I’ve been worried about the Gators for weeks as their hitting has struggled, the defense (especially the play behind the plate) has been brutal, and the pitching staff hasn’t been as crisp. All of that reared itself Sunday night in a 6-3 opening-round loss to Texas Tech at the CWS.
Florida managed just 5 hits in the game including just two combined from Liput, India, Dalton, and Langworthy. JJ Schwartz returned to the lineup for the first time since the regular season but went 0/4. His replacement behind the plate, Jonah Girand, continues to struggle hitting and defensively (passed ball allows a run to score). Girand is 1 for his last 18.
Brady Singer won the Dick Howser Award on Friday but struggled on Sunday night. Tech was aggressive early in counts and Singer hits a lot of bats. Singer gave up 9 hits and 5 runs (2 earned) in 6.1. As traffic on the bases mounted and the humidity took it’s toll, Singer wilted. He started leaving pitches up – ideal for a team like Texas Tech.
It was Singer’s first loss in 3 months. To be fair to the first rounder, three unearned runs were the difference in the game.
That shaky defense is one of the main causes that this season has gone off the rails in the Gators’ last 15 games. Sure, they won a regional and a Super but were not sharp in either – being pushed to elimination games by FAU and Auburn.
After clinching the regular-season SEC title on May 12, the focus and intensity of this team has disappeared. In 15 games since then, Florida has:
- hit just .222 (107 of 481).
- given up 62 earned runs (4.15 ERA) after a 3.17 ERA through the UGA series; and
- committed 19 errors (1.26 per game) vs. 36 errors (.69 per game) in 52 games previously. They’ve practically doubled their errors per game.
- The errors have led to 24 unearned runs – over half of the unearned runs UF has given up this season.
The Gators head to the losers bracket from which it’s almost impossible to win the national title. LSU advanced to the championship series from the losers bracket in 2017 but didn’t have the pitching necessary while Florida had plenty of fresh arms.
Florida will likely turn to Jackson Kowar for the game vs. Texas on Tuesday. Kowar dominated early in the season but has a 5.11 ERA in 4 starts since clinching the SEC title. A loss ends their title defense while a win earns them a rematch with Tech or Arkansas – the two hottest-hitting teams in the country.
Florida is in a tough spot.