With a chance for the Southeastern Conference title and a possible NCAA Tournament bid on the line, Florida needed someone to step up.
No one did.
“We didn’t compete at the end,” assistant coach Brad Weitzel said.
Down by two runs late in the game, the Florida offense collapsed. Seven of the last eight batters struck out against Texas A&M’s starter Daniel Mengden, who sealed the Aggies’ (32-25, 15-16 SEC) 6-3 win over the Gators (29-28, 14-17 SEC) in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday.
“I thought we pitched well enough … but we just weren’t able to do enough offensively,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
Before the Gators’ offense shut down, it got out to an early lead against Mengden.
Right fielder Justin Shafer got on base on an error by Aggies second baseman Blake Allemand and advanced to second on a balk. He made it to third on a wild pitch, and first baseman Vickash Ramjit drove him in on a groundout.
Florida got back-to-back hits from designated hitter Zack Powers and left fielder Harrison Bader and executed a double steal to put both runners in scoring position. Cody Dent hit an infield single to score Powers, but Bader was thrown out at home trying to score from second.
The Gators tacked on a third run after the Aggies took a 3-2 lead in the fifth on a three-run homer by third baseman Hunter Melton. Florida third baseman Josh Tobias singled to start the inning and advanced to third on groundouts by Dent and Richie Martin. Tobias came around to score on a wild pitch.
But Florida’s offense ended there.
After second baseman Casey Turgeon walked in the fifth inning, Florida did not get a man on base for the rest of the game. Tobias’ single was the last ball a Gator hit out of the infield.
After giving up early runs, Mengden settled down and worked the Florida lineup. The sophomore right-hander struck out a career-best 11 batters and retired the last 13 hitters he faced.
“I think he mixed it up pretty well,” Bader said. “He threw a lot of different types of pitches for strikes.”
While Mengden was sitting down Florida batters, the Gators did not get a similar performance from starter Johnny Magliozzi.
The sophomore – making only his third start of the season – began the game strong, setting the Aggies down in order in the first three innings. But Magliozzi surrendered five runs in 6.2 innings of work and picked up his first loss as a starter this season.
“I thought I made one bad pitch,” Magliozzi said. “Other than that, I felt pretty good.”
After being eliminated from the SEC Tournament, Florida rests its postseason hopes on the NCAA Tournament selection committee. The Gators have not missed the NCAA Tournament since finishing 29-30 in 2007.
“Our RPI is really good,” O’Sullivan said. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve had a lot of good weekends in between ... At the end of the day, it’s the committee’s decision.”
A radio broadcast contributed to this report.
Contact Adam Lichtenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.