The baseball gods hadn’t been kind to Austin Langworthy on Monday night, so when he lined a 1-2 fastball towards the right field wall another cruel outcome seemed inevitable.
Freshman All-American Steven Williams raced back, hit the dirt right in front of the Florida Gators 2005 College World Series Finalist decal and reached up. The ball glanced just off the top of his glove and over the wall.
A walk off home run.
Ticket punched to Omaha for the fourth straight year.
Mayhem at McKethan.
“It’s unbelievable, Langworthy said. “Right when I hit it I knew it had a chance, I just didn’t know if I hit it high enough. Once I saw it go over the fence I was just ecstatic with myself and for my teammates to get us back to Omaha another year.”
“I think in this game everything comes back to you eventually.”
The end of the game was harsh for Williams who had an incredible season. The freshman’s hands found his knees before he collapsed onto the outfield grass overcome by the moment. Auburn’s dugout cleared out and rushed over to console him, nearly the whole ball club was in right field picking up their teammate as the completely other end of the emotional spectrum played out at home plate; water bottle spraying wildly, cleats in the air with Langworthy somewhere underneath a pile of jubilant baseball players.
Baseball can rip your heart out. It did just that to one club.
“It will not define him,” Butch Thompson said of the last play. “It will be apart of his journey but one play won’t define him.
Florida got on the board in the very first inning when Jonathan India hit a two-out solo home run into the visitor’s bullpen. It was India’s 20th home run of the season, putting him in a rare class with just four other Gators and the first Gator to hit 20 home runs since Matt LaPorta in 2007.
On the other end freshman Jack Leftwich was everything Florida needed him to be and more over five plus innings. Leftwich retired the four of the first five batters and seven of the first nine before Auburn used a pair of singles and a stolen base in the third to tie the game.
O’Sullivan turned to a “gimmicky play” to re-take the lead in the fourth inning.
Blake Reese doubled to left center to start the inning and Nick Horvath’s single gave Florida runners on the corners with just one out. O’Sullivan put on a play where Reese takes off for home, cuing Horvath to break for second.
The play can only work with a left-handed pitcher, who has his back to third. It also needs to be sold by the runner on first and Horvath did just than by stumbling and falling to the dirt ala the famous “Florida Flop” from 1971, that distracted Andrew Mitchell just long enough for Reese to slid safely into home.
“It’s something that we work on. It very seldom happens. When you get the chance to do something like that everything has to be right, the timing has to be perfect,” Reese said. “Credit Nick on the other end of that for selling it the way he did. It doesn’t work without him. Luckily we were able to get it and it was a big situation.”
HE STOLE HOME.
IN A TIE BALLGAME.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 12, 2018
Leftwich was replaced by Mace in the sixth inning and pitched well, allowing just one unearned run in the seventh inning after a Wil Dalton error in right field.
“They should be able to grow from this now,” said O’Sullivan. “ You think about this you go to bed last night and both Tommy and Jack know they’re going to pitch today. If you win you’re going to go to Omaha and experience that, one of the main reasons they came to school here and they want to experience that and if you don’t win or pitch well the season’s over. It was a lot of pressure on those young guys but I’m awfully proud of the way they competed.”
Michael Byrne replaced Mace in the eighth. Byrne had thrown 38 pitches in the first two games but was a bulldog for Florida on Monday. He threw four scoreless innings on 49 pitches with five strikeouts. Auburn manager Butch Thompson said Byre was the difference in the ball game.
O’Sullivan just thanked his lucky stars that Byrne fell into the roll that he did when he did last season.
Langworthy’s shot was his second home run off of Cody Greenhill in as many days and his fourth home run in the NCAA Tournament dating back to last season. The kid from just down the road in Williston is cementing his legacy as a big game player for the Gators, who will head back to Omaha to defend their National Championship/
Florida will open the College World Series on prime time, 7 p.m. Sunday night against Texas Tech.