Special to Gatorsports.com
LUBBOCK, Texas — Pitching woes Friday again hurt Florida on the opening day of the NCAA Lubbock Regional.
Four Gators pitchers gave up 17 hits en route to an 11-8 loss to Dallas Baptist, knocking the Gators (33-25) into a 1 p.m. elimination game Saturday against Army (35-25), which lost to Texas Tech, 11-2, earlier Friday. Dallas Baptist (42-18) will play Texas Tech (40-17) at 7 p.m. in a winner’s bracket game.
Each time the Gators scored in the top of an inning, the Patriots responded in the bottom half, scoring two runs in the second, a run in the seventh and three in the eighth.
“I think we gave up four innings with two or more runs, so just credit their offense and credit their pitching, they did just enough there at the end and it’s a tough loss for us, we got a little bit of ways to go now in the tournament, but we hand the ball off to Jack (Leftwich) tomorrow and see what we got,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
Dallas Baptist jumped on Florida starter Tommy Mace (8-5) early. After two outs, Jackson Glenn followed a single with a two-run home run for a 2-0 lead.
The Gators quickly tied the score at 2-2 on Cory Acton’s two-run home run in the top of the second. It’s Acton’s 6th homer of the year.
The Patriots went back up by two with two runs in the bottom of the second, thanks to an RBI double by Blayne Jones and run-scoring single by Bryce Ball to knock Mace out of the game after 1.1 innings. Mace gave up four runs on six hits and threw 44 pitches in his shortest outing of the season.
“I fully expected him to come in and pitch well,” O’Sullivan said of Mace. “He had nine days to prepare for the start, and I don’t know what happened. I know he had trouble locating his slider down and away. He had two outs, nobody on in the first, and we end up giving up two runs. We gave up four consecutive hits I believe, and I think we hit (Andres) Sosa to start the second. So obviously it wasn’t ideal to go to the pen that early.”
DBU made it 5-2 in the fifth on a RBI single by Sosa before pulling away with two runs in the sixth for a 7-2 advantage.
The Gators, however, wouldn’t go down without a fight, scoring three runs in the seventh inning on Austin Langworthy’s two-out, three-run double after three walks to cut the deficit to 7-5.
Sosa added an insurance run for Dallas Baptist with a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh off Ben Specht, who followed Christian Scott in the fifth inning, for an 8-5 lead.
UF made it 8-6 in the eighth after Brady Smith was hit by a pitch, Wil Dalton walked and Kendrick Calilao’s fielder’s choice resulted in a throwing error.
The Patriots again took command with three runs in the home half of the eighth for a 11-6 lead. Catcher Herbert Iser had the big hit, a two-RBI double.
Florida cut the deficit in the ninth on Nelson Maldonado’s RBI single which scored Kirby McMullen, who had doubled, and Dalton’s RBI double that settled the final outcome.
MD Johnson (10-2) won despite allowing six hits and five runs in 6 2/3 innings. Burl Carraway earned his fifth save, getting Calilao on a game-ending lineout to left as the potential tying run after surrendering RBI hits to Maldonado and Dalton.
The Gators lost a regional opener for the first time since 2014.
NCAA Lubbock (Texas) Regional
At Rip Griffin Park, Lubbock, Texas
Texas Tech 11, Army 2
Dallas Baptist 11, Florida 8
Game 3 — Army (35-25) vs. Florida (33-25), 1 p.m., AM-850, 98.1-FM
Game 4 — Texas Tech (40-17) vs. Dallas Baptist (42-18), 7 p.m.
Game 5 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 3 p.m.
Game 6 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 9 p.m.
x-Game 7 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 4 p.m.