By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor
After waiting more than three hours for the first pitch on Friday night at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, Florida Gators baseball saw the game’s deciding run cross the plate before the first out was even recorded.
The No. 2 overall seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and No. 1 seed in the Gainesville Regional, the Gators (40-22) dropped their first game of the event, falling 3-2 to the regional No. 4 seed College of Charleston Cougars (42-17).
A 195-minute weather delay forced the proceedings to begin late, but Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan nevertheless stuck with his ace, freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore, as the team’s starter.
College of Charleston rallied to push three runs across the plate before Shore retired his first batter. In total, he coughed up seven hits in the opening frame, and the three-run advantage he spotted the Cougars proved to be insurmountable for the Gators.
Two of Florida’s top arms combined for eight scoreless innings over the duration of the contest, but it was not enough to overcome the lack of run support.
Shore (5.0 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) was stellar the rest of the way, and junior RHP Justin Shafer (4.0 IP, 5 K) was perfect in his relief appearance while registering a season-high strikeout total as part of his lights-out performance.
The Gators had their chances on offense, accumulating 16 base runners on the evening; unfortunately for UF, it left 11 of those men on base.
Six of those stranded runners came in the third and fourth innings when Florida failed to score in back-to-back bases-loaded situations.
The Gators managed to plate runs in the following two innings with junior pinch hitter Mike Fahrman (0/1, RBI) and sophomore shortstop Richie Martin (1/4, RBI) both coming through in the clutch. UF, however, failed to rally in the final three innings and simply fell short offensively.
Already faced with an overly tough regional field, Florida has been handed an especially quick turnaround to keep its 2014 campaign alive. Friday’s late start gives UF less than 12 hours off before it takes on the regional’s No. 3 seed, North Carolina, in an elimination game at 1 p.m.
The Gators are no stranger to win-or-go-home games this postseason, fighting off elimination three-straight days in last week’s SEC Tournament.
Florida will need to beat North Carolina, which fell to regional No. 2 seed Long Beach State 6-1 on Friday, as part of four-straight victories required to push the Gators into the Super Regional.
Friday’s regional loss was O’Sullivan’s first at McKethan Stadium (12-1). It was also the fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament game that Florida has dropped dating back to 2012.