A two run Pete Alonso home run in the bottom of the ninth gave them hope, but it wasn’t enough to keep the best season in Florida Gators baseball history going. The Texas Tech Red Raiders eliminated Florida, 3-2, behind seven strong innings from starter Davis Martin.
“We fell a little short. But I certainly am proud of the way we played this year,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It’s not easy to get to this point. Obviously we’re all disappointed right now. But the fact of the matter is we had a hell of a year.”
Sophomore Alex Faedo drew the start for Florida, set down the side in order in the first and navigated through danger in the second and the third as Florida’s offense sputtered. Florida finished the College World Series hitting just .213 (13-61) as a team.
Faedo gave up a one-out bunt single to Cory Raley in the fourth inning before getting the second out of the inning. Big 12 Player of the Year Eric Gutierrez stepped into the box with a runner in scoring position and two outs. Gutierrez deposited a 0-1 fastball up in the zone over the wall in left field, Faedo’s lone mistake of the afternoon, to give Tech a 2-0 lead.
“I thought Alex pitched great. I really do. Just one mistake, unfortunately one-run game, it tends to get magnified,” O’Sullivan said. “But he pitched great. That’s probably as good as he’s pitched all year long.”
Florida showed signs of life in the sixth inning. Jeremy Vasquez pinch hit for Nelson Maldonado and collected his second pinch-hit single in as many games. Dalton Guthrie drew a five-pitch walk and both runners were moved into scoring position by Buddy Reed’s sacrifice bunt. Texas Tech elected to intentionally walk Pete Alonso, loading the bases for JJ Schwarz. The sophomore designated hitter worked himself into a 3-0 count. A called strike and a foul ball made the count full. Schwarz reached for a ball low and away, grounding it back to Davis. The pitcher fired home for the second out of the inning and catcher Tyler Floyd stepped in front of the plate to fire to first. His throw ricocheted off of Schwarz’s left elbow and down the first base line, but Schwarz was called out for runner’s interference, the fifth double play the Gators’ would ground into in two games.
Junior Dane Dunning took over in the ninth inning and surrendered a leadoff single to Raley. Tyler Nelsony’s fiedler’s choice gave Florida an out, but an uncharacteristic defense blunder would soon follow. Gutierrez grounded into a sure out, but throwing errors from Jonathan India and Pete Alonso allowed Gutierrez to advance to second and Nelsony to score an insurance run, extending the Texas Tech lead to 3-0.
With just three outs left in the season Buddy Reed singled to center and Pete Alonso hit one of the longest home runs in T.D. Ameritrade Park history to cut the lead to 3-2. A Schwarz strikeout and Mike Rivera fly out left the Gators’ season on life support.
“Going in your last three outs, I mean, it’s just desperation, do everything you can to knock it out and get on base and find a way to scratch a run across,” Alonso said. “Thankfully he gave me a fastball up and ran into one.”
India laced a fastball into left field for a single, but the freshman was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double.
One of the best fielding teams all season has their year end on a fantastic defensive play by an opponent.
“I’m just proud of my team, and it’s going to be a tough couple of days for these guys moving on. We’ve had some really, really good juniors, guys that goal to win a national championship,” said O’Sullivan. “And it feels terrible because, I mean, that was the goal. And not just me but our entire team has worked so incredibly hard. And it’s extremely frustrating and it doesn’t feel good.”