LUBBOCK, Texas — The Florida Gators’ backs are against the wall again. They’ve been there long enough this season to start getting mail.
The Gators came out Friday night and laid an egg in the Lubbock Regional. Tommy Mace wouldn’t survive the second inning; the bullpen allowed 7 runs and 11 hits as the Gators fell to Dallas Baptist 11-8
Now the Gators will play win or go home games the rest of the way here in Northwest Texas, starting with Army at 1 p.m. EST on Saturday. It’s a tough pill to swallow for a team that seemed to have just started to figure things out after sweeping Missouri two weeks ago to get into the tournament.
Dallas Baptist kicked things off in the very first inning. Tommy Mace was able to get two quick outs but a single to right field and a massive two-run opposite field home run off the bat of Jackson Glenn gave the Patriots a two run advantage. Mace surrendered two more hits in a row and needed a mound visit before getting out of the frame.
Mace lasted just 1.1 innings, his shortest outing of the season by a full two innings.
“I really don’t have an answer. I fully expected him to come in and pitch well. He had nine days to prepare for this start,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He had trouble locating his slider down and away and he had two outs, nobody on in the first and gave up two runs on four consecutive hits. We hit Sosa to start the second. It obviously wasn’t ideal to go to the bullpen that early.”
Cory Acton leveled the score with a two-run bomb of his own but Friday was just not Mace’s night. The sophomore hit Andres Sosa to start the second inning. Sosa was moved over with a sacrifice bunt and scored on Blayne Jones’ double down the left field line. Jones scored when Jimmy Glowenke singled through the right side and that would end Mace’s night after just 44 pitches and four runs, all earned.
Christian Scott took over and pitched well. The freshman quickly got out of a jam created by Mace in the second inning with a double play.
However even Scott, who pitched the best of the four hurlers on Friday, would falter. The Gators scored runs in second, seventh and eighth innings only to watch the bullpen give runs right back. It’s been the story all season — rebound runs — and it sunk Florida again.
That’s kind of been our MO all year long,” O’Sullivan said. “I don’t know if we have ever had a staff give up that many runs after we have scored — rebound runs. I mean you score 8 runs in the first game of a regional, you should win. Over the years we’ve been hard to score that many runs against somebody who is No. 1 or 2, especially in a regional setting. In all, it’s disappointing.”
Trailing 7-2 in the seventh inning the Gators made an attempt to get back into the game. Acton worked a one-out walk and Jacob Young followed along with a walk of his own. Jud Fabian struck out but the Gators weren’t done. Brady McConnell walked to load the bases, bringing up Austin Langworthy. The junior outfielder worked himself into a 2-2 count and lofted a ball into shallow center field that found open turf. All three runs would score to make the game 7-5. Sosa would halt any momentum the Gators had built with a leadoff home run to left field in the bottom of the seventh. The Gators scored one in the eighth inning but the Patriots responded with three of their own.
The offense continued to chip away. In the ninth inning Kirby McMullen turned around a 96 MPH fastball for a leadoff double to right center field. McConnell struck out and Langworthy singled. Nelson Maldonado collected his third hit of the night and drove McMullen home. Wil Dalton fell a few feet short of a home run that would have cut the lead to just one and settled for a one RBI double off of the right field wall. Augie Isaacson made a tumbling catch on a Kendrick Calilao liner to end the game.
“That would have gotten real dicey there if he didn’t catch that ball. He’s the best left fielder I’ve ever seen,” Dallas Baptist manager Dan Heefner said. “Like you saw on that play he’s fearless.”
The Gators will play Army and 1 pm ET on ESPN 3. Jack Leftwich will start for the Gators. Florida won a coin toss after their loss and will be the home team Saturday.