Special to Gatorsports.com
OMAHA, Neb. — Texas Tech knocked top-overall seed Florida into the loser’s bracket of the College World Series with a 6-3 win Sunday night.
The Gators (47-20), the defending national champions, will play Texas (42-22) in an elimination game Tuesday afternoon and will start Jackson Kowar. The ninth-seeded Red Raiders (45-18) will play Arkansas (45-19) in a 7 p.m. winner’s bracket game Tuesday.
To have a chance to repeat as champions, the Gators must win four straight to reach the best-of-three finals. Only Oregon State in 2006 and South Carolina 2010 have lost their Omaha openers and made it to the finals since the tournament went to its current structure in 1999.
“There’s no rewind button here. We lost. We’ve got to move forward,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It’s certainly doable. Ultimately, we’re going to have to have some other guys step up.”
Florida took a 1-0 lead in the third inning without the benefit of a hit. Deacon Liput walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and stole third as Jonathan India walked. Liput scored and Indian moved to second when a balk was called.
Texas Tech tied it in the fourth when Josh Jung singled, moved to second on a balk, to third on a passed ball and scored on a Grant Little sacrifice fly.
The Red Raiders then scored two runs in each of the next two innings to take a 5-1 lead. In the fifth, Cody Farhat singled and advanced to third on a two-base throwing error by Liput at short. Gabe Holt then hit a two-run single.
In the sixth, a single by Little followed by a run-scoring double from Zach Rheams and RBI single from Michael Davis provided the run production for Texas Tech.
Nelson Maldonado’s two-run home run in the seventh inning helped UF cut the deficit to 5-3. Brady Smith, pinch-hitting for catcher Jonah Girand, had reached on a single before scoring on Maldonado’s ninth homer of the season.
Texas Tech, which is now 2-0 against UF in CWS play, extended its lead in the ninth on a RBI single by Holt.
“There are a lot of good teammates on this team, and they’re thankful we’re in the position we’re in. They don’t take it for granted,” Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. “There aren’t too many guys in there after we won tonight saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got this figured out.’
“That’s one game. Really proud of our guys of how we went out and competed. We were going to have to do that each inning to come out on the right side. And also have some good fortune.”
Texas Tech pitchers limited the Gators to five hits but issued five walks. That was more than good enough against a Florida offense that has struggled for three straight games.
Brady Singer (12-2) in possibly his final college start allowed two earned runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five and didn’t allow a walk.
Florida allowed three unearned runs on a passed ball and a two-out error. The Gators didn’t allow an unearned run in last year’s title run at the CWS.
Relief pitcher Ryan Shetter (6-0) kept the Gators at bay by allowing only one run in 4.1 innings after taking over for starter Dylan Dusek. Shetter struck out seven and gave up only three hits.
Because of a two-hour-and-47-minute weather delay, Game 4 didn’t start until 9:55 p.m. ET Sunday and ended at 12:55 a.m. Arkansas defeated Texas 11-5 in Game 3, which restarted at 7:15 ET in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Senior captain JJ Schwarz started at first base for Florida and batted fourth. It’s the first time he’s been in the lineup since breaking his right hand at Mississippi State on May 18. Schwarz hit the ball hard in his first at-bat, a fly out to right. He struck out his next two at-bats, however, and grounded out in his final at-bat. He also looked rusty with his footwork defensively at first base.
The Gators were outhit 12-5 and were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and 1-for-15 with runners on base. The Gators had runners at third three times and failed each time to get them home. In its last three games, Florida has scored a total of eight runs while batting .186.
Girand, who had been filling in for Schwarz and remained in the lineup at catcher, continues to struggle with the bat after hitting three home runs in four regional games. Since then he has struck out on 10 of 13 at-bats.
Dusek, Shetter (3), Harpenau (7) and Fulford; Singer, Butler (7), Byrne (8)and Girand, Smith (7). W_Shetter, 6-0. L_Singer, 12-2. HR_Florida, Maldonado (9).