Florida needed to get a great start from junior Jonathan Crawford and they got just that today, but it wasn’t enough to beat the nation’s hottest team in Austin Peay. Florida fell 4-3 in 9 innings on Friday afternoon and will now face off against the loser of Indiana vs. Valparaiso.
The Crusaders came into the game with the nations longest active winning streak – 15 games – and were able to extend that streak to 16 off of the bat of Michael Davis, who had struck out in his previous three plate appearances.
The game started off as a pitchers duel with Crawford and Austin Peay starting pitcher Zach Hall matching each other with zero’s on the scoreboard through three innings. Hall would get the Gators out in order in the top half of the fourth and that’s when Crawford got into trouble.
Crawford’s summer roommate from his time spent with team USA Jordan Hankins led off the inning with a double into right-center. Craig Massoni displayed a fine piece of hitting giving himself up with a ground ball to Vickash Ramjit at first base, moving Hankins over to third with just one out in the inning. The next batter, Reed Harper drew a walk before Cody Hudson dribbled a ball to Cody Dent at shortstop that would score Hankins from third and give the Governors a 1-0 lead.
After getting out of the inning, Crawford settled down and it only took the Gators one inning to respond.
With one out in the top of the sixth, Hall walked Casey Turgeon and Taylor Gushue with one out, giving the Gators runners on first and second with just one away. Back-to-back walks earned Hall the hook and Lee Ridenhour replaced him on the mound.
Ridenhour got ahead in the count but left a fastball over the plate on a 1-2 count and Shafer crushed the offering over the left field wall. It was Shafer’s fifth homerun of the season and gave the Gators a 3-1 advantage.
Crawford was on cruise control until after giving up a run in the fourth inning but was pulled in the seventh after a single and an error at shortstop from dent. Daniel Gibson came on in relief of Crawford and shut the Governors down in the bottom of the seventh.
The Gators couldn’t carry that momentum into the eight as Martin, Tuegron and Gushue went down in order.
With some momentum on their side the Governors got the eighth started quickly with a Massoni single, his second hit of the game, followed up by a single from Harper off of the leg of Harris on the mound. Hudson grounded out to Ramjit at first, who made a smart play to throw to second and keep the tying run out of scoring position while also setting up a double play opportunity.
Michael Davis walked up to the plate 0-3 with three strikeouts on the day. Davis must have been thrilled to see someone other than Crawford on the mound and he came through with a go-ahead 3-run homerun that, with a little help from the wind, just carried over the wall and the outstretched glove of Harrison Bader in left field.
Just like that, Florida had gone from just five outs away from a win to their backs against the wall and three outs away from dropping their first regional game in 13 tries.
With a lead heading into the top of the ninth, Austin Peay turned the game over to the NCAA saves leader, Tyler Rogers. Rogers hit Shafer with the first pitch he would throw but quickly erased the blunder with a double play ball just three pitches later.
The loss sends Florida into the loser’s bracket of the Bloomington Regional where they will play the loser of a matchup between No. 1 seed Indiana and No. 4 seed Valparaiso.
Florida will play tomorrow at 2 p.m. with their season on the line. Win and advance. Lose and you can pack up your bags, clean out your locker and start thinking about next season.