The Florida Gators gathered in front of the first base dugout with a 5-0 lead before the bottom of the ninth inning. When the huddle broke eight players sprinted across the grass and clay, filling every position except the mound. The crowd of 5,326 that waited more than three hours through a weather delay prior to the first pitch drew silent.
When a blue jersey, with the number 32 stitched across its back emerged from the dugout and began to trot out to the mound the capacity crowd erupted.
The Gators staved off elimination on Sunday night with a 5-0 victory over Florida State; forcing a deciding game three on Monday night at 7 pm. Logan Shore, throwing for the last time at McKethan Stadium, was brilliant. The junior struck out nine batters on eight-plus innings of work, blanking the Noles and extending Florida’s season for, at least, a day.
“Brad [Weitzel], our assistant coach, informed me that would be the last time I would run out there at McKethan at home. That was a pretty special moment and it gave me chills running out there for the ninth. I’m fortunate that Sully let me go out there and experience that. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
After a one-out single in the first inning Shore retired 12 batters in a row, including eight strikeouts in the first four frames. The junior moved his fastball in and out, threw strikes and challenged a FSU lineup that was patient on Saturday night.
“Really,” Kevin O’Sullivan began talking about Shore. “He’s been doing that, not just this year but his whole career.”
He sure has. Shore’s win on Saturday night was his 12th on the season, 17th consecutive victorious decision (dating back to last season), his 30th career win (one shy of the school record) and his sixth NCAA Tournament win — a new school record.
A day after managing just two hits the Gators got on the board early. Dalton Guthrie reached on a Taylor Walls fielding error and scored from first on Pete Alonso’s double.
Alonso drove Guthrie in again, this time with a groundout to shortstop in the third inning, to extend the lead to 2-0.
Florida State starter Tyler Holton and Shore traded zeroes in the fourth, fifth, six, and seventh innings.
Alonso walked and advanced to second on a JJ Schwarz groundout. Mike Rivera grounded out for the second out of the inning before Buddy Reed drew a walk. Kevin O’Sullivan sent Jeremy Vasquez to pinch-hit for Nelson Maldonado and Mike Martin countered with a pitching change, bringing in the left-handed Alec Byrd to face the lefty. Vasquez worked a walk to load the bases, bringing Deacon Liput up to the plate. The freshman was 0-6 in the Super Regional as he walked up to the plate.
Liput worked the count to 2-2, and then got a fastball elevated in the zone.
“I got a fastball that didn’t do too much and was able to stay within myself,” Liput said. “I was able to just put a good swing on it.”
Alonso scored and Reed raced around from second to extend the lead to 4-0. Florida tacked on an insurance run in the ninth when Alonso collected his third double of the night and scored when JJ Schwarz doubled after him.
The win extended the Super Regional to a third, win-or-go-home affair on Monday night at 7 pm. The Gators will be the home team in a game that is broadcast on ESPN2 and No. 6 overall pick A.J. Puk will be start the game for Florida.