OMAHA, Neb — A baseball will always find a player once they come into the middle of a game. That was the case for Florida Gators outfielder/pitcher Nick Horvath on Monday night.
Horvath, luckily, didn’t have to enter the game completely cold. As Brady Singer started to run into trouble in this sixth inning Horvath was sent to the bullpen to get loose. Kevin O’Sullivan considered bringing Horvath in to throw to Greg Deichmann, but O’Sullivan went with Singer despite the sophomore giving up two runs in the sixth.
Horvath watched from the bullpen as Singer came back out for the eighth inning. He and closer Michael Byrne were ready to go at a moment’s notice. That moment came right after Deichmann doubled down the left field line. The duo left the bullpen, Horvath replacing Nelson Maldonado in the lineup and manning center field and Byrne on the mound in search of his 19th save of the season. Getting ready to pitch in gave Horvath the chance to get his arm loose, something that would come in to play soon.
It took Byrne just three pitches to get a pop fly out to right field. The ninth pitch from Byrne, with Deichmann still on second base, was line sharply into right center. The hit was more than enough to plate Deichmann and cut Florida’s led to 3-2 but Josh Smith.
Horvath is regarded as Florida’s best defensive player but a costly mistake misplaying a ball against TCU on Friday cost Florida a triple and three runs. Horvath decided to take an aggressive route Monday, with faith that Ryan Larson would be backing him up from right field.
“I knew Larson would be coming behind me so I could take the aggressive route,” Horvath said sitting on the floor of the Gators’ clubhouse after the game. “I fielded it and I got it out of my glove pretty fast.”
In one seamless motion Horvath best down, scoped the ball off of the ground and fired a strike to second base. The throw was on point, but Horvath credits the transfer more than the throw.
“Honestly that’s what got him out, more than the throw,” he said of how he was ball to get the ball out quickly. “How fast I got it out of my glove, that made he difference.
Horvath knew the ball was on line and was confident he had enough on it to get it there in time.
The throw beat Smith to the bag but Smith contorted his body on the slide and on replay appeared to have been able to get his left hand on the bag before Guthrie’s tag hit his right arm. That’s not the way second base umpire Danny Collins saw it, punching Smith out.
“That changed the whole complexion of the ballgame, to be honest with you,” O’Sullivan said after the game. “Now they’ve got a runner at second. They’re down a run with one out, and all the momentum is in their favor. And a play like that can just change the whole complexion of a ballgame. I think that was really big.”
Horvath ➡️ Dalton = 👊OUT!
— Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) June 27, 2017
Byrne had the best seat. Sitting on the mound he watched it all unfold in front of his eyes. Like Horvath, Byrne was confident as soon as the ball left his hand.
“I had my hand up in the air before he let it go I feel like,” Byrne said. “I was like, ‘wow, he’s got him.’ You expect Nick to do that. He’s thrown out a bunch of guys. He’s a pretty good outfielder I’d say.”
The throw helped stop an LSU run that could have turned the tide of the game. Byrne was able to shut down the Tigers to earn his 19th save of the season. He has Horvath to thank for that.
If the Gators go on to win the National Championship, the first in school history, the throw will go down as one of the highlights and reasons Florida was able to accomplish the feat.
Horvath has played his role well this season. The junior has played in 59 games this season and made 27 appearances on the mound. No matter what he does the rest of his life, Florida fans will fondly remember the throw.