It won’t be two-and-barbeque for Florida this year at the College World Series, as was the case last season. The Gators came from three runs down to defeat Texas 8-4 on Saturday night in Omaha, Neb., in front of 25,521 fans – a Session II CWS attendance record.
“I was awfully proud of the way we battled back,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “We gave up those three runs there in the third and uncharacteristically made a couple of errors. You know, I didn’t have a really good feeling at that point, to be honest with you, facing the first rounder and the guy’s had a ton of success this year.”
O’Sullivan was referring to Texas starting pitcher Taylor Jungmann, who was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft earlier this month by the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I think probably in the third inning I got out of rhythm,” Jungmann said. “Once I got out of rhythm, made some bad pitches. I felt like I set them up to have some opportunities to score runs. I walked more guys than I usually do. And, I mean, they took advantage of it. And that was about it.”
Jungmann walked four guys in 4.1 innings and fell behind too many hitters, hitting a batter and throwing two wild pitches. He also gave up four earned runs.
Florida starter Hudson Randall got off to a rough start, giving up three runs in the third inning, but he settled down to retire 13 hitters in a row. He ended up tossing 6.1 innings and only gave up one earned run, improving his season record to 11-3, becoming the fourth Florida hurler since 2000 to win 11 games in a season.
“I was just trusting my stuff, throwing strikes, trying to get out of it with the least amount of damage as possible,” Randall said.
Texas shortstop Brandon Loy spoke about Randall’s effectiveness.
“He’s been good all year,” Loy said. “Throws a lot of strikes. And we got to him early and found a way to get the lead back; and when you get some confidence on that mound, you tend to be a lot better. And he can throw three pitches for strikes and he did it tonight, and it’s tough on hitters, but we hit some balls hard all night. And it just didn’t go our way.”
Florida reliever pitchers Greg Larson and Nick Maronde took it from there, shutting down the Longhorns over the final 2.1 innings, not even allowing a hit.
As the Gators pitching staff went on cruise control, their offense was heating up at the plate, scoring five runs in the middle innings and tacking on three more in the latter part of the game.
Florida center fielder Bryson Smith was 2-for-2 with 2 RBIs and 2 walks, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. He is hitting .514 (19-for-37) since May 28. Florida right fielder Daniel Pigott was 2-for-3 with an RBI. Preston Tucker and Cody Dent also each drove in a run.
There was a bit of controversy in the seventh inning with the Gators’ designated hitter Brian Johnson, who ended up 1-for-4 with 2 RBIs, hit what replays showed was a home run, but it was ruled a double.
The ball struck a railing over the fence and bounced back into the field of play. NCAA umpire coordinator Gene McArtor released a statement after the game saying the umpires made the wrong call. He also said umpires are not allowed to use video review.
The blown call didn’t prove costly to Florida.
With the win, Florida improves to 9-13 all-time in the CWS and they picked up their first CWS win since the 2005 team reached the Championship Series.
So what will Texas coach Augie Garrido tell his team now that they face elimination?
“That we’ve been pretty good in elimination games, and here we are again,” Garrido said. “The players are very realistic, and I’m proud of them for that … We’ve been here before. We know we can win. This championship’s been won out of the loser’s bracket before. So we know it can be done.”
Florida will play Vanderbilt Monday at 6:00 p.m. (CST). Texas will play North Carolina in an elimination game Monday at 1:00 p.m.