Florida Gators Fend Off Red Raiders 9-6 In CWS Elimination Game; Texas Tech Eliminated

By  //  June 22, 2018

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Friday Night: Florida vs Arkansas at 8 p.m. ET

ABOVE VIDEO: Florida Gators with a remarkable double play in the 4th inning.

OMAHA, NEBRASKA (Florida Gators) – For the second consecutive game, the defending national champion Gators staved off elimination in the College World Series.

Florida improved to 7-0 the past two seasons in elimination games.

This time, freshman starter Jack Leftwich turned in a solid outing. The offense provided a pair of runs in the third and in the fifth to blow open a close game. Senior captain JJ Schwarz delivered the big hit, a two-run homer in the top of the sixth to put the Gators in front 5-0.

PLAY OF THE GAME: There’s nowhere better to start than Schwarz’s aforementioned home run. Leading 3-0, Wil Dalton led off the inning with a single off Red Raiders reliever Ty Harpenau. Up stepped Schwarz, playing in the 265th game of his career, which ties former UF outfielder Preston Tucker for the most in school history. Schwarz drove Harpenau’s 1-1 pitch high over the left-field wall for the 50th home run of his career and first in 16 career CWS games.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Making his first career CWS start, Leftwich survived throwing 54 pitches over the first two innings to settle into a rhythm and limit the Red Raiders to two runs over 6 1/3 innings. Leftwich allowed seven hits, walked two and struck out five in the biggest start of his young career. Leftwich threw 102 pitches, 69 for strikes, and escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second by retiring Braxton Fulford and Gabe Holt on pop outs to shortstop.

CLOSE CALL: Florida led by five runs heading to the bottom of the seventh inning when Texas Tech decided it wasn’t done for the night. Cameron Warren led off with a double, and after Leftwich struck out Cody Farhat, Fulford chased Leftwich with a single. Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan then went to a trio of relievers in Andrew Baker, Tommy Mace and Jordan Butler. Before Butler retired the final two hitters of the inning, the Red Raiders scored three runs and had five consecutive batters reach base at one point.

KEY MOMENT: After the Gators responded with three runs in the top of the eighth following Texas Tech’s three-run outburst in the bottom of the seventh, the Red Raiders came back with three more runs of their own in the eighth to trim Florida’s lead to 8-6. O’Sullivan called on closer Michael Byrne to escape the inning. Byrne allowed a two-run single to Grady Little that made it a two-run game, but with the tying runs on base, Byrne retired Zach Rheams on a fly ball to center for the final out of the inning.

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 — Home runs hit in 69 games by the Gators this season; 50 — Career home runs for Schwarz, who joins Matt LaPorta (74), Preston Tucker (57) and Brad Wilkerson (55) as the only players in school history to hit 50 or more home runs; 13 — Home runs by Schwarz during his senior season; 1 — Career home runs for Schwarz in the CWS.

UP NEXT: Florida stays alive and will face Arkansas on Friday night at 8 ET on ESPN. The Razorbacks defeated Texas and Texas Tech in their first two games in Omaha to stay in the winners bracket. UF split four games against Arkansas, winning two of three in the regular season and losing to the Razorbacks in the SEC Tournament.