Blake Reese

Florida second baseman Blake Reese stole home in UF's 3-2 win over Auburn Monday night.

He dashed to second before careening over and falling to the ground.

Media members were puzzled, and fans throughout the stadium let out a collective groan.

That is, until his teammate crossed home plate to score a run for the Florida Gators.

UF beat Auburn late Monday night to advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, for the fourth-straight season. A bold play call from coach Kevin O’Sullivan helped Florida sneak past the Tigers 3-2 in 11 innings.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, center fielder Nick Horvath appeared to be stealing second when he fell over in the basepath. His act caught the attention of pitcher Andrew Mitchell, who promptly stepped off the mound to go tag Horvath for the final out of the inning.

However, Mitchell failed to realize that there was a runner on third as the event unfolded.

By the time he did, Florida second baseman Blake Reese had crossed the plate to give his team a run it desperately needed.

“It was a big situation,” Reese said. “Tip your cap to Nick on the other side and just glad the timing worked out and gave us a chance.”

It wasn’t the first time O’Sullivan pulled a stunt like it, though.

Back in 2015, against rival FSU in a one-run game, former UF players Josh Tobias and Richie Martin executed the exact same play with the same degree of success.

Against Auburn on Monday, it gave Florida a 2-1 lead, and it was a necessary run because the Gators had to use extra innings to beat the Tigers.

The steal home wasn’t the only reason the Gators won on Monday, though. Two gutsy freshmen pitchers helped carry UF.

First, it was Jack Leftwich. Then, it was Tommy Mace.

After Game 1 and Game 2 starters Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar tossed gems in their respective contests, Leftwich got the call for Game 3.

He pitched admirably for a kid who was still in high school just a year ago.

The Orlando, Florida, native tossed five innings and gave up one run on four hits with three strikeouts.

He was relieved in the sixth inning by Mace. The Tampa, Florida, native from Sunlake High School bridged the gap between Leftwich and closer Michael Byrne.

Mace went two innings and gave up one run on one hit with one strikeout, another solid statline from a freshman.

Byrne praised the two young players.

“Jack and Tommy did well,” he said. “Just shows the work we put in, the quality of pitches we have to make and if we execute our pitches, we feel like we’re good enough to get them out.”

Byrne wasn’t the only one giving his freshmen love though. O’Sullivan made the point that in a moment that big, there’s a lot of pressure on any player, and he said he was proud of his young players for coming through.

“If they don’t pitch well, we’re not sitting here, winning this ballgame,” he said.

Florida opens the College World Series with a game against Texas Tech Sunday night at 7.

You can follow Chris O'Brien on Twitter @THEChrisOB and contact him at [email protected].

Chris O'Brien is currently the assistant sports editor and the baseball beat writer at the Alligator. He's a rising sophomore at the University of Florida and aspires to be an on-air sports reporter someday.