Gators get rematch with Texas Tech at CWS

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Florida's Deacon Liput, right, bumps fists with Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan after he scored a run against Texas on a single by Jonathan India in the first inning of an NCAA College World Series baseball elimination game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, June 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

With its season still on the line, Florida will get a second chance to knock off Texas Tech at the College World Series.

The Gators (48-20) are hoping for a different result when they face the Red Raiders (45-19) on Thursday night at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. (8 p.m. ET, ESPNU). Texas Tech knocked UF into the loser’s bracket with a 6-3 win Sunday night, but fell into the elimination game Thursday following a 7-4 loss to Arkansas on Wednesday afternoon.

Florida kept its season alive with a 6-1 win over Texas on Tuesday. Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan will turn to one of two freshman right-handers — Jack Leftwich or Tommy Mace — to start against the Red Raiders. Texas Tech, which will be the home team, will counter with sophomore righty Caleb Killian (9-2, 3.04 ERA).

“Jack’s certainly capable,” O’Sullivan said following Tuesday’s win over Texas. “He has a live arm. Him and Tommy are next in line.”

If Florida wins, it would need to beat Arkansas twice in a row on Friday and Saturday to return to the CWS championship for the second straight year.

“It would be nice to save Tommy for a potential fourth game, but we can’t do that, we’re not able to do that at this point,” O’Sullivan said. “So we’ll see.”

O’Sullivan said junior closer Michael Byrne would be unable to appear in all three remaining games if the Gators were to advance, meaning other pitchers would need to step up out of the bullpen.

“The reality of it is we put ourselves behind the eight-ball a bit by losing Sunday night,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re going to have to lean on our freshmen on Thursday to pitch really well for us. And there’s going to have to be somebody that steps up, whether it be Tyler Dyson, whether it be Hunter McMullen, Jordan Butler — one of these, a couple of these freshmen will have to pitch an important game for us if we’re going to get back into it, because obviously we just — when you have to win four in a row, you put yourself in a position where some other guys have to step up.”

Offensively, Florida showed signs of life against Texas after struggling against Texas Tech. After leaving eight runners on base through the first five innings against Texas, Florida’s bats finally came alive in the sixth. Designated hitter Nelson Maldonado came up with a big two-out RBI single to put Florida up 2-0 and third baseman Jonathan India followed with a three-run homer to put the game away.

“We needed that,” India said. “Nelson, the whole year, he’s a clutch hitter for us. He battles at the plate. He rarely strikes out. He competes at the plate. That’s what we needed. And he came through clutch for us. And as they say, hitting is contagious. Just pass it on to me and I’ll pass it on to the next.”

The Gators are 6-0 in NCAA Tournament elimination games since 2017. But Florida will need to be sharp in all phases to keep that streak alive. Several defensive breakdowns proved costly in the Texas Tech loss, including a Deacon Liput throwing error, passed ball by catcher Jonah Girand and misplay at first base by senior captain JJ Schwarz.

O’Sullivan said Florida’s pitchers need to be wary of facing Texas Tech’s deep lineup again. Offensively, the 11-year UF coach would like to see the Gators do a better job hitting with runners on base.

“We’ll talk about some things, maybe shorten up some swings with runners in scoring position,” O’Sullivan said. “I think our swings are getting a little bit too big. And if the wind is blowing in like it did Sunday night, it’s not a very forgiving field.”


Thursday

What: College World Series elimination game

Who: Florida (48-20) vs. Texas Tech (45-19)

When: 8 p.m.

Where: TD Ameritrade Park Omaha (Neb.)

TV: ESPNU

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM

 

14 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t understand exactly why Bryne is out for three more games. He doesn’t pitch that much honestly. But, Sully is the boss. I just hope it works out for the best. Is he injured or just too much arm lately?

  2. Also, please don’t start with the Brady Singer can pitch a few innings tonight stuff. Singer last pitched Sunday night. Sully is not going to blow out the first round draft pick’s arm by pitching him on less than 6 day’s rest. Sully did the same with Faedo in last year’s CWS.

    • Exactly. Winning tonight accomplishes nothing if Singer can’t start reasonably fresh over the weekend. It’s a daunting task to put the next two games on the arms of freshmen, but 3 years ago Faedo stepped in against Miami in an elimination game and shut the Canes down. Hopefully the toughness of Singer, Kowar, and Byrne will finally inspire all the other pitchers to step up big.

      • yes, agreed with all here. I do not want Singer or Kowar pitching ahead of cycle, even if it means losing. I mean, I hope they win of course, but it does not good to have a run-down arm out there, and that would be worse actually. Go Gators!

  3. I think Singer would pitch Saturday if we get there. That’s 6 days between starts for him, that’s plenty. Getting to Saturday, though, is daunting. Losing Sunday night was a tough deal, we were overconfident or something, didn’t play like we are capable of, and now are in a real uphill fight.

  4. It would be ideal to get through tonight without using Byrne. If Leftwich (or Mace) could go 6, and have the offense get a big enough lead to be able to piece together the rest of the game with, Butler, maybe Dyson and/or Baker, and McMullen, then Sully could bring a heavy dose of Byrne on Friday, if needed. Then if Singer could go 7 or 8 on Saturday, Byrne may still be able to go an inning or two. It’ll be interesting to see if they can get something out of Dyson. Baker looked good earlier in the year, but no so much his last few outings. Need somebody to step up like Dyson did last year. Go Gators!!

  5. Agree with Joe on needing someone to step up like Dyson did last year. Maybe it could be Dyson himself. I understand he’s been on the shelf for an injury of some type and concerns about his self confidence. If that is so and his arm is now ok, maybe Sully will put him back on the horse at some point. His positive experience at Omaha last year could bolster his confidence. Hey, there is no tomorrow for the team that loses this game, so we should see an “all hands on deck” approach. Go get ’em guys!

  6. Great job by Leftwich! Gators looked more like mid-season when they were answering opponents’ runs with runs of their own. Clutch triple by Smith. Gator Gil called that one in a post on another article. I was hoping they wouldn’t have to use Byrne, but he didn’t have to throw many pitches. Go Gators! Just win, baby!