Junior right-hander Jackson Kowar (10-5, 3.04 ERA) took the mound for Florida and spun an absolute gem for his 10th win of the season. The 33rd overall draft pick dominated Texas as he allowed zero runs on five hits, struck out a career-high 13 batters, and walked two Longhorns on a season-high 121 pitches in 6.2 innings.
When it was time for Kowar to exit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Florida was leading 5-0 with Texas runners on second and third. Cue freshman left-hander Jordan Butler, who needed just four pitches to notch the inning-ending strikeout.
After back-to-back walks from Butler in the eighth inning, it was Michael Byrne time. The junior right-hander would give up a run, but would limit Texas's damage to one as Florida carried a 6-1 lead into the ninth. The run of course would be charged to Butler.
In the game's final frame, Byrne would use a line out and a strikeout to obtain the first two outs before giving up back-to-back singles. There would be no Texas rally, however, as he induced a fly out from junior clean-up man Kody Clemens to end the game and Texas's season.
Florida's offense look much more rejuvenated in this game as the Gators banged out 10 hits and scored a run in the first inning, four in the sixth inning, and tacked on one more in the eighth inning. Four Gators had multiple hits in this contest.
Out of the two-hole, junior designated hitter Nelson Maldonaldo recorded his second consecutive multi-hit game in Omaha as he went 2-5 with an RBI single in the seventh inning and a run scored. Right behind Nelly in the three-hole, junior third baseman Jonathan India went 2-5 as well.
The No. 5 overall pick in the draft kicked off the scoring with an RBI single in the first inning. Then in the sixth inning he hit a three-run home run out to left field to make it 5-0. India finished the day with four RBI's and a run scored.
Down in the six-hole, sophomore left fielder Austin Langworthy went 2-3 with a walk. Rounding out the quartet after Langworthy in the seven-hole, junior second baseman Blake Reese went 2-4 with a double, a run scored, and a stolen base.
The remaining Gators with hits were both seniors. First baseman JJ Schwarz went 1-5 while centerfielder Nick Horvath went 1-3 with a walk and a solo shot in the eighth inning to extend the lead to 6-0. Though he went hitless, junior shortstop Deacon Liput is worth mentioning because he worked two walks and scored twice.
Florida cleaned it up defensively as they had their first errorless game since Game 2 of Super Regionals. Texas's lone miscue came on the first pitch of the third inning as sophomore third baseman Ryan Reynolds could not cleanly field a ball off the bat of Jonathan India. This would not result in any Gator runs though.
The Florida Gators (48-20) looked like the No. 1 team in the country again as they will live to fight another day. Before previewing their next matchup, here are my final tidbits on their elimination game victory over Texas:
- For the first time since 1991 and third overall time in school history, Florida has won their first elimination game immediately following an opening round loss in the College World Series.
- Florida is now 9-10 all-time in College World Series elimination games.
- Florida is now 20-23 all-time in the College World Series.
- Florida is now 2-2 all-time against Texas.
- This was India's 26th, Nelly's 22nd, Reese's 17th, and Langworthy's 15th multi-hit games of the season.
- India's home run was his team-leading 21st of the season while Nick Horvath upped his total to seven.
- Blake Reese's second inning steal of second base gave him the lead in this stat category as he now has 13 on the year. His double also tied him for the team lead and is his 17th of his junior campaign.
- This was Jackson Kowar's second game of the year with double-digit strikeouts and sixth outing where he went over 100 pitches. That last factoid probably agitates the Kansas City Royals (who drafted him) just a bit.
- Texas's leading hitters were junior catcher DJ Petrinksy (1-4 with an RBI), senior first baseman Jake McKenzie (2-4 with a stolen base), and junior left fielder Masen Hibbeler (2-4 with a double)
The Gators still have an uphill battle as they need three more wins to reach the College World Series Finals. It may feel improbable, but if Florida can duplicate this performance a few times it is definitely possible.
The Orange and Blue will await the loser of the No. 5 Arkansas/No. 9 Texas Tech game on Wednesday, June 20th. Either opponent will be a rematch for Florida and this game will be set for 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 21st, barring any weather delays. It can be seen on ESPNU.
Freshman right-hander Jack Leftwich (4-5, 4.32 ERA) will probably take the bump for Florida, but nothing has been set in stone at this moment.
As for the No. 13 Texas Longhorns, they finish the season 42-23 and have to feel very optimistic about the future after reaching their first College World Series since 2014. Congrats on a great season for the Longhorns!
*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com
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