Reliable pitching and mistake-free baseball helped send the Gators to the College World Series.
However, they seemed to forget that on their way to Omaha, Neb.
Third-seeded Florida (47-16) opened the CWS with an uncharacteristic performance in an 11-3 loss to sixth-seeded UCLA (49-14). UF will attempt to stave off elimination against FSU on Monday at 4:30 p.m.
The Gators’ pitching staff posted a combined 2.00 ERA in regionals and super regionals, but it struggled against the Bruins.
Sophomore starter Alex Panteliodis, who threw a complete game in his last start, lasted only 3.1 innings while giving up five runs and looked shaky from the beginning. He plunked the first two batters he faced before UCLA third baseman Dean Espy smacked an RBI single to give the Bruins an early 1-0 lead in the first.
“One thing we've been doing all year long is throw firstpitch strikes,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We've been able to change speeds on our breaking ball and change up and throw them for strikes at will. For whatever reason, tonight we weren't able to do it.”
It got worse from there as Panteliodis and four relievers combined to hit four batters, throw four wild pitches and commit a balk. The Bruins scored a run in every inning but one on Saturday.
“You start throwing an awful lot of pitches in the dirt, it gets a little sloppy,” O’Sullivan said of the wild pitches. “That’s when balls kind of get away from (catcher Mike Zunino).”
The Gators scored two first-inning runs off of a single from freshman Brian Johnson to jump out to a 2-1 lead, but it was short lived.
UCLA scored three runs in the third to break the game open. Panteliodis allowed the first three batters to reach base and an error from third baseman Austin Maddox further hurt UF’s cause.
After the big frame, the Gators could never regain the lead.
Following the two-run first inning, UF could only manage four hits and one run off of Bruins pitcher Trevor Bauer. The right-hander settled down and kept the Gators guessing with a mixture of sharp curveballs and high fastballs.
“Early, I didn't have a feel for anything but my curveball the first couple of innings, so it was a little bit tough,” Bauer said. “But I made a little mechanical adjustment. And I kind of stayed on the glove a little more with my front side. And after that I could command my fastball good.”
Bauer struck out 11 in seven innings of work and allowed just three runs.
It was the first CWS experience for many of the players on Florida and the nerves were evident.
“Everybody dreams about coming here, so it's one of those things,” second baseman Josh Adams said. “You take it all in. Nervous was pretty much the main thing for me. Not playing in front of this many people ever, so I was kind of nervous.”