Monday, June 18, 2018

2018 College World Series: No. 9 Texas Tech Defeats No. 1 Florida in Opening Round

The No. 1 Florida Gators (47-20) are in big trouble after a 6-3 loss to the No. 9 Texas Tech Red Raiders (45-18) in the opening round of the 2018 College World Series.

Making what was potentially his final collegiate start, junior ace Brady Singer (12-2, 2.33 ERA) was cruising until the fifth and sixth innings. In both frames, the 17th overall draft pick allowed two runs as Tech jumped out to a 5-1 lead over the Gators.

Singer would finish with a stat line of five runs allowed (two earned!) on nine hits with five strikeouts as he was handed his second loss of the season. He committed a balk in the top of the fourth inning which moved Tech sophomore Josh Jung over to second base. Jung would eventually come in to score on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1-1.

Reaching 99 pitches after notching his final collegiate strikeout, Brady Singer was pulled with Florida trailing 5-1 in the seventh inning. In his place came freshman left-hander Jordan Butler, who recorded the final two outs of the inning with ease.

In the eighth inning, a single and double put Tech runners in scoring position with no outs. Florida had just trimmed the lead to 5-3 and could not afford to let the margin get any wider. Butler settled in and registered two huge strikeouts before being lifted for junior closer Michael Byrne.

Very accustomed to high leverage situations, Byrne did his job as he fired in three straight strikes for the punch-out. In the ninth, Byrne obtained another strikeout. However, freshman catcher Brady Smith's mishandling of the ball allowed Tech junior Cody Farhat to reach.

A sac bunt would move Farhat to second, and he would come into score on a single into right field for a huge insurance run. Byrne would get another strikeout and a batter's interference on a stolen base attempt put an end to the inning. Though Tech had scored another run to push the lead to 6-3, Byrne had once again been efficient out of the bullpen.

Florida's offense was dreadful tonight. They mustered a lousy five hits together while scoring once in the third inning and twice in the seventh. That first run did not even come from an RBI, as a Tech balk from junior Ryan Shetter allowed Deacon Liput to score from third.

Junior designated hitter Nelson Maldonaldo had nearly half of the team's hits as he went 2-5 with a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Nelly was not the only one with an extra-base hit though. In the first inning, junior third baseman Jonathan India hit a two-out triple into right field but of course was stranded at third base. India had two walks in the contest as well.

The other TWO Gators with hits were sophomore right fielder Wil Dalton (1-4) and freshman catcher Brady Smith (1-2 with a run scored after coming in to pinch-hit in the seventh).

Both squad's made one error. Florida's miscue came from junior shortstop Deacon Liput when his throw to first base went up the line with two outs in the fifth. This would lead to two Tech runs and a 3-1 deficit for Florida.

Tech's error also came from the shortstop position as senior Michael Davis misplayed a ball off the bat of Wil Dalton with no outs in the second inning. Though Florida would eventually put runners on second and third with two outs, Tech would hold the Gators scoreless in the bottom of the second.

Final Takeaway 
Florida's chances of repeating are abysmally low after a very lackluster performance tonight. Before previewing their elimination game in a couple of days, here are my final tidbits on the opening round loss:

  • Florida is now 6-6 all-time in the opening round of the College World Series.
  • Florida is now 0-2 all-time against Texas Tech. Both losses are in Omaha.
  • Florida is now 19-23 all-time in the College World Series.
  • This was Nelly's 21st multi-hit game and ninth home run of the season.
  • Jonathan India's triple was his fourth of the year and he continues to lead the team with that mark.
  • Deacon Liput nabbed his 10th stolen base of the season in the second inning and is now within two of the team lead.
  • The entire Texas Tech outfield lit up Florida's pitching tonight. Freshman right fielder Gabe Holt went 2-5 with three RBI's, center fielder Cody Farhat went 2-4 with a double and two runs scored, and sophomore left fielder Grant Little went a perfect 3-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
  • In addition to the outfield, both senior designated hitter Zach Rheams (1-4 with a double) and Michael Davis (1-4) drove in a run for the Red Raiders as well.
  • Texas Tech's bullpen pieced together a great relief performance. Entering with no outs in the third inning and a runner on first, Ryan Shetter allowed one earned run on three hits with seven strikeouts and one walk in 4.1 innings pitched. The right-hander would improve his record to a flawless 6-0.
  • For the remaining 2.2 innings, junior right-hander Ty Harpenau gave up one earned run on one hit with three strikeouts and two walks.
  • Though exciting to many Gator fans, the decision to play JJ Schwarz did not pan out. The senior captain went 0-4 with two strikeouts and had one of his more shakier defensive games at first base.

I hate to be a pessimist, but Florida will need an absolute miracle to get back to the College World Series Finals. Even if they beat Texas, they will either have to rematch with Tech again or face a red-hot Arkansas team that looks unstoppable. 

The Gators simply do not have the pitching depth to muster out four wins and the offense has been on cruise control going all the way back to May. I hope Florida can put something together, but I honestly do not see that happening.

The Orange and Blue will be back in action as they take on the No. 13 Texas Longhorns (42-22) in an elimination game on Tuesday, June 19th.  First pitch will be at 2 p.m. ET and this matchup can be seen on ESPN. Junior right-hander Jackson Kowar (9-5, 3.24 ERA) will most likely get the start for the Gators. This will be just the fourth meeting between these two baseball goliaths (all in Omaha and which Florida sports a 1-2 record).

As for the No. 9 Texas Tech Red Raiders (45-18), they will be taking on the No. 5 Arkansas Razorbacks (45-19) in the second round on June 19th. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on ESPN.



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