Florida was down 7-2 in the top of the seventh when left fielder Austin Langworthy stepped into the batter’s box.
With the bases loaded, Langworthy zipped one to center, scoring three to cut the deficit down to two.
Dallas Baptist, however, always seemed to have an answer on Friday night. The Patriots got a run back in the bottom of the seventh before putting together a three-run inning of their own in the eighth.
That backbreaker of a half inning from DBU in the eighth proved too much for the Gators to overcome. They dropped into the losers’ bracket after an 11-8 loss to open up regional play in Lubbock, Texas.
Florida starter Tommy Mace didn’t have the outing he probably envisioned before taking the mound against the Patriots.
Mace fell behind early in the bottom of the first inning, giving up a two-run shot to DBU’s third baseman Jackson Glenn.
Florida (33-25) quickly tied the game during the next frame when its third baseman hit a two-run homer of his own.
Cory Acton sent the 2-1 pitch from Dallas Baptist starter MD Johnson to deep right, his sixth of the season.
The Patriots (42-18) darted back in front in the bottom of the second, scoring two more and causing UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan to make a switch after just 1.1 innings from Mace.
The right-hander gave up four earned runs on six hits on Friday, and O’Sullivan was confused after the game as to why his best starting pitcher had such a rough time.
“I really don’t have an answer,” O’Sullivan said in a release. “I fully expected him to come in and pitch well. He had nine days to prepare for this start.”
DBU added three more runs to extend its lead to 7-2 in the middle innings.
UF made a push in the top of the seventh off Langworthy’s RBI double, but Florida’s bullpen couldn’t keep it close as Dallas Baptist regained its five-run lead during the bottom of the eighth inning to make it 11-6.
Mace may have performed poorly, but his bullpen wasn’t there to pick him and the team up. Florida relief pitchers gave up six earned runs on 11 hits combined.
The inability to either keep a lead at the end of games or keep the game close while the offense heats up has haunted the Florida baseball team all season.
UF will now prepare for a 1 p.m. first pitch on Saturday against Army. The Knights (35-25) lost 11-2 to Texas Tech earlier on Friday.
The loser of the contest will be eliminated.
“It’s a tough loss for us,” O’Sullivan said. “We hand the ball off to Jack (Leftwich) tomorrow and see what we got.”
Follow Evan Lepak on Twitter @evanmplepak. Contact him at [email protected].