GAINESVILLE, Fla.-The Gators needed a hero on Monday and freshman Austin Langworthy rose to the challenge.
Langworthy pitched four innings in relief and hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning to propel Florida to a 6-1 win over Bethune-Cookman (36-25).
Michael Byrne relieved Langworthy in the seventh inning and closed out the game, finishing the Regional with 10.0 scoreless innings pitched.
Over his past 17 appearances, Byrne has allowed just one earned run in 27.2 innings (0.33 ERA), notching 12 of his school-record 16 saves during that span.
With the win, Florida (45-17) advances to the Super Regionals for the seventh time in the past nine years. The Gators will host Wake Forest next weekend. Dates and times for the Super Regional will be released once all Regional action is completed.
Both teams entered Monday's game with question marks on the mound, having depleted the pitching staffs with seven combined games over three days entering Monday's Regional final.
Freshman Kirby McMullen, making his first career start for Florida, pitched 2.2 scoreless innings with three hits allowed before being replaced in the third inning.
Langworthy, who started the game in left field, took the mound after McMullen allowed a pair of two-out singles in the third. Langworthy struck out the next batter to end the inning, then went three more innings without allowing a hit.
Langworthy provided the big blow at the plate in the sixth inning.
With one out, Nelson Maldonado singled to start a chain of events that sparked the Gators.
Mike Rivera popped a ball up on the infield that was dropped by the first baseman, who then proceeded to throw the ball into centerfield trying to catch Maldonado advancing.
With runners on second and third, Langworthy stepped in and hit his third home run of the season - the first since March 3 against Columbia - to give Florida a 3-0 lead.
Langworthy then jogged back to the mound and worked a bottom half of the inning.
The Gators made it 4-0 in the seventh with back-to-back singles from Jonathan India and Dalton Guthrie. India led off with a single through the left side, then stole second and took third on a wild pitch. Guthrie brought him home with a single to center field.
Bethune-Cookman finally got a hit off Langworthy in the seventh inning, putting together a pair of hits with two outs to get on the board.
Closer Michael Byrne entered the game and caught Demetrius Sims looking at the third strike to end the threat.
Langworthy continued to do damage at the plate, leading off the eighth with a double to left center. Byrne, who was in the lineup after the Gators eliminated the designated hitter spot earlier in the game, laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Langworthy to third base.
A sac fly from Nick Horvath gave Florida a 5-1 lead.
After Byrne worked a scoreless eighth, a RBI single from Nelson Maldonado tacked on one more insurance run.
Byrne recorded his second save of the weekend to extend his school record with 16 saves on the season.
FLORIDA POSTGAME QUOTES Head Coach Kevin O'Sullivan Opening Statement: "First of all, I'd like to compliment Bethune-Cookman, because they gave us everything we could handle these last two days. We won a very emotional game Saturday night against South Florida and Marist gave us everything we could handle as well. It was not an easy Regional for us, but we figured it out. I'll get to our players here in a minute, but I just want to compliment Bethune-Cookman. They've got three really good outfielders that can run balls down, they can all throw. The shortstop's a really good player and the second baseman, I don't think anybody figured out how to get him out all weekend. And they're pitching did a nice job, they just ran out of arms there at the end. To get to Monday after losing the first game says a lot about their team and character.
"The second thing is, with the 4:00 start, it's not an easy game to get to from a fan perspective. I thought our fans were outstanding today. So I want to thank our fans, that definitely made a difference.
"As far as the game is concerned, last night was a very frustrating night for everybody. The coaches and I, and Eggy [equipment manager Edmund Boyd], stayed up and we were talking about what we were going to do today. We were in an unusual situation pitching-wise because we've pretty much stayed the course all season long with Faedo-Singer-Kowar and we haven't really gotten into a situation where we really got into who would be our midweek starter. I think hopefully we'll get Garrett Milchin back next week, we'll see how he progresses as the week goes on. So we had to mix and match.
"It was a very interesting conversation, it lasted until about 2:00 in the morning. We came to the conclusion that we wanted to start Kirby because he's a strike-thrower. His numbers against right handers are very good. We had planned to go to Langworthy. Really, it was two innings for Kirby, two for Langworthy, an inning with [Tyler] Dyson - so we'd go soft lefty, hard righty - then we'd go back to Horvath for two and then see where we are at with the ballgame. We had plans, guys going to the outfield once we brought in Langworthy, Reese was probably going to be the first guy out, and then we had to be careful with the DH and where the pitcher would hit in that spot in the order. Low and behold, we have to bring in Michael in the seventh and he lays down a bunt. Our hitters should probably take note of that. We did have a plan in place. Jackson Kowar wanted to throw an inning if we needed him; I did not want to get into that situation. Didn't really want to bring in Michael, but I just thought with the season on the line, he said he felt good, he kept his pitch count down, for me, it's a remarkable season that Michael has had. He will not pick up a ball this week. We'll figure out when we're going to play this weekend against Wake Forest and go from there.
"There was definitely a plan in place - it was a complicated one, one that we went back-and-forth with all night long. I think the job that Kirby and Austin did was just outstanding. They kept us right where we were at and gave us a chance and the three-run homer kind of loosened everyone up in the dugout.
"With that being said, I'm awfully proud of our team. I think this is seven of nine years in the Supers, which is not easy as everyone knows. We're playing at home against a very good Wake Forest team. I've looked at them just briefly, obviously we'll get to work on them tonight and figure out a little bit more about their club. I know they've got some power numbers and they've got some guys in the middle of the order that can really hit. We'll dig into them a little bit more.
"I want these guys to enjoy it. This has been a different year for us. We've won a lot of one-run games and a lot of things have not come easy to us. But I do think in the long run it will make us a tougher team. I got a text from Tim Walton today, they lost their first game in the Supers and had to come back and win the next two and look where they're at right now. Hopefully al the adversity that we've had, even though our record is really, really good, 45-17 now, there's been a lot of games we've had to grind out. I'm awfully proud of our team, our players. They deserve all the credit they get and we're excited about playing next weekend."
Freshman OF/RHP Austin Langworthy On his approach on the mound: "Pound the strike zone. That was mindset. Simple as that."
On the at bat in the sixth inning home run: "It was a breaking ball that backed up, he threw me a couple earlier in the at bat so I figured that one was going to back up as well, so I just sat in and it happened to be there and I got good barrel to it."
Sophomore INF Jonathan India On the home run and the effect on the dugout: "That was awesome, we needed that because we were playing a little tense in the beginning. That was a great at bat by him to come through like that for us. We needed that."
On Byrne: "He's done it all year for us. We feel so comfortable out there when he's on the mound. He's done it all year and it's pretty awesome."
Sophomore RHP Michael Byrne: On closing out the Regional: "It's definitely exciting. We've wanted to go to the Supers all year, that's the ultimate goal to go to Omaha and beyond and win it all."
On how he felt entering the game: "I was good, I was not sore or anything so it was all good. I was comfortable out there ... I didn't plead that case [to start the game], but I wanted to pitch for sure."