By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer
No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (52-17) lived to fight another day, thumping the Virginia Cavaliers 10-5 on Friday afternoon to force a Saturday rubber match with a spot in the 2015 College World Series Championship Series on the line.
Virginia struck first, using two first-inning singles off sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (6.1 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) to take a 1-0 lead. But unlike Monday night, one run was not going to be enough to beat Florida.
The Gators had two bursts of offense, a four-run third inning to reclaim the lead and a five-run sixth inning to put the game out of reach, battling back in the contest to keep their season alive.
Florida has thrived under the pressure of must-win games in the 2015 postseason. The Gators won four straight elimination games in Hoover, Alabama, to win the 2015 SEC Tournament Championship out of the loser’s bracket and have now come out on top twice with the season on the line at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. UF will need to do it one more time on Saturday to advance to the CWS finals.
Here are three takeaways from UF’s important win:
1. Shore’s line doesn’t tell the whole story: Even though the Cavaliers took an early lead, it didn’t rattle Shore. He settled in and worked efficiently and effectively as UF dominated the middle of the game. UVA threatened Florida’s 4-1 advantage with multiple runners on base in the fourth and sixth innings, but Shore worked out of both jams. In the seventh inning, the Gators’ lead was up to 9-1 and Shore returned to the mound with the main task of eating innings. Though he got charged for three runs that frame, it doesn’t take away from the first six others that put UF in the position to win.
2. Abundance of arms: With Shore pitching into the seventh, Florida only needed to use one reliever, senior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (2.2 IP, 2 H, R, K), to seal the deal. The Gators will have the remainder of a very deep bullpen available for Saturday’s showdown.
3. Redemption at the top: The top of the order for Florida has been woefully inconsistent in the CWS, coming up empty in critical situations Monday night against Virginia with runners on first and third and no outs in the eighth inning. Junior left fielder Harrison Bader (1/5, 2 RBI) found himself in a similar situation Friday with runners on the corners and one out in the third inning. Bader hit into a run-scoring fielder’s choice that tied the game. Junior shortstop Richie Martin (3/4, 2 RBI, R) followed with a run-scoring double. Senior third baseman Josh Tobias (1/4, RBI, R) ended UVA starter Nathan Kirby’s day with an RBI single that made it 3-1 Florida, flipping the momentum and allowing Florida to begin moving towards victory.
Up next: Florida and Virginia will square off for a third time in the last six days on Saturday at 8 p.m. live on ESPN. UVA will be the home team. The winner will advance to the CWS Championship Series, which the Gators have never won in two appearances (2005, 2012) as they look for their first national title.
Great win @GatorZoneBB . Keep the the momentum!
— Matt LaPorta (@The_MattLaPorta) June 19, 2015