toss to decide it? I always thought the home team should automatically get it if there is a game 3.

        • Yes, we do. Auburn was home team for Game 2, and we get home in the “If Necessary” game, which as it turns out, is necessary. I saw the graphic on ESPN, we are home team.

      • Nothing is guaranteed! Still have to play the game and see what happens! We have not played that well the last two weeks and have made numerous base running and other errors like we did two years ago. That being said we still are at home and hopefully can get to Omaha!

      • I don’t think he implied he has any “insider info” that we are going to lose. He simply said he doesn’t have a good “feeling.” Feelings don’t have to be based on data or inside info. I too don’t have a good feeling about tomorrow simply because I “feel” like we should have put them away today. Having said that, I will be rooting for the Gators just as hard as any fan out there tomorrow…wish I could be there…go Gators!!

  2. UF hasn’t dropped two games in a row at home in over a year. Don’t ever count these guys out. To be the man you have to beat the man.

  3. The way I see it, the Gators will certainly understand that they need to play their best tomorrow if they want the best results. That was pretty much the way they won so many games during the regular season, including the SEC championship. Fans with feelings about the game going well or badly??? Well, there is a chance that it can go either way, but that is not how the outcome is decided. It is up to the coaches and players mainly, and with a little help from impartial umpires and a supportive home crowd, I am eagerly hoping for a win in game 3. Go Gators!!!

  4. I get the games are ”Super Regional”, but there is something I don’t get the NCAA is doing.
    The NCAA matched-up Texas A&M and U.F. in softball. And while it was a thrilling series, even Pat Dooley noted that A&M would have ended up in the W.C.W.S had they not been matched up against U.F. Softball.
    Now Florida Baseball is playing Auburn, while Carolina is playing Arkansas in another ”Super Regional” (perhaps they should call it the ”Conference Super Regionals”.
    I think the NCAA is making certain the SEC won’t dominate the College World Series of baseball. That is the only logical conclusion. And now there’s a game 3 in which U.F or Auburn has to beat up another SEC school to advance.

    • There’s nothing to be done about that. When a conference has 10 teams in the tournament, and none are in the same regional, you’re bound to have some play each other. The Supers are setup by the overall seeds, and if all of the top regional seeds had moved on, there wouldn’t have been any SEC teams against each other. But, Auburn came out of NCSt regional, Vandy and Miss. St. were both 2 seeds that won regionals, and South Carolina came out of their regional as a 2 seed. It was just inevitable.

    • The SEC had some road teams that won regionals. I hear you and thought similarly at first, but after further inspection, if anything…3 out of 8 teams in the World Series is still pretty dominant and telling about how good the conf is.

  5. O’Sullivan usually hits the right buttons but wasting Byrne yesterday in a blowout cost us game 2. A fresh Byrne should’ve been in close game 2. Easy from my couch, and hindsight is 20/20, but it was odd to see him in game 1

    • I said it at the time in Game 1 and agree. Bullpen is always the easiest thing to second guess. Madden won a WS despite bungling his bullpen. Butler and bullpen cleans up Game 1, Byrne finishes up after Kowar yesterday, I think we are in the CWS already. Sully has done an awesome job for us, just disagree with him in this case. I am confident the boys will come through tonight.

  6. Bunting a runner over to second with no outs is as common in baseball, at all levels, as is kicking a FG on 4th and 11 from the 30 with :02 remaining in the game when you are down by 1, but for whatever reason, O’Sullivan refuses to make that call, and it cost them today.

  7. Can’t win them all but damn how many runners in scoring position were left on base? They sure know how to make it hard on themselves like taking last year’s super regional to 3 games as well. That’s living on the edge. Gators need to get off to a fast start Mon night and take Auburn’s momentum away early.

    • gonna take more than 3 runs to win it, bats have to come alive, pitching is not the problem, baserunning errors usually come back to haunt you, stopping at third adds nothing to the score, easier to score from second base than it is from first

      • Agreed. Pitching was solid. Who am I to question Sully…but unless Kowar was dinged up, prob would have kept him in. Still confident we go to Omaha…

  8. While I certainly agree having a college team that does not bunt makes no sense at all – I think today, none of the runners would have gotten home had they been advanced. Lots of pop flies etc did us in today. A lack of clutch hitting.

  9. Definitely think the best hitters, esp. India and Dalton in the eighth, just didn’t come through. Tomorrow is another shot for them. No JJ hurts, Girand has come back down to earth.
    And Sully, who usually pushes the right buttons, inexplicably(imo) pitched Byrne 2.1 innings yesterday with a 7-2 lead, nobody on, and Auburn not threatening. So he was less fresh today, and Auburn’s lineup had seen him the day before, which can hurt effectiveness. I thought Kowar was great, and should have stayed in, too. Armchair coaching, I know, and Sully is the best, just think for once he may have made a mistake or two with our pitchers.
    Now Leftwich and/or Mace, who have vacillated between being almost as good as Singer and Kowar to being shellacked this season, must come through(and the star hitters we have, who are mostly righties, need to hit the Auburn lefty early and often tomorrow).

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