Florida baseball walks off vs. Auburn in extras for chance to defend title in College World Series

By Adam Silverstein
June 12, 2018
Florida baseball walks off vs. Auburn in extras for chance to defend title in College World Series

Image Credit: UAA

Austin Langworthy was clearly sick and tired of being denied. After twice getting robbed of potential game-winning RBI that would have sent No. 1 Florida Gators baseball to the 2018 College World Series, the sophomore left fielder decided to drill a ball nearly out of the park in the bottom of the 11th inning Monday night. This time, luck was on his side.

Florida defeated Auburn 3-2 in Game 3 of the Gainesville Super Regional with the Gators advancing to their fourth straight CWS on the back of a walk-off solo homer by Langworthy that fell short of the outfield wall but ricocheted off the right fielder’s glove and out of the park anyway.

Though a tough play for the Tigers, the visitors literally caught their share of breaks against Langworthy earlier in the contest.

Looking for insurance in the sixth with UF up 2-1, Langworthy drilled a ball to right that was hauled in on an insane diving catch by Auburn’s Jay Estes, who doubled up sophomore right fielder Wil Dalton on the play. Two innings later, Langworthy was again robbed on an even more impressive diving stab in shallow left by the Tigers’ Judd Ward. Both were potential extra base hits for Langworthy (1/4, HR, RBI, R) that likely would have scored runs for the Gators, the latter of which in a tied game.

Scoring started for Florida right away as junior third baseman Jonathan India (1/2, HR, RBI, R, 3 BB) connected with a solo homer in the first. Auburn immediately responded with an RBI single in the third as the host’s continued struggles hitting with runners in scoring position led head coach Kevin O’Sullivan to make a gutsy call.

The Gators retook the lead in the fourth when, with runners on the corners, senior center fielder Nick Horvath (1/3) purposely fell down on a feigned attempted steal of second, allowing junior second baseman Blake Reese (1/4, R) to steal home from third, putting Florida up 2-1. UF would’ve had further run-scoring opportunities if Horvath had not been too aggressive in attempting to take third after advancing to second on the throw.

“It’s just a left-hand move, usually with two outs and two strikes. It’s a gimmicky play,” O’Sullivan said during an in-game interview. “Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. It’s the first time we ran it all year. We had speed on both first and third, and it just happened to work out for us.”

A confluence of miscues by Dalton helped Auburn knot things up in the seventh. After his base-running mistake in the sixth allowed the 8-3 double play by Estes, Dalton (0/4, BB) committed an error in right one frame later to put a Tigers runner in scoring position. After that runner moved to third on a wild pitch, he was sent home on a sacrifice fly, beating Dalton’s rocket of a throw to tie the ballgame.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Jack Leftwich (5.0 IP, 4 H, ER, 2 BB, 3 K) was solid for Florida, but the relief outing for freshman RHP Tommy Mace (2.0 IP, H, R, BB, K) was cut short after that run. O’Sullivan did not think twice calling in junior RHP Michael Byrne for the duration of the contest. Byrne (4.0 IP, H, BB, 5 K) struck out five of the first six batters he faced before working grounders and fly outs in extra innings.

Right-hander Davis Daniel (5.1 IP, H, 4 BB, 6 K) was stellar in relief for Auburn, throwing as many no-hit innings before leaving after Florida finally got some wood on a ball. That sent Cody Greenhill out in the bottom of the 10th, though UF was unable to score despite having two on in the frame. When Greenhill returned in the 11th, his outing was cut short by Langworthy’s dinger.

Though the Gators won on Monday, they were once again dreadful taking advantage of run-scoring opportunities. Their three runs came on two homers and a steal of home as Florida went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base. UF went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 13 on over the last two games (20 innings) of the Super Regional, not registering a single RBI on those plate appearances.

With the victory, defending national champion Florida looks to become the first college baseball team to repeat since South Carolina (2010-11). Auburn was looking to make its first CWS appearance in 21 years dating back to 1997. The Gators improved to 4-0 all-time in Super Regional Game 3s and 8-1 in the Gainesville Super Regional with seven straight victories dating back to 2010.

Florida will face No. 9 Texas Tech on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET to open the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Other teams that have advanced to the CWS include No. 3 Oregon State, No. 5 Arkansas, No. 6 North Carolina, No. 13 Texas, Mississippi State and Washington.

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