FLORIDA 3, AUBURN 2 (11 INNINGS)
GAINESVILLE, FL– You can now exhale, Gators fans!
The Florida Gators are headed to Omaha for the College World Series for the fourth straight year. Gainesville may be the home of the Gators, but Kevin O’Sullivan’s program has made a nearly annual trek to Nebraska.
There was nothing easy about this one, however. Florida needed extra innings and had to overcome just an incredible defensive effort by Auburn. It seems only fitting that the game was decided by a ball that hit the glove of Tigers RF Steven Williams and then went over the fence to send the Gators to a walk-off 3-2 victory.
Austin Langworthy entered the Super Regionals with no homers hit in McKethan Park. His solo shot to lead off the bottom of the eleventh was his second in consecutive nights. Both homers came off Cody Greenhill. Greenhill threw an inside fastball with a 1-2 count that bounced off Williams’ glove and into the palm trees in right field.
Florida led early when SEC Player of the Year Jonathan India homered to right center. For India, it was his 20th of the season. India is the first Gators player with 20 since 2007 when Matt LaPorta accomplished the feat.
Auburn SS Will Holland made a terrific play that led to an inning ending double play in the second, then followed it up by scoring the Tigers’ first run in the top half of the third. Holland singled, then stole second base and scored as Williams poked one through the hole between first and second.
Florida would respond in the fourth. Blake Reese hit a one-out double and Nick Horvath followed with a single to put runners on the corner. With two outs, O’Sullivan decided to get creative. With lefty Andrew Mitchell on the mound for Auburn, O’Sullivan put Horvath in motion followed immediately by Reese. With Mitchell’s attention focused on Horvath, the Gators centerfielder decided to dive to keep Mitchell’s attention, thus giving Reese time to get to the plate. Reese slid head first and made it safely to give Florida a 2-1 lead.
Auburn tied it up in the top of the seventh. An error by Wil Dalton in right field put Luke Jarvis into scoring position A Tommy Mace wild pitch moved Jarvis to third before Josh Anthony hit a sacrifice fly to score the tying run.
Though Florida got the win, there is much that needs to be cleaned up before the College World Series begins on Sunday. The Gators went 1-14 with runners on base, 1-7 with runners in scoring position and 2-10 with two outs.
Florida pitching, however, was nothing short of phenomenal. Freshman Jack Leftwich started the game and pitched the first five innings allowing only 4 hits and walking two while striking out three. Fellow frosh Tommy Mace came in and pitched two innings in relief. Mace gave up one hit and an unearned run while striking out one Tiger. Michael Byrne finished the final four frames earning his third win of the season. Byrne allowed only one hit and struck out five and only walked one.
Florida is heading to the College World Series for the twelfth time in program history and the fourth straight season. Since O’Sullivan took over prior to 2008, Florida has reacehed the CWS seven times.
Florida will face Texas Tech to open CWS play on Sunday at 7:00 PM EST.
The Gator Chomp Blog will have a full preview in the days leading up to the first pitch.
W: Byrne (3-1)
L: Cody Greenfield (6-3)