LUBBOCK, Texas — The Gators 2019 season officially ended when Jacob Young grounded out to second base with the tying run on third, but it was over in the fourth inning in an exaggerated microcosm of the entire season.
You couldn’t tell the Gators bats that. They’ve been in bad situations all season long and have dirt under their nails from four months of crawling out of holes dug by the pitching staff. They almost did it again on Friday but fell just short losing to Dallas Baptist 9-8.
“The way the game went is kind of a fitting end to our season,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “This is probably the most resilient offense I’ve had here. They continue to scratch and claw and do what we needed to do to get us back in the ballgame. Most teams down 9-2 would be tough to come back.”
Dallas Baptist scored nine runs — the most the Gators have given up in a ball game since April 27, 2007 in the 7th inning at Vanderbilt (a 17-6 loss) — on seven hits, four walks and a hit batter. The Patriots scored eight of those nine runs with two outs. Starter Nick Pogue had been dealing to start the game. He surrendered a one-out single but retired the next eight batters he faced.
Pogue just lost it in the fourth inning. Bryce Ball crushed a 2-1 fastball for his 19th home run of the season. A single, fly out and a sacrifice fly tied the game but there were two outs. All they needed was one more out to end the bleeding and get the bats going again.
“We just need to get one more out and the inning was over. I think that’s the thing we’ve been preaching the entire year is you give up one, just battle like heck not to give up a second. You give up two, don’t give up a third, because you never know which one is going to come back to hurt you or help you,” O’sullivan said. “Unfortunate that we weren’t able to stop it. I haven’t been involved in many innings like that. I think the three-run homer is probably the one that probably got us. You know, just kind of got us in a bad position there. But you know, it is what it is.”
Florida’s offense has been growing frustrated with the situations they’ve been in all season. The Gators scored 28 runs in three games but finished the Lubbock Regional 1-2.
So, again, the offense attempted to resuscitate not just the game but the season.
With two outs in the sixth inning Austin Langworthy smacked a single up the middle and moved to second on a wild pitch. Nelson Maldonado doubled to right center field to make the lead 9-3. Brady Smith singled to bring Maldonado home, 9-4. Wil Dalton clobbered a fastball sending it well over the bleachers in left field. 9-6.
“I had to keep myself in check after my second at-bat. I was a little fired up and a little mad at what our pitching staff had done, and we couldn’t finish out the inning,” Dalton said. “You know, I had to remind myself, that, hey, we are one of the best offenses in the country and we can relax and do our thing. We just need somebody to go out and get us out and we’ll be fine.”
The Gators added a run in the seventh inning and one more in the bottom of the ninth but it wouldn’t be enough.
In the middle of the game freshman Ben Specht threw 4.1 scoreless innings — a career high. Tyler Dyson came into the game in the ninth inning — most likely for the final time as a Gator. Dyson was electric pumping fastballs in 95-96. He mixed in an 89 MPH slider and pitched, really pitched for the first time this season.
“I’m sitting here thinking, well, maybe would have brought him in there in the 4th. Just didn’t know. He hasn’t thrown in a while. He had not seen a live game in quite some time. So maybe it’s me just trying to protect him, trying to put him in a position to where he would be successful.”
It isn’t the ending that the Florida Gators wanted. Not many teams or players will get to experience the College World Series even once. The Gators have been four of the last five years now and they know only one team truly ends their season happy.