UF eliminates Texas from College World Series, to play Texas Tech again

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Florida pitcher Jackson Kowar delivers against Texas in the fourth inning Tuesday of the College World Series elimination game in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
By Eric Olson, AP Sports writer
[Updated: 7:20 p.m. 6-20-18] OMAHA, Neb. — Jackson Kowar’s first inning didn’t portend the stellar afternoon he was about to have Tuesday. He didn’t give up a run in the first, but he threw 25 pitches.
“Just reminded him he’s going to have to be a little more economical,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
No worries, coach.Kowar struck out a career-high 13 in 6 2/3 shutout innings, mixing his changeup with a fastball still touching the mid-90s deep into his season-high 121-pitch performance that flummoxed Texas in a 6-1 win eliminating the Longhorns from the College World Series.

“It’s probably the best I’ve seen him, with the whole package, with everything concerned,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought he was really good last week with Auburn, too. He was really good against A&M during SEC play. But on this stage, I think this is about as good as he’s pitched all year.”

The Kansas City Royals’ first-round draft pick struck out the side in the third and sixth innings and broke his previous high of 11 Ks he set against TCU in the CWS last year. He became the first pitcher in the CWS since UCLA teammates Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer in 2010 to record 13 strikeouts.

“Those guys are doing pretty well for themselves right now, so that’s pretty cool company,” Kowar said.

He’s the first to strike out 13 at the CWS in fewer than seven innings in 40 years, according to ESPN.

Jonathan India, the No. 5 overall draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds and Southeastern Conference player of the year, singled to make it 1-0 in the first inning and he broke the game open with a three-run homer in the sixth.

Texas starter Blair Henley (6-7) struggled with his control and lasted only 2 2/3 innings, the second-shortest of his 22 career starts. He gave up four hits, walked four and threw a wild pitch.

Florida (48-20) came into the game after a 6-3 loss to Texas Tech in its CWS opener. The Gators had committed 16 errors in their last 11 games and had batted .186 and scored a total of eight runs in their previous three games.

The Gators played error-free against the Longhorns, and their offense had 10 hits.

Kowar (10-5) didn’t allow a base runner past second until the seventh. With runners on second and third, Kowar struck out Tate Shaw and Ryan Reynolds and then left to applause from both Florida and Texas fans.

“The first inning, the first three batters I didn’t make really any quality pitches,” Kowar said. “Getting through that first was big, and then I was able to kind of get the fastball command working, and everything else played off of that the rest of the way.”

Chase Shugart took over for Henley in the third and kept it a 1-0 game until there were two outs in the sixth. Nelson Maldonado’s RBI single came before India’s 21st home run of the season made it 5-0.

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

Texas (42-23) broke through for a run in the eighth on DJ Petrinsky’s one-out single.

The Longhorns struck out a season-high 15 times against Kowar, Jonathan Butler and Michael Byrne, the most for the program since fanning 17 times against TCU in 2017.

“People expected it to be a building year due to everybody we lost last year,” Shugart said. “But these guys proved everybody wrong and that’s because of their attitude. The attitude we had was gritty. We weren’t giving anything; we had to take it. We took the Big 12 championship and the regional and super regionals. We went out and competed every inning, every out, and that’s what good teams do and I wouldn’t trade this for the world.”

CLEMENS HITS TILL END

Big 12 player of the year Kody Clemens reached base twice against Florida and extended his hit streak to nine games, including multi-hit games five times. The son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens batted .419 (13 for 31) in the NCAA Tournament with five home runs, two doubles and 11 RBIs.

UP NEXT

Florida plays another elimination game at 8 p.m. (ESPNU) Thursday against Texas Tech (45-19), which lost 7-4 to Arkansas in a winner’s bracket game Wednesday.

The Gators still need three wins to reach the best-of-three finals for the second year in a row.

The season is over for Texas, which lost 11-5 to Arkansas on Sunday and went winless in the CWS for only the fifth time in its record 36 appearances.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Absolutely heroic pereformance from Jackson Kowar. The guy has talent, guts and heart when you need it. Look forward to Jackson’s MLB career. And of of course– J. India stepped up big time too with outstanding hitting. Another MLB player in two years.
    Still some issues with Sully’s commitment to JJ and Girand. If there was a designated catcher position… all good with Girand… but he’s clueless at the plate at this level. Obvious to all, Sully. And why not D replacement with Kenan Bell in the 8th– he would have stretched out and secured the DP and shutout.
    Ok … some details unecessary to most but….if you are to dig out from this hole. Important details.

  2. JG. Girand is a horrible hitter, and he is not much better defensively behind the plate. And how in the world did he hit those homeruns in the regionals? But the Gators won with him behind the plate. That is a positive.

  3. Girand hits pitching mistakes for home runs. He’s been scouted our now and becomes an easy out. If we had to hit a pitcher ninth it might be about the same unless he was a two-way player such as Langworthy. To his credit Girand blocks a lot of errant pitches. He can’t help that he lacks experience and is still a learner. He’s the best we’ve got right now. Sully is not going to risk JJ’s future by putting him behind the plate with a knuckle still crushed below the surface. Or risk the quality of throws JJ might try with a damaged grip.

