CWS: Horns lose opener in Omaha

Jon Parrett

OMAHA, Neb.— Texas took an early lead on Florida, but pitcher Taylor Jungmann couldn’t find his rhythm as the Gators rallied to beat Texas 8-4 Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park in the Longhorns' opener at the College World Series.

Florida scored five runs in three innings to take the lead and didn’t look back.

“We played a below average game against a very good team and they were able to capitalize on it and penalize us severely for the mistakes,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “We gave them extra base runners, free bases, and extra outs within the framework of the inning and they’re too good to do that.”

Texas grabbed the lead in the third inning with three runs, the first coming on an RBI single from Tant Shepherd that scored Jacob Felts. Mark Payton followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Jordan Etier, and Weiss finished off the scoring with a sac-fly of his own to score Shepherd.

“Any time we get out to an early lead it’s big for us, but you can’t ever assume anything in baseball,” said Texas shortstop Brandon Loy. “We weren’t assuming we had the game won win we went up three runs.”

The Gators answered in the bottom of the third inning with two runs. Jungmann threw seven of eight pitches for balls to begin the inning and walked the first two batters. Cody Dent got Florida on the board with a single to center field by Bryson Smith, and Nolan Fontana scored later in the inning on a passed ball, after advancing to third base on a wild pitch.

“I walked more guys than I usually do and they took advantage of it,” Jungmann said.

Florida scored twice more in the fourth inning to grab the lead and added another in the fifth to end Jungmann’s day. The junior pitched 4.1 innings and walked four while surrendering five runs on only three hits.

Florida starter Hudson Randall settled after allowing three runs in the third and pitched into the seventh inning, letting one more run score. Randall didn’t walk a batter, and only one of the four runs was earned.

“We got on him early and then we kind of backed down off him,” Etier said. “They fought back and they got momentum on their side and he was able to build off of that. If we would have stayed with that I think we could be on the other side of this ball game.”

Texas scored a run to get within one in the seventh off a double from Etier, but Florida answered in the bottom of the frame with a 2-run double from Brian Johnson that, after further replay, should have been ruled a home run.

Prior to the double, the play on a routine groundball was made difficult when a balk was called on Texas reliever Andrew McKirahan. Tant Shepherd was unable to make the play as the Gators had runners safely on first and second. McKirahan got the next batter to fly out, which could have been the third out had the previous play been made. Johnson was then able to take advantage of the earlier play with his double.

“The play before the balk, I thought about telling Andrew [about his motion], so as soon as the balk call happened, I put my head down a little bit and they swung away,” said Loy, who should have been on second for Shepherd to throw to. “Tant looked at me to throw the ball and I obviously wasn’t on the bag, because I was mad at myself. It was a mental error on my part.”

The Longhorns will face North Carolina on Monday as they make their way through the loser’s bracket, something they’re all too familiar with this postseason. Florida will face Vanderbilt later that day.

“There have been championships that have been won out of the losers bracket before, so we know it can be done,” Garrido said. “We have an opportunity, and we’ll have to fight our way back.”