Photo by Jake Hitt | ChompTalk

For the third straight year, the Florida Gators baseball team has its back to the wall in its own regional. For the second straight year, it’s thanks to a Big 12 team.

With Texas Tech’s 5-4 win over the Gators, Florida will need three straight wins to advance to (and host) its first super regional since 2018.

“We got to flush it,” Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan said postgame. “Nothing else to do but to win the next three games.”

Raider Power

All of Texas Tech’s runs came on home runs. The Red Raiders grabbed the lead in the fourth inning on Austin Green’s 12th homer of the season. Before that, starter Brandon Sproat seemed to be cruising with only two runners reaching through his first 3.2 innings of work. Gavin Kash later ambushed a first pitch fastball from Sproat in the fifth to make it a 3-1 Red Raider lead.

“Not many people that throw hard I feel like usually start off the inning with off speed stuff so that was my mindset going into the at-bat bat, and I was just looking heater,” Kash said.

Sproat finished with four hits and three runs allowed in six innings while striking out seven and walking two.

Florida’s Jac Caglianone did get in on the home run derby with his 29th of the year to knot the contest up at 3-3 after Wyatt Langford leadoff walk. Both teams traded outs until Kash broke the tie again on a two-run bomb to left center field off reliever Ryan Slater with two outs and a 3-2 count.

Before his game against Florida, the Red Raider first baseman was 0-for-18 but certainly was the player of the game Saturday going 3-for-4 with his 25th and 26th dingers of the year and three runs batted in. The former Texas Longhorn Kash recited advice from Troy Tulowitzki about the importance of being the same guy no matter what. That definitely paid off for him.

Squandered Opportunities

The numbers tell the story in terms of Florida’s night offensively. The Gators batted a combined 3-for-16 with runners on base and 1-for-9 with them in scoring position. Additionally, they batted .222 with two outs versus Texas Tech’s .385.

“The little things cost you in a game like this,” O’Sullivan said.

He said the Gators had a good plan going into the game against Texas Tech starter Kyle Robinson but just didn’t execute when they needed to. He gave credit to the Red Raider righty who had excellent velocity and command but also mentioned several instances where the Gators just couldn’t capitalize.

Those included striking out twice and grounding out after a leadoff walk by Josh Rivera in the eighth, Michael Robertson putting a bunt down the wrong baseline with runners on the corners in the fifth or Cade Kurland grounding into an inning ending double play when he needs to elevate the ball after Robertson loaded the bases.

Dale Thomas gave Florida some life with a one-out-pinch-hit triple in the ninth. Kurland scored him on an RBI groundout. But after Langford legged out an infield single, Caglianone popped out to end the game.

What’s Next

Florida will face UConn in the elimination game at noon Sunday with the winner heading to the final to face Texas Tech at 6 p.m. If the Gators make it, they’ll need a win Sunday and Monday over the Red Raiders to advance.

“It’s definitely a lot easier to win one of these, winning the first two than losing the second or the first one,” Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. “It’s very hard to do it the other way.”

Right-hander Hurston Waldrep is the obvious choice to toe the rubber against the Huskies Sunday afternoon, according to O’Sullivan. There’s no saving anybody at this point. If Florida defeats UConn it’ll be duct tape and glue in terms of pitching the rest of the way.

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