Big innings have been crucial for the Florida Gators at the College World Series.
Friday afternoon, the Gators were back at racking up the runs, this time putting up four in the third and five in the sixth to beat Virginia 10-5 in a must-win game at TD Ameritrade Park.
The Gators (52-17) forced a one-game playoff Saturday against the Cavaliers (41-23), with the winner advancing to the best-of-3 championship round against Vanderbilt starting Monday. The loser goes home.
Florida’s bid for its first national baseball championship lives on after snapping Virginia’s seven-game winning streak.
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“Obviously we’re excited to be playing [Saturday],” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We’ve responded all year long with our backs against the wall.”
The Gators, who beat a non-Florida team for the first time since the SEC tournament, were shut down by Virginia on Monday night, the 1-0 loss forcing them into the losers’ bracket and an elimination game with Miami.
In Florida’s previous two CWS wins against the Hurricanes, it scored three-plus runs in a single inning four times — including an 11-run fourth in the 15-3 victory in the opener last Saturday.
Friday, Florida did it twice as it scored four in the third inning and five in the seventh to put the Cavaliers away.
So far, the Gators have scored four or more runs in four separate innings in this CWS — more than the other seven teams that started this tournament combined.
“We have a tendency to have big innings,” O’Sullivan said. “In order to do that, you have to be good one through nine.
“We’re getting a lot of contributions from throughout the lineup.”
On Friday, Virginia took the early lead, going up 1-0 in the top of the first on an RBI single by Matt Thaiss.
Florida, which got only two hits in Monday’s loss, didn’t really get anything going until the third.
With one out, Dalton Guthrie — batting eighth — reached on an infield single then moved to third on a Ryan Larson single.
Guthrie tied the score on a grounder from leadoff hitter Harrison Bader.
Florida then tacked on three more runs, with Larson scoring on Richie Martin’s double, Martin scoring on a Josh Tobias single, and Tobias racing home on a passed ball to make it 4-1.
“We’re coming together as a team at the right time,’’ Martin said. “Earlier in the season, we didn’t have the hitting, pitching and defense going. It’s nice to get this rolling in the postseason when it matters.”
The two teams didn’t do much offensively until Florida got things rolling again in the sixth by loading the bases with no outs.
After a force at the plate for the first out, the Gators plated five runs in the inning to break things open and take a 9-1 lead.
As was the case in last Saturday’s 11-run inning against Miami, there wasn’t one big hit for Florida — just a bunch of singles with a couple of walks and a hit batter thrown in.
“It all started at the SEC tournament, everyone just started hitting,” starting pitcher Logan Shore said. “It seems like every single game we’re putting up double-digit runs, which is awesome.”
Florida is expected to bring back A.J. Puk — who gave up one run in Monday’s loss to Virginia — for Saturday’s rematch.
“It’s all hands on deck [Saturday],” O’Sullivan said.
VANDY IN FINALS
Defending national champion Vanderbilt returned to the CWS finals after Walker Buehler and John Kilichowski combined on a five-hitter and Rhett Wiseman homered in a 7-1 victory over TCU on Friday night.
The Commodores move to the best-of-3 finals starting Monday against Saturday’s UF-Virginia winner.
Miami Herald wire services contributed to this report.