Playing their second elimination game of the day, the Gators defeated Texas Tech 7-1 on Sunday night to force a winner-take-all Gainesville Regional championship game on Monday at noon.
Freshman Cade Fisher started and went seven innings for Florida, the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Fisher gave up just one run on five hits and struck out six in the longest start of his young career while throwing 93 pitches.
Florida broke open a scoreless game in the top of the sixth with four runs, avenging a 5-4 loss to the Red Raiders on Saturday night.
Two-way star Jac Caglianone once again was in the middle of the action. In Florida's 8-2 win over UConn earlier in the day, Caglianone hit two home runs and drove in five runs. He delivered in a more subtle way against the Red Raiders, lining an RBI single to right to snap a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth and spark a four-run outburst.
What made Caglianone's hit so impactful was that it immediately followed a disaster on the bases for the Gators. With runners at second and third and nobody out, Wyatt Langford hit a ground ball to third base. Richie Schiekofer was thrown out at home on the play, and then Langford got hung out between first and second, prompting Cade Kurland to try and score from second.
Kurland was thrown out at the plate, resulting in a 5-2-6-3-2 double play that ended with Langford at second base, in scoring position for Caglianone. Then the Florida standout came through with the clutch hit as the Gators eventually sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning.
The Gators got 18 strikeouts in 14 innings from their two starting pitchers Sunday: Hurston Waldrep and Fisher. Meanwhile, Waldrep and Fisher allowed only 10 hits and posted a 1.29 ERA.
Freshman left-hander Fisher had made 20 appearances prior to Sunday, 19 of those coming in relief. However, Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan turned to Fisher to start his team's second do-or-die game of the day and Fisher turned in a spectacular performance. Fisher limited Texas Tech to five hits and a run over seven innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out six.
Fisher carried a shutout into the bottom of the eighth before being replaced by Brandon Neely after the first two batters in the inning reached.
BY THE NUMBERS: 84 - RBI for Caglianone, one shy of matching the school record established by Preston Tucker in 2009.
FROM THE COACH: "Cade was outstanding. The same thing can be said about Hurston. We wouldn't be in this position to have enough pitching for [Monday] if we didn't get those two starts. We're in good shape. I know you're going to ask me who is going to start. I don't know yet. But we've got options. We've got a bunch of guys that have pitched in big-level situations that will be available." - Gators head coach Kevin O'Sullivan on pitching
- Sunday night's game was delayed due to weather by one hour and 30 minutes.
- The Gators are playing in their second-straight NCAA Regional final against a Big-12 opponent.
- The Gators have played in 10 Regional finals under O'Sullivan.
- Florida is now 122-83 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
- The Gators are 85-51 in NCAA Regional play.
- UF is hosting its 19th NCAA Regional while making the 38th Regional appearance in program history. Florida has hosted 12 out of a possible 15 Regionals in the O'Sullivan era.
- Kurland was hit by a pitch for the 20th time this season, which now ranks second all-time in a season at UF behind David Eckstein (25 - 1997).
- Langford hit his 24th double of the season to drive in two runs in the ninth, bringing him within four of tying Mike Zunino's single-season program record of 28.
- Florida has struck out 638 batters in 532 innings - translating to 10.8 per nine innings, which would mark a new program record.
- Florida is now 2-3 all-time vs. Texas Tech, all of which have taken place in the postseason in the O'Sullivan era.
Florida and Texas Tech meet for the third time in the Gainesville Regional on Monday at 12 p.m., this one for the regional championship and a Super Regional berth.