Gators upset in NCAA Tournament opener
Just like that, Florida is on the brink of getting kicked out of its own party. College of Charleston, the No. 4 seed in the Gainesville regional, defeated the host Gators Friday night 3-2.
The game took place following a 195-minute rain and lightning delay that pushed first pitch back to 10:15 p.m. The Cougars were not deterred, surging out of the dugout and picking up hits from each of the first five batters they sent to the plate. Freshman UF ace Logan Shore recovered but not until College of Charleston had a 3-0 lead with zero outs.
It would prove to be all the Cougars need. The Gators scored runs on sacrifice outs in the fifth and sixth innings but tossed away opportunities otherwise.
Florida now faces a quick turnaround as it plays No. 3 seed North Carolina Saturday at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.
-- PLAYER OF THE GAME --
The game was essentially a wash after the first inning theatrics. College of Charleston didn't get a single runner in scoring position after the second inning, and the Cougars pitchers were hardly remarkable. Florida junior relief pitcher Justin Shafer became the game's star. After entering to start the sixth inning, Shafer retired the Cougars' last 12 batters in order with a season-high five strikeouts on 46 pitches. Unfortunately for the Gators, offense didn't match his emergence.
-- BIGGEST MOMENT --
Cougars third baseman Nick Pappas came to the plate riding momentum in the first inning and kept it going. Pappas drove a Shore pitch into the gap, picking up and double and knocking in two runs in the process. It would end the scoring for his team but it was enough to hold on for the victory.
-- KEY STATISTIC --
Florida went 1 for 7 with two walks and two RBI with runners in scoring position. Not entirely terrible until you look at the third and fourth innings in which the Gators loaded the bases and failed to score a run. In the third, Taylor Gushue and Braden Mattson both struck out in major spots. Richie Martin flew out to end the fourth. Florida stranded 11 baserunners.
-- QUOTABLE --
Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan on the loss: "Congratulations to College of Charleston. They played a clean game and obviously came out of the gates quick. Scored three there in the first, but I thought we settled down and pitched well from that point forward. But credit College of Charleston. They did enough to win."
O'Sullivan on the quick turnaround: "It is what it is. We've got no choice. We're not going to talk about it. Pregame meal is at 9 a.m. We win, we advance. We don't, season's over. We're not going to talk anything about the quick turnaround. It is what it is. Both teams played in the same situation tonight. They had the long delay, too."