Defending champion Florida holds off Texas Tech to keep repeat CWS title hopes intact

Defending champion Florida holds off Texas Tech to keep repeat CWS title hopes intact
World-Herald News Service

It took a while — into the fifth inning, to be exact — for Florida to get a hit in Thursday’s College World Series elimination game.

But once the Gator hitters got going, Texas Tech couldn’t recover.

UF, after 15 hitless at-bats, saw five of the next eight batters lash hits — including a two-run homer from first baseman JJ Schwarz — to score twice in the fifth and twice in the sixth and roll on to a 9-6 victory in front of 24,806 at TD Ameritrade Park.

The outcome keeps Florida (49-20), the defending national champion, alive for one more day. The Gators will face another win-or-go-home game at 7 p.m. Friday against Arkansas, which is undefeated.

Tech (45-20) tried to rally.

Down 5-0 in the seventh, the Red Raiders scored three runs and had the bases loaded with one out. But Florida reliever Jordan Butler ended the threat with a strikeout and lineout.

The Gators added three runs in the top of the eighth, and needed them because Tech added three in the bottom of the eighth to close to 8-6.

Early on, Texas Tech starting pitcher Caleb Kilian (9-3) stifled Florida’s offense, though the Gators scratched out a run in the fourth inning without a hit. Third baseman Jonathan India walked, moved to second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on a two-out wild pitch.

Florida finally got to Kilian in the fifth.

Second baseman Blake Reese singled to open the inning, stole second and moved to third on center fielder Nick Horvath’s single.

UF leadoff man Deacon Liput then smashed a grounder through the legs of Tech first baseman Cameron Warren that was ruled a double, scoring Reese. The Gators pushed the lead to 3-0 on a groundout that scored Horvath.

In the sixth, Florida right fielder Wil Dalton singled to open the inning and Schwarz followed with a towering home run into the left-field bullpen for a 5-0 advantage.

It was Schwarz’s 13th homer of the season, but just his second hit in his past 21 at-bats. He came into the College World Series after missing time with a broken hand.

While Florida got its offense going, starting pitcher Jack Leftwich (5-5) settled in after surviving a bases-loaded situation in the second and two runners on in the fourth.

He left after going 61⁄3 innings, allowing seven hits and two runs.

Texas Tech, despite scoring six runs, was frustrated by missed opportunities. The Red Raiders left 11 runners on base, including the bases loaded in the second and seventh innings. They also ran into an inning-ending double play to kill a rally.

Four teams remain in the CWS. Three are from the Southeastern Conference: Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi State. The fourth is Oregon State from the Pac-12.

Spotlight

Star of the game

Freshman Jack Leftwich had a shutout entering the seventh inning. The right-hander entered the game 4-5 with a 4.32 ERA. On Thursday, Leftwich gave up seven hits, struck out five and allowed two walks. Leftwich left with one out in the seventh with runners on the corners and ended up with two earned runs.

Play of the game

With one out in the top of the third, Texas Tech left fielder Grant Little snagged a Deacon Liput fly ball at the wall. Little, who was selected No. 74 by the San Diego Padres in the major league draft, bounced off the fence but kept the ball snug in his glove. Not to be outdone, Florida left fielder Austin Langworthy had a spectacular diving catch in the bottom of the fourth. Langworthy popped up quickly and threw to second for a double play, which ended the inning.

Quirky moment

In the bottom of the third, Florida right fielder Wil Dalton overthrew his cutoff at second base. The toss bounced to shortstop Liput, who flipped the ball quick to second, just in time for second baseman Blake Reese to tag out Michael Davis anyway.

Key decision

Bringing in sophomore pitcher Andrew Baker, then Tommy Mace in the seventh. Baker replaced Leftwich and faced two batters, walking one and giving up a single to another. The single by Texas Tech’s Brian Klein drove in Tech’s first run. Baker was taken out after that at-bat.

Close play

Liput smacked a grounder down the first-base line, and in Bill Buckner fashion, Texas Tech’s Cameron Warren whiffed and the ball rolled out into right field. A run scored and Florida took a 2-0 lead. The Gators tacked on one more in the inning to take a 3-0 lead in the top of the fifth.

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