As his line drive popped out of the right fielder’s glove and over the fence, Florida Gators left fielder Austin Langworthy raised his left hand in triumph as he rounded first base on a walk-off home run to beat the Auburn Tigers.
AU catcher Brett Wright fell to his knees and put his head in the clay as he realized his team’s season was over.
Langworthy’s solo shot gave Florida the boost it lacked all night as it walked off on Auburn 3-2.
Nine innings weren’t enough to decide the winner of the Gainesville Super Regional at McKethan Stadium late Monday night as the walk-off bomb came in the bottom of the 11th.
LANGWORTHY SENDS ONE DEEP AND WE ARE GOING HOME AND UF IS HEADED TO OMAHA FOR THE COLLEGE WORLD SERIES pic.twitter.com/8lUD9qcZ2B— O’B (@THEChrisOB) June 12, 2018
“Right when I hit it, I knew it had a chance,” Langworthy said. “I wasn’t sure I quite hit high enough, but once I saw it go over the fence, I was just ecstatic for myself and my teammates to get us back to Omaha for another year.”
The Gators drew first blood in the bottom of the first inning when third baseman Jonathan India went yard with a rocket to right-center field to put Florida up 1-0.
Auburn struck back on UF starting pitcher and freshman Jack Leftwich in the top of the third. After Tigers shortstop Will Holland sent a two-out single to deep second base, he stole second to put himself in scoring position. The very next batter, right fielder Steven Williams, singled through the right side to plate Holland and make the score 1-1.
In the bottom of the fourth, UF regained the lead.
Second baseman Blake Reese doubled in the left-center gap, and center fielder Nick Horvath notched a single. But the hit was robbed of an RBI when Holland made a diving play up the middle to limit the damage.
With runners on the corners, catcher Jonah Girand came up to the plate. But he wasn’t the one to score the run.
The Gators executed a bit of trickery to bring Reese to the plate.
In a play Florida had practiced and run before, Horvath began charging toward second before promptly falling over into the clay. Auburn starting pitcher Andrew Mitchell, stepped off the rubber and began to walk toward Horvath to apply the tag before he realized his mistake.
As Mitchell stepped off the mound, Reese ran home and scored before the Tigers could make the play at the plate. The bizarre turn of events energized the crowd and put the Gators up 2-1.
“It’s just something that we work on, and it very seldom happens,” Reese said. “But when you get a chance to do something like that, the timing’s got to be perfect.”
Scoring ceased until the seventh inning.
AU second baseman Luke Jarvis launched a ball to right field for a single. Jarvis advanced to second base when right fielder Wil Dalton misplayed the ball and let it roll all the way to the fence.
Jarvis waltzed his way to third on a wild pitch from Florida pitcher Tommy Mace. Tigers first baseman Josh Anthony ripped a sacrifice lineout to Dalton in right, and a play at the plate was imminent.
Dalton launched a beautiful throw to Girand, but Jarvis snuck under the catcher’s tag to tie the game at 2-2.
AU threatened in the top of the tenth against UF closer Michael Byrne when Holland singled to right field and moved over to second on a wild pitch. Williams walked to put runners on first and second, and Wright grounded out to third base to end the threat.
In the bottom of the frame, the Gators got runners on first and third before Dalton popped out to end the suspense.
In the top of the 11th, Byrne mowed down three-consecutive Auburn hitters before Langworthy homered a 1-2 pitch in the bottom of the inning to end it.
Byrne threw four innings, an amount higher than usual for a closer.
“He’s a starter in the back end of the bullpen,” O’Sullivan said.
UF now heads to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, where it will play Texas Tech on June 17 at 7 p.m.