GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Senior Ryan Larson, sidelined for the last two weeks, lined a walk-off single to center in the bottom of the 11th inning to give Florida a 2-1 win over Wake Forest in Game 1 of the Gainesville Super Regional.
Wake Forest helped the Gators' cause by loading the bases with a walk and two hit batters. Larson, who was hit in the head by a pitch at the SEC Tournament, stepped to the plate with two outs and lined the 0-1 pitch right back up the middle to bring home Jonathan India as the winning run.
It was Florida's 18th one-run win on the season, the most in the nation, and its first walk-off win since March 18, 2016 against Missouri.
Florida (46-17) weathered a nearly four-hour weather delay and won a pitchers' duel with Wake Forest (42-19) to take the series opener.
The Gators' pitching staff racked up 23 strikeouts on Saturday night, the most ever in a NCAA Tournament game in school history.
Alex Faedo led the charge on the mound with four scoreless innings to start the game, racking up nine strikeouts with just one walk.
Florida opened the scoring before the weather delay, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning. Mike Rivera led off the inning with a single up the middle and Deacon Liput followed with a walk to put a pair of Gators on.
After Jonathan India's sacrifice bunt advanced both runners, Rivera scored from third on Dalton Guthrie's RBI groundout to first base.
In the top of the fourth, Faedo struck out the side before the lightning struck.
The two teams headed inside to wait out the three-hour, 49-minute rain delay before play resumed at 8:07 p.m.
Following the delay, Florida called upon Brady Singer to make his first relief appearance of the season.
Singer, the scheduled Game 2 starter, retired the first seven batters he faced and limited the Demon Deacons to just two hits in four innings of work.
Heading to the ninth with a one-run lead, head coach Kevin O'Sullivan opted to bring in All-America closer Michael Byrne to finish off the game.
Wake Forest had other plans.
Catcher Ben Breazeale took the second pitch he saw from Byrne and hit an opposite field home run just inside the left field foul pole to tie the game.
Byrne retired the next three batters to keep the game even. Wake Forest brought in closer Griffin Roberts who worked a scoreless ninth inning to send the game to extras.
Byrne and Roberts battled through the 10th -- with Byrne escaping a bases-loaded jam -- and into the 11th as Johhny Aiello led off inning with a single off Byrne. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runner into scoring position, Byrne extinguished the threat with a pair of strikeouts.
Mike Rivera drew a leadoff walk in the 11th and JJ Schwarz and Nelson Maldonado each got hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Wake Forest went back to the pen and brought in freshman Colin Peluse with the bases loaded and one out.
The Gators pinch-hit with Mark Kolozsvary but Peluse struck him out on three pitches. Larson's heroics won the game as his teammates mobbed him in the outfield.
Head Coach Kevin O'Sullivan Opening Statement: "Another one-run game. We hung in there. Obviously it was not our best night offensively. We needed to make a ton of pitches and once again we continued to make pitch after pitch. They left 11 on base, and it seems like that. They had some opportunities. I think the strikeout by Alex on Gavin Sheets with the bases loaded and one out was a huge, huge turning point in that game, even though it was early.
"We had a tough decision to make about who we were going to start after Alex [and the weather delay]. I just had that feel that we were going to have a little trouble scoring runs. Just a gut feel. We had the opportunity to move Jackson [Kowar] up one start and we can piece this thing together. Brady can come back on Monday, Michael as well. We've got some out of Alex too. We'll see how tomorrow goes.
"It was just one of those games. Both teams pitched exceptionally well. Their starter was really, really good. Their closer was as good as advertised with the slider, just kind of lost the zone there in the 11th. We had a senior at the plate who stayed in the middle of the field and had a big hit for us. Not an easy game but we did just enough to win. Wake Forest has got a heck of a ball club. Tomorrow is not going to be easy."
On the decision to go to Byrne in the ninth inning: "I thought there were a lot of emotional pitches that Brady had to make, and we've gone to Michael Byrne the whole year in the ninth inning. That happens. Their kid put a good swing on a pitch, he earned it. Went the opposite way. We still can use both these guys [Singer and Byrne] this weekend. I wouldn't second-guess that decision at all because Michael has been the guy at the end of the game. Quite honestly we need Brady again this weekend."
Senior OF Ryan Larson On returning from injury and getting game-winning hit: "It was nice, obviously to get the win. Throughout the week, I've got to thank the pitchers that stayed late and threw live to me, Cole Maye, Garrett Milchin, a couple others - thank you. That helped me feel a lot more comfortable at the dish with the little flap [on my helmet]. We got the win tonight and I feel pretty comfortable now."
On the final at bat: "I was watching those pitches to Mark and it looked like [his fastball] had some ride to it. Walking up there I remember we were watching a game in the locker room a few days ago and Sully spit out some stat that 74% of game-winning hits are up the middle, something like that. I decided to stay up the middle of the field."
Sophomore RHP Brady Singer On the chance he may pitch Saturday: "Yeah, in my mind, I knew I wanted to go. Sully came up to me and asked me and it was a definite yes. I was fortunate enough to get out there.
On the emotion showed on the mound: "It's Super Regionals, it's postseason. We're trying to get to Omaha and I think you've got to pitch with emotion in the postseason. I just had a lot of fun and the fans were great. The defense really picked me up in clutch situations, the play by Dalton and the play by India were huge."
Sophomore RHP Michael Byrne On bouncing back after giving up the home run: "Just getting ahead and throwing strikes, getting ground balls or striking guys out. Just whatever it took to get back in the dugout with zeros."
Wake Forest Head Coach Tom Walter Opening Statement: "Obviously a disappointing ballgame. We certainly had our chances and just didn't execute some situations throughout the game. Didn't get some bunts down, runners in scoring position. We talk all the time that two-out RBIs are usually the difference in a ballgame and they got one and we didn't. Really well pitched ballgame on both sides. No one deserved to lose that game. Give credit to Florida, they won the ballgame."
On the delay: "It's college baseball, it happens. We have these delays 4-5-6 times a year, so it's nothing that we're not used to. Parker wanted the baseball and obviously threw the baseball very well post-delay. For us, there was really no consideration as long as Parker felt fine he was going to continue to go for us."
Senior C Ben Breazeale On the home run in the ninth inning: "Leading off the inning, just trying to see a pitch I could drive. Really was just trying to get on base. I wasn't trying to do too much. When I connected with it I didn't think it was going to go out, to be honest."