The road to Omaha, Nebraska, became much more treacherous for the Florida Gators after Friday’s loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Red Raiders sophomore first baseman Gavin Kash blasted a two-run shot to center field to take a two run lead against the Gators.
His multi-homer performance provided enough leeway for Texas Tech’s bullpen to secure the victory despite a tight finish in the final frame of the night.
“We had our opportunities,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We just didn’t have our best at-bats at the most crucial times.”
The Florida Gators (45-15, 20-10 SEC) were defeated by the Texas Tech Red Raiders (40-21, 12-12 Big XII) 5-4 Saturday at Condron Family Ballpark. The game started off slow with both sides combining for two total base runners through the first three innings.
Red Raiders sophomore right-hander Kyle Robinson went through the entire Florida lineup before he surrendered his first hit. Gators junior starting pitcher Brandon Sproat also kept his outing clean his first time through the order.
Sproat struck out his first two batters and got out of the first inning with some assistance from junior Wyatt Langford in left field.
With two outs in the frame, Texas Tech sophomore designated hitter Hudson White got under a pitch and sent a towering fly ball down the left field line that looked likely to drop into foul territory. Langford quickly calculated his route to the ball and slid feet-first into the wall to record the final out of the inning.
Both teams saw some run production in the fourth inning.
Langford led off the inning for the Gators and hammered a ball just in front of the warning track in center field. It bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. Caglianone followed Langford with a dribbler to first base resulting in a throwing error.
With Langford on third base, UF shortstop Josh Rivera connected on a pitch and sent it flying to right field for a sacrifice-fly run-batted-in. Florida led 1-0, but its lead didn’t last for long when Sproat strutted out to the mound for the bottom of the fourth inning.
The right-hander began the inning by earning one quick out before putting the tying run on base with a full-count walk.
With two outs, Red Raiders second baseman Austin Green stepped up to the plate. The junior belted a deep fly ball to the right field bullpen for a two-run score.
It seemed as if the Gators were due for a loud response when the bottom of their order occupied the corner bases. Juniors Tyler Shelnut and Colby Halter — who entered the outing 0-17 and 8-48 respectively since UF’s May 2 contest against Florida State — recorded back-to-back singles with one out.
Redshirt freshman center fielder Michael Robertson stepped up to the plate looking to record his first hit in 30 at bats and did so in odd fashion. Robertson laid down a bunt towards the third base line and failed to score Shelnut from third.
Halter advanced to second and Robertson reached first without a throw after the ball was picked up by Texas Tech freshman catcher Dylan Maxcey. The inning ended when UF infielder Cade Kurland hacked a ground ball straight toward second base for a routine double play.
Texas Tech tacked on another run one inning later with a leadoff solo shot by Kash. The sophomore’s first blast landed just shy of the scoreboard and extended the Red Raiders’ lead to two.
Robinson remained on the hill until he surrendered a leadoff walk to the Gators in the top of the sixth inning. Texas Tech head coach Tim Tadlock then called to the bullpen where left-handed junior Ryan Free prepared to clean up the mess.
Free got ahead and quickly worked Caglianone to an 0-2 count. The lefty then tossed an offspeed pitch that hung over the plate for enough time for the slugger to take a swing. Caglianone drove the pitch past the left field wall for a two-run homer to tie it at three apiece.
Texas Tech positioned itself for a prime opportunity to blow apart the game in the seventh inning with UF sophomore reliever Philip Abner on the mound. Abner juiced the bases with just one out and looked moments away from surrendering a series of runs.
The sophomore kept his cool and punched out two consecutive batters looking, with the final out of the inning resulting in the ejection of Texas Tech’s third base coach after he muttered something to the umpire.
The Red Raiders prevailed in the eighth inning with a two-run shot by Kash.
The Gators tacked on one more run with an RBI groundout from Kurland, which scored junior infielder Dale Thomas who reached base with a leadoff triple in the ninth. With the deficit at one, Caglianone popped out to third base failing to drive in Langford who occupied first base during the at bat.
“We made a couple of key mistakes during the game that ended up hurting us a little bit,” O’Sullivan said. “But bottom line, Texas Tech played really good,”
The Gators will return to Condron Family Ballpark Sunday for a noon contest against the Connecticut Huskies. Florida must defeat UConn and Texas Tech Sunday for a chance at the regional title Monday.
Luke Adragna is a third-year journalism student and the Florida Gators football reporter at The Alligator. He is a cat ethusiast and completes the NYT Daily Mini in less than a minute each day.