GATORS 9 12 2
Photo via The Associated Press

OMAHA, NE– The Florida Gators are one of three SEC teams to make it to the CWS’ Final Four. The Gators will now attempt to take two games from Arkansas to earn a berth to the CWS Finals.

Despite jumping to a 5-0 lead by the seventh, a questionable decision by Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan allowed for dramatic seventh and eighth frames.

Florida got out to a 1-0 lead in the fourth despite not recording a hit. SEC Player of the Year Jonathan India drew a leadoff walk, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. India then stole third before scoring on another wild pitch.

Florida struck for a pair of runs in the fifth and sixth highlighted by JJ Schwarz’s two-run blast to left field to put Florida on top 5-0 in the sixth inning.

O’Sullivan gambled with the Gators’ season on the line in the seventh inning. TTU’s Cameron Warren led the frame off with a double off Leftwich. Two batters later Braxton Fulford singled to put runners on first and third with one out. O’Sullivan turned the ball over to sophomore Andrew Baker with a pair of lefties due up. Baker, however, was unable to do the job. Baker walked Gabe Holt then allowed a single to Brian Klein before O’Sullivan made the move to freshman Tommy Mace. Mace allowed a single to the best hitter in the Red Raiders lineup, Josh Jung which made the score 5-2. An error by Deacon Liput on a sharp grounder by Grant Little scored another run and forced “Sully” to call for fellow freshman Jordan Butler. Butler got out of the inning with a strikeout of Zach Rheams (swung at ball four on the third strike) and a liner to right by Michael Davis that was hit sharply, but right at Wil Dalton.

The gamble? Not only did O’Sullivan not make the move to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year, Michael Byrne, with the game very much in limbo, but he wasn’t even in the bullpen for much of the threat. With the season on the line, how do you not put your best available player in the game?

Florida would score three insurance runs in the eighth to take a 8-3 lead. Brady Smith, starting at catcher for his offensive ability, crushed an RBI triple off the top of the wall and scored on Nick Horvath’s single to center.

Even with a five run deficit, Texas Tech wouldn’t go down quietly. The Red Raiders added three runs, including two after Byrne entered with the bases loaded and a four run lead.

Florida added an insurance run in the ninth, and Byrne finished the Red Raiders off.

The Gators will play Arkansas, and must win two to advance to the CWS Finals that would begin on Monday.

Freshman RHP Jack Leftwich toed the rubber for the Gators to start the game and pitched a terrific game after escaping a second inning, bases loaded jam. Leftwich threw 6.1 innings while striking out five (his two earned runs were given up by the bullpen). Leftwich had thrown 54 pitches in the first two innings, but bounced back to get through more than six innings in helping Florida advance against a top offense in Texas Tech.

India finished 1-3 with a pair of walks and two runs scored while Blake Reese went 2-4 with an RBI at bat. Dalton finished 2-5 at the dish.

Florida took the regular season series against Arkansas 2-1 in Gainesville. However, the Gators fell 8-2 to the Razorbacks in the SEC Tournament.

Florida will be the home team for the contest scheduled for an 8:00 PM ET start on Friday.

W: Leftwich (5-5)

L: Caleb Kilian (9-3)

S: Byrne

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