Langworthy’s homer off glove lifts Florida back to Omaha

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Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan, left, celebrates with Austin Langworthy after the Williston High product hit a walk-off home run Monday against Auburn in the NCAA Super Regional at McKethan Stadium. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

Florida sophomore left fielder Austin Langworthy is developing a knack for coming up with big hits in big spots.

None was bigger than Monday night for Langworthy, a Williston native who grew up dreaming of playing for the Gators.

Langworthy will forever go down in Florida postseason lore with his walk-off home run to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning that lifted UF to a 3-2, series-clinching win over Auburn in the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional. The line drive shot to right field, which caromed off the glove of Auburn right fielder Steven Williams and over the right field fence, was Langworthy’s fourth home run of the season and fourth career postseason home run. It sent the defending national champion Gators to their fourth straight College World Series appearance and 12th trip to Omaha in school history.

“Right when I hit it I knew it had a chance,” Langworthy said. “I wasn’t sure I quite hit it high enough, But once I saw it go over the fence I was just ecstatic for myself and my teammates to get back to Omaha.”

Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he felt confident with Langworthy heading to the plate in the 11th inning with the game still in the balance.

“I’m not sure I’m expected him to hit a walk-off home run, but I thought he would give us a really good at-bat,” O’Sullivan said.

Replays showed the ball would have probably cleared the fence whether or not Williams had his glove on the ball. But Williams was in position to rob Langworthy of an extra-base hit for the third time in the game. Auburn center fielder Jay Estes made a diving catch in center field on a towering Langworthy fly ball to right center in the sixth inning, while left fielder Judd Ward caught a low line drive from Langworthy to end the eighth.

“In this game, everything comes back to you eventually,” Langworthy said. “A few bad at-bats and then you will have some good at-bats. That’s how this game works.”

Auburn players huddled around Williams in right field and consoled him following the game.

“He’s a really good ballplayer and he’s got a bright future ahead of him,” said Auburn reliever Davis Daniel, who pitched 5.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the Tigers. “One play doesn’t define him.”

Langworthy’s home run ended more than three hours of tense baseball. A standing-room only crowd of 5,958 at McKethan Stadium watched the Gators (47-19) outlast an Auburn (43-23) team that made spectacular defensive plays throughout the game to keep the score tied in the late innings.

Florida junior closer Michael Byrne (3-1) pitched four scoreless innings to earn the win. Freshman righty Cody Greenhill (6-3) took the loss for Auburn, serving up a home run to Langworthy for the second straight game. Langworthy said he was hunting for a fastball and got one that he turned on.

“He’s a fastball heavy guy,” Langworthy said.

Byrne allowed one hit and one walk and struck out five over his four-inning stint. He struck out the first four batters he faced and was able to work out of a first-and-second jam in the 10th inning by getting catcher Brett Wright to ground into a force out to third base.

“I thought Byrne was a huge difference in the ballgame,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “We just couldn’t get anything going against him.”

On his 21st birthday, Daniel matched zeroes with Byrne in the late innings before giving way to Greenfield, who worked out of a first-and-second jam in the 10th

Auburn tied the score at 2 in the seventh due to a pair of Gator miscues. Luke Jarvis led off the inning against UF freshman reliever Tommy Mace with a single and moved to second on an error when Wil Dalton failed to field the single cleanly in right field. Jarvis then moved to third with one out on a wild pitch by Mace. Dalton nearly atoned for his mistake, firing a strong throw home on a fly to right by Joel Anthony. But Jarvis barely beat the throw to tie the score at 2, with his left hand touching the corner of home plate before catcher Jonah Girand applied the tag.

The winner-take-all Super Regional matchup began with Auburn starting fifth-year senior lefty Andrew Mitchell against Florida freshman righty Jack Leftwich. But it came down to both bullpens.

Florida third baseman Jonathan India put Florida ahead quickly, launching an 0-1 fastball from Mitchell over the right-center field fence in the bottom of the first inning to put Florida up 1-0. It was India’s team-leading 20th home run of the season.

Auburn answered with a two-out rally off Leftwich to tie the score at 1 in the third. Auburn shortstop Will Holland reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on Williams’ RBI single.

