Game four of the 2018 Men’s College World Series between the Florida Gators and the Texas Tech Red Raiders landed the defending National Champion Gators in unfamiliar territory.
After losing to the Red Raiders on Sunday night, June 17th, the Gators now find themselves in a must-win situation for the rest of the tournament in search of their program’s first back-to-back CWS championships.
In a matchup that started out as a defensive stalemate, featuring only one run in the first three innings, it quickly escalated to an offensive battle. Florida was the first to strike in the bottom of the third inning when shortstop Deacon Liput was walked to first, stole his way to third base and waltzed into home plate on behalf of TTU’s pitcher, Ryan Shetter, who committed a balk.
“I wasn’t sure what I did. I came in the dugout, heard a few guys say I might have moved a little bit, started early. But the team came back,” said Shetter.
Florida would take that 1-0 lead into the top of the fourth but wouldn’t enjoy it for long. The Red Raiders quickly answered when Grant Little hit a sacrifice fly ball allowing Josh Lung to score from third making it a 1-1 ballgame with two outs. Florida pitcher Brady Singer would retire the next batter on strikes to bring the Gators up to bat again in the top of the fourth.
Florida would go three up, three down against the stellar Red Raider defense which allowed them to finally create some separation on the scoreboard. Texas Tech tacked on two runs in the each of the fifth and sixth inning making the score 5-1 when Florida got back on offense in the bottom of the sixth. Another scoreless inning for the Gators gave Texas Tech a healthy 4 run advantage with only nine more outs to go until their first win in the 2018 CWS.
Florida’s defense continued to make plays and Singer was replaced by Jordan Butler on the mound in the top of the seventh inning as Texas Tech hitters would go three up and three down. It seemed the Gators were due for a comeback win after pinch-hitter Brady Smith’s single was followed up by a two-run blast off the bat of Nelson Maldonado but that would be the last of Florida’s offense. Texas Tech held off the high-powered Gator offense for the remainder of the game while adding one more security run in the ninth inning, making the final score 6-3.
“They respect the game of baseball. And that’s probably really what it comes down to. There’s not too many guys in there after you win the night are going to say, hey, we got this figured out. They know you’ve got to go respect the game, play nine innings,” said TTU head coach, Tim Tadlock, after the win.
Texas Tech advances to the winner’s bracket in the 2018 CWS and will face the Arkansas Razorbacks on Tuesday evening, June 19. The defending champion Florida Gators fall to the loser’s bracket and will play the Texas Longhorns Tuesday afternoon in a heavy-weight elimination game that will send one team home.