WATCH: Luck, lightning strike as Florida baseball earns walk-off win in Game 1 of Super Regional

By Adam Silverstein
June 10, 2017
WATCH: Luck, lightning strike as Florida baseball earns walk-off win in Game 1 of Super Regional

The heavens opened up in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, and while things looked dark and bleak for No. 3 Florida Gators baseball, the host didn’t end the day with rain on its parade. That’s because the Gators, which lost their slim lead with just three outs to go in regulation, earned a walk-off victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the 11th inning, which made a strong effort and some tough decisions in Game 1 of the 2017 Gainesville Super Regional completely worthwhile.

Florida earned its lone run of regulation in the third when junior catcher Mike Rivera singled to lead off the inning and eventually came around to score on an RBI ground out.

Lightning struck after the following frame and the Gators waited nearly four hours to bat again. When the game restarted, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan pulled junior right-handed pitcher Alex Faedo (4.0 IP, 4 H, BB, 9 K) for Saturday’s planned starter, sophomore RHP Brady Singer, which was certainly an understandable move. The Deacons chose not to follow suit, leaving starter Parker Dunshee in despite the delay. He went on to compile eight strikeouts in 8.0 innings of work.

Singer (4.0 IP, 2 H, 8 K) was fabulous despite his unexpected appearance, nearly mimicking Faedo’s performance in just four innings. Rather than allow Singer to finish the game considering his Saturday appearance had been blown, O’Sullivan went to sophomore right-handed closer Michael Byrne for the final three outs.

Byrne promptly gave up a solo homer to left in the second pitch of his appearance, tying the game and forcing extra innings. He struggled throughout his relief appearance on Saturday, but Byrne (3.0 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 6 K) got out of multiple jams and his endured the elongated outing.

This is where the luck came in for Florida. Sophomore third baseman Jonathan India walked on five pitches to lead off the bottom of the 11th and advanced to second on a wild pitch. The Gators managed their first out as Guthrie struck out swinging while bunting, fouling the third strike, and it appeared like it would be a quick inning.

Instead, UF saw consecutive batters hit by pitches. Though a second strikeout would soon follow, senior Ryan Larson pinch hit and came through in his first game since being beaned in the head during the 2017 SEC Tournament and singled up the middle to score India for the walk-off win. The hit was Florida’s first since the fifth inning.

Why this victory is exceptionally good news for the Gators is because of what they risked on Saturday. Florida is now without its top two starters — and likely its closer — for Game 2 on Sunday. Faedo could potentially be called on for a rubber match Game 3, if necessary, though that will be a difficult decision for O’Sullivan to make.

With Game 1 winners eventually advancing out of Super Regional play nearly 80 percent of the time, the skies are parting for the Gators’ chances to return to the College World Series for the third straight season.

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