Florida took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on a sandlot play, with second baseman Blake Reese scoring the run on a nifty double-steal. Reese had hit a double in the left-center field gap with one out in the fourth and moved to third on an infield single by Nick Horvath. But after freshman first baseman Brady Smith struck out with runners on the corners and one out and catcher Jonah Girand fell behind in the count, O’Sullivan called for the crafty baserunning play. Horvath broke from first and stumbled on purpose, which temporary distracted Mitchell and the rest of the Tigers as Reese broke for home. Reese beat the throw home from Mitchell with a head-first slide, putting the Gators up 2-1.

“It’s just something that we work on and it very seldom happens,” Reese said. “But when you get the chance to do something like that, the timing has got to be perfect and credit Nick too on the other end of that, for selling it the way he did. It doesn’t work without him.”

Florida will face Texas Tech in its first College World Series game Sunday night in Omaha, Neb. Following the game Monday, O’Sullivan hinted that senior catcher JJ Schwarz could be back for the game. Schwarz has been out the last three-plus weeks since suffering a broken hand May 18 at Mississippi State.

O’Sullivan has led Florida to seven of its 12 College World Series appearances.

“I appreciate it more because I know how hard it is to get there,” O’Sullivan said. “The parity in college baseball is second to none. You have to have good players, you have to stay healthy, there’s a sense of luck involved. It’s not easy.”


Up next

What: College World Series

Who: Texas Tech (44-18) vs. Florida (47-19)

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

TV: ESPN2

Where: Omaha, Neb.


35 COMMENTS

  1. Ho hum. No drama. Just another trip to Omaha to see the Gators once again. I’ve driven the short drive to see them the last three years, the last two with my boy. As possibly the only elementary school kid in Iowa who loves the Gators, he’s had the misfortune of seeing two losses at the CWS. Please let 2018 be the year he sees a victory!

  2. Unbelievable how baseball always has symmetry to it. Langworthy gets robbed twice, then gets a gift worth twice as much as what he lost.

  3. What a game! Sometimes baseball is a ”game of inches”, too (that home run was inches away from being caught). Great to see U.F. going to their 4th straight C.W.S. And please beat Texas Tech like a drum for Cheese (NCAA Basketball Tourney rip-off!). It’s great to see an extra innings game 3, that determined so much, go Florida’s way. “We are all strong for Ole’ Florida!” Go Gators!

    • Awesome game! Big time spot for the kid from down the road, Williston. Salute Austin…

      Pitching overall was solid. Byrne came in and balled out. We just left too many on the pads…but we still got it done over a team that was playing winning baseball. Those Auburn boys showed up big time…I have to give them respect.

  4. What. A. Game…..Auburns D kept it close. Loved seeing Langworthy deliver that off the glove homer. Especially after having his game tying homer nullified on sunday, AND having a few RBIs robbed away tonight

  5. I fell sorry for Auburn right fielder Steven Williams to feel he cost his team a trip to the CWS. tough sledding. Hope we dont have to endure another nail bitter lie this at the CWS, but if we do I hope we get a similar result, Go Gators , bring home a back to back Championship!

    • “He’s a really good ballplayer and he’s got a bright future ahead of him,” said Auburn reliever Davis Daniel, who pitched 5.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the Tigers. “One play doesn’t define him.” Agreed with that comment by his teammate. Those guys made defensive play after play that kept them in the game. Once it gets that late in a game, every single pitch, hit, fielding and base-running play is magnified. The Gators had a handful of base-running errors that could’ve cost them the game. I know Sully will go back and look at these so they don’t happen in Omaha. Overall, a great series between the Gators and a very underrated Auburn team. Good luck in Omaha Gator baseball.

    • Looking at the replay of the off-the-glove homer, that wasn’t an easy catch by any stretch of the imagination. Running fast to the left at a backwards angle towards the wall, looking back over the shoulder, hard-hit screamer – very tough catch to make. I’m overjoyed that he didn’t, but Auburn played tough-as-nails these last 2 games. Great win over a very good SEC baseball program with all the chips on the table. Excellent win, GATORS!!! Now carry this Mo’ into Omaha!

  6. Bad gut feelings. Coach used Byrne wrong in game 1 and now he’s tired. 3 runs won’t win the game. Team won’t bunt runners into scoring position. Just a few excuses “our” fans used after game 2. It’s great to know “our” players and coaches don’t have the same attitude a small portion of the fanbase has.
    Go Gators! Win or lose, still Orange & Blue

  7. What a great game and a great series! Auburn played great defense, pitched well the last two games, and made the Gators earn everything they got. Gritty performances by both teams.