    • I thought the same thing about why wasn’t JJ behind the plate, and Bell playing first, especially after the couple of missed plays at first in the first game that Bell definitely would’ve gotten. But taking that knuckle into consideration when it comes to the amount of times the catcher has to throw the ball compared to first base, it’s definitely the right move. I couldn’t see this game, but it seems JJ was swinging the bat and seeing the ball a bit better, so hopefully that just keeps improving with more gameplay.

  4. Fantastic game with the exception of the horribly handled “double steal” that ended up with the lead runner out and the trailing runner not advancing. Kowar was so tough, so determined, and the approach at the plate for most players was pretty smart, though Girand just needs to accept who he is and make sure he takes three good cuts. No taking strikes when contact is so elusive.

    Had the good fortune to watch this in person with my wife and kid. Texas was there in large numbers, though the crowd itself was on the smaller side. Still, a good representation from UF and it seemed to me that the crowd who was not from either school was pulling for the Gators. Maybe they just liked my son who was a chomping and cheering machine for the Gators. Maybe nobody likes Texas. I sure don’t.

    To anyone who uttered a doubt about this team, do me a favor. Go to a Nole site to whine. You’re lousy sports and not even 10% as smart as you think you are.

    We’ll see what happens. The weather in this area is unreal for June. But that could be an advantage for the Gators as other teams face disruptions. Still one game from the end, but I’m still hopeful and excited. JJ looked a little better and the defense was always in the right position. Let’s go!

      • We sat down the first base line and in the 2nd inning we saw Albert behind the right field stands, heading our way. Then he vanished, never to be seen again. It was super humid, so maybe the poor guy needed a long break. Around the 5th inning, my wife and son went on an Albert hunt, circling the stadium, but they came up empty. Literally, this was the only thing that went wrong the entire day.

  5. ….and eliminate Roger Clemens from any more time in the booth. If we had to listen to one more minute of Roger andwatch another split screen shot of Kody it would have been 2 minutes too long. As it was once said, “Roger may be the rocket but he’s no rocket scientist.”

  6. Great performance by Maldonado, India and Kowar!
    JJ is indeed a liability right now, but maybe Sully believes we don’t win this thing unless his bat gets untracked. So he needs to stay in the lineup, but can’t play catcher. And Maldonado is already the DH, and is hitting well Dalton is slumping but needs to stay in for the same reason as JJ. My question would be do we have a young catcher who is not a defensive liability who can occasionally get a hit?

    • Steve, I could remember the freshman, Cal Greenfield, playing earlier in the season, but had to look up his stats. Played in 16 games, started 8, hitting .188 with 1 homer and 3 rbi’s. Probably wouldn’t hurt to give him a try, unless Sully is worried about his youth on such a big stage.

      • Again, you guys speculate from a position of literally no knowledge of actual facts regarding our baseball team’s players. Meanwhile, Sully has 100% of the knowledge and experience playing this complex chess match/baseball game. You are just embarrassing.

        • I’m pretty sure what I typed are, indeed, actual facts, Gator. I did the research and looked it up. Greenfield is hitting .188 to Girand’s .135. Steve asked a question, and I answered it. I’m not questioning Sully’s management of the team at all, merely stating facts and offering an opinion. That’s what these comment sections are for. You certainly have the right to think and post that we’re embarrassing to you, but I don’t see how a reasonable question and speculation should be taken that way. Neither Steve, nor I, were criticizing Sully’s decisions.

        • If you’d like some more “actual facts”, Girand has struck out 22 times now in 37 at bats, while Greenfield has struck out 7 times in 32 at bats. And although it’s a relatively small sample, Greenfield has thrown out 2 of 4 on attempted steals, while Girand is only 2 of 8. I’m still not doubting Sully’s personnel decisions, but there’s nothing wrong with wondering about the reasoning behind the decisions. You’re certainly right that I don’t have any inside knowledge of the situation, and I’m sure Sully knows what he’s doing.

      • Gator Gil, now that you mention it, I do remember that. Might be something Sully tries again. My intention wasn’t to disparage Sully, the team, or any player. I was simply responding to Steve’s question with what I thought was a reasonable, non-critical answer.

  7. What to do with JJ is a conundrum, especially if his hand is well enough to hit but not to catch. If this is the case, I respect Sully’s decision not to risk further injury to JJ by putting him behind the plate, and I do think his bat needs to be there somewhere each game. I also really like Sully’s keeping Maldenado’s bat in the line up and at the #2 spot. I think he is probably the most underappreciated player on the team. His stat line may not be overwhelming, but he is a smart hitter with a great eye at the plate and makes a pitcher work, hits to all fields, has some power and is a good base runner. I do recall seeing play the outfield more last season and he handled that pretty well also. Maybe Sully should see if he can play catcher!! It would help solve the conundrum. I trust Sully will work this out as he sees best for all.

    • Totally agree about Maldanado. He’s so cool, so clutch. In the 6th yesterday, after the Gators had let a number of scoring opportunities go by, I leaned over and told my kid, “Nelson waits for the most important moments in a game to strike.” I hope he can. I think his solid RBI hit helped set up India with a fat pitch to destroy.