No. 1 Florida baseball finally beats FAU, advances to Super Regional round

By Adam Silverstein
June 5, 2018
No. 1 Florida baseball finally beats FAU, advances to Super Regional round
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Image Credit: ESPN Images

It took 13 innings, but No. 1 Florida Gators baseball finally looked like the team most expected to see this postseason. After being knocked around and forced into an elimination game by the FAU Owls, the Gainesville Regional hosts finally put it all together to pull off a 5-2 win early Tuesday morning to advance in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

Tuesday’s victory marked the fourth straight Gainesville Regional victory for Florida, which has advanced out of the first portion of the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons. The Gators also avoided their first home doubleheader sweep this century and first doubleheader loss of any kind since 2007.

FAU dominated UF in the opener, picking up a 7-4 win on the back of its 12 hits and three untimely errors for the hosts. Florida junior right-handed pitcher Jackson Kowar (6.0 IP, 11 H, 7 R [4 ER], 4 BB, 5 K) struggled primarily in the third when six singles, a walk and two defensive errors allowed five runs to cross the plate without an out being recorded.

Home runs by juniors second baseman Blake Reese (1/3, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB, K) and shortstop Deacon Liput (1/4, HR, RBI, R, BB, K) were not enough offense as the Gators went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base in the contest.

Game 7 of the Gainesville Regional started out similarly with freshman RHP Jack Leftwich (4.0 IP, 2 ER, H, 4 BB, 8 K) giving up two runs in the opening frame after walking the first three batters. Leftwich settled, however, striking out the side to end the inning and retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced before exiting after the fourth with a one-run deficit.

Trailing 2-1 in the bottom half of that inning, Florida powered its way into the lead as junior catcher Jonah Girand (1/2, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, BB) jacked his third homer of the Gainesville Regional. It would have been a three-run blast if not for a nonsensical base-running miscue, but the two-run shot was enough to put the Gators ahead 3-2. Back-to-back solo homers by junior third baseman Jonathan India (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, R, BB, K), who had three errors on the day, and sophomore right fielder Wil Dalton (2/4, HR, RBI, R, BB) boosted Florida in the fifth with a three-run advantage.

Freshman RHP Tommy Mace (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 K) was clean in relief, and junior RHP Michael Byrne (3.0 IP, 3 H, 3 K) took care of business by closing things out. UF needed that type of performance from its relievers after going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and leaving 10 on base in Game 7.

The defending national champion Gators will host Auburn in Super Regional action this coming weekend. Florida is hoping to advance to the College World Series for the fourth straight season and seventh time in the last nine years under head coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

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