    Great to see Leftwich and Mace pitch well. If they can sustain this type of effort and the Gators get the usual from Singer and Kowar, they’ll be in good shape for Omaha.

    Go Gators! Bring it home! BTW, I think if the Gators win, UF will be the first school to win multiple championships in all three major sports. Can anyone confirm that?

  8. Its great to see the Gators come back and win a close game. Give the Gators credit for never giving up. They have the pitching staff to win it all again. However, once again they left way too many runners on base. They need to hit better, especially with runners on and score runs. Then, with their pitching staff they can shut down any team.

    I have to give credit to Auburn. They played us as close as any team could and fell just short. How many great defensive plays did they make to stay in the game? Eventually, you will miss one and that’s what happened. But, Auburn has noting to be ashamed of. They too are a great team.

  9. Funny game this baseball. The Gators score 6 runs in 5 innings off the #1 player in the MLB draft, then score only 5 more in the final 2 games covering 21 innings. I thought the Daniel kid from Auburn last night was lights out; not sure why his coach pulled him, but that’s baseball. The Gators showed real grit last night as they watched Auburn’s defense make great play after great play, which must have been frustrating, but they kept at it. Great job guys! Have fun in Omaha, you earned it.

  10. Another great defensive play would have kept Auburn in the game, but it would have been a great play. You don’t get great plays all the time. Go Gators!!!

    • Agree that it would have been a great catch, but the replays show pretty definitively that had he not attempted to catch it, it would have in all likelihood gone over the fence anyway. Keep in mind that the fielder was running full tilt while trying to keep an eye on both the ball and the fence at the same time, so no description of it being a mis-played ball by him shoul be applied. Great effort on his part, even better swing applied by Langworthy! That’s baseball. Let’s keep going Gators.

  11. Pretty good way to close out history on our baseball and softball stadiums: walk off homers to head to the WCWS and the CWS. Maybe we should renovate/rebuild annually?

  12. Baseball is a funny game. Auburn’s pitching was excellent throughout. Even Mize only had about two bad innings. Our pitching was just a little better. The good sign for us is we won the regional and supers without JJ, one of our best hitters and a team captain. I also liked that Dyson was throwing some in the pen last night. Singer should be good to go 100% Sunday. Our frosh pitchers pitched great their last two outings. We look ready . Tournaments are often determined by pitching, which was our formula last year. But if a team gets hot at the plate and takes the starter off the mound early, it changes things even for the next games. I hope we ride the momentum of a big hit last night and come out swinging in Omaha. A great pitching team hot at the plate is scary.

  13. When push comes to shove small ball is a losing strategy. I thought it was very appropriate that we ended the game with a home run. Auburn played small ball the whole series and made some unbelievable defensive plays but when push came to shove Langworthy hit the dinger. Good night! Good Bye I-10 West! I know that their entire team was hurting after the game because when you cry with face paint on it burns when it gets in your eyes!!! GO GATORS!!!!!

  14. Did you guys know Auburn was picked in baseball pre-season poll to come in 6th in the SEC West division? Heard the espn tv announcer say this during the broadcast.

    • And some said the Gators were swept by a “bad MSU Team” on the last weekend of the regular season. That same bad team is one of the 8 going to the CWS. Just more proof that getting hot at the right time is important. Go Gators.

      • You said it, Sparky! Not only did that “bad MSU team” make the CWS, it won both the regional and the super regional on the road!

        • Joe, most all of us on here love the Gators. Some just take it too personal when our team loses. It’s easy to feel the need to blame someone when we lose. Sometimes the other team just plays a better game or series.

  15. One of the best baseball games I have seen in years. O’Sullivan is a great coach regardless. But his call to use the “trick” play at that particular moment in that particular game was reminiscent of someone we call SOS. Very Impressive for sure. And that last defensive play on the home run was, in my mind, a payback for all the spectacular (but in my opinion not normal) defensive plays Auburn kept coming up with. Karma you know. I just hope the Gators can keep Sully. Apparently other teams are interested, and why wouldn’t they be???

    • The thing I like about that play was that it was a smart risk to take in that situation. Although risky, it was really a conservative risk. Girande looked like a deer in headlights at the plate and it was a foregone conclusion he wasn’t going to hit anyone in. He had two ugly strikes on him; the pitcher was a lefty; and we had two speedy guys on base. Perfect timing for that to happen. Great job by our coach .

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