Jackson Kowar was near flawless on the day.
In fact, the Florida Gators’ starting pitcher only allowed three hits in seven innings.
It’s being called the 'Romp in the Swamp.’
But after throwing three-and-a-third perfect frames, Kowar made perhaps his only mistake of the afternoon: a homerun to deep right-center field to Auburn right fielder Steven Williams.
The homer tied the game up at 1-1 in a defensive duel on Sunday at McKethan Stadium.
The Tigers got the best of the Gators 3-2 in walk-off fashion at the Gainesville Super Regional.
Earlier in the third inning, the Gators drew first blood on the Tigers.
After second baseman Blake Reese drew a walk, center fielder Nick Horvath sent a double deep down the left-field line to score Reese from first and make the game 1-0.
The Tigers came right back with Williams’ homer in the bottom of the inning.
In the eighth inning, freshman reliever Jordan Butler came in for Kowar.
Kowar received a raucous standing ovation from the Florida faithful in his final game in McKethan and possibly his final start in a Florida uniform.
Kowar didn’t really think about it too much though.
“I haven’t really had time to reflect on that,” Kowar said. “Just kind of focused on getting back here with the boys tomorrow and playing a really good game.”
Aside from the home run that Kowar allowed, he had his best outing in recent memory. He went seven innings, gave up three hits and one earned run with six strikeouts.
The last time Kowar earned a win was May 12, which, ironically, was the last time Brady Singer had pitched the day before him prior to Sunday.
“Jackson pitched as good as he has all year long,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Gave us a chance.”
Kowar’s counterpart was not as sharp as he was though.
After striking out the first batter he saw, Butler allowed a single and then a deep double to right-center from Auburn shortstop Will Holland. The hit scored first baseman Josh Anthony all the way from first to put the Tigers up 2-1 going into the ninth inning.
In the top of the ninth, things looked bleak for the Gators, as the bottom of their lineup was due up with the game on the line.
Left fielder Austin Langworthy appeared to save the it though, as he went yard deep to right field to tie the contest up at 2-2.
But the score didn’t stay like that for long.
In the bottom of the ninth, Butler walked Tigers third baseman Brendan Venter who was 0 for 3 on the day. He worked the next batter to a 2-1 count before getting pulled in favor of closer Michael Byrne.
Byrne came in and excited the crowd by striking out AU designated hitter Edouard Julien. He failed to record another out, though.
Venter advanced to second when Auburn center fielder Jay Estes roped a single to left field, and Cade Evans came in to pinch run for Venter after the single.
Tigers second baseman and fifth-year senior Luke Jarvis stepped to the plate.
He had one hit on the afternoon, but it was a big one.
Jarvis lined a hard-hit single to left-center field to send Evans to the plate for the walk-off run.
“If we’re gonna lose the game, I’d like to have it with Michael (Byrne) on the mound,” O’Sullivan said.
This almost feels like deja vu for Florida, as last year it lost on a walk-off hit to Wake Forest in the second game of the Gainesville Super Regional.
“We’ve been here before,” Kowar said. “We had to regroup and come back the next day, so I think this group is resilient...definitely excited to get back out there tomorrow.”
A winner-take-all rubber match is slated for Monday night at 8:30pm and will be televised on ESPN.
Byrne will still be available should the Gators turn toward the All-American closer.
Florida will likely start freshman Jack Leftwich, according to O’Sullivan.
Auburn will go with fifth-year senior Andrew Mitchell to try and clinch a College World Series berth, according to head coach Butch Thompson.
“It comes down to one game,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve been here before.”