Florida's first game at the 2016 College World Series could have belonged to Logan Shore. The Gators' ace was on the bump, and generally excellent against the team that led the nation in home runs, though he let up more extra-base hits than was advisable, and was sabotaged by his defense.
Instead, it would belong to Coastal Carolina's Andrew Beckwith, who bewildered the Gators for the full nine innings. And the win would go to the Chanticleers, 2-1, sending Florida to the dreaded losers' bracket and placing the Gators' backs squarely against the wall.
Shore allowed two runs and five hits, earning his first loss in more than a year, but the second was the backbreaker, and belonged to Buddy Reed as much as Shore. Reed misplayed a deep fly and crashed into the wall, producing an RBI triple that pushed across the winning run. And while Dane Dunning and then Shaun Anderson would serve as Florida's firemen, helping the Gators get through the rest of the night unscathed, all the damage that needed to be done had happened.
Such was Beckwith's spell, as he scattered seven hits, all singles except for Deacon Liput's double in the fifth to set up Florida's only run of the day. He went the full nine innings without any significant trouble, and induced grounders time and again with a submarine delivery that left Florida unable to make sharp contact. No Gator had more than one hit; not a one walked, as Beckwith pounded the zone and stayed ahead of hitters.
The good news for Florida, if any exists heading into the most treacherous part of the College World Series, is that the Gators have already faced elimination after a very similar loss — doing so just one week ago, after a shutout loss against Florida State in the Gainesville Super Regional.
But the Gators had Shore to turn to on Sunday after that Saturday loss, and will not have him on Tuesday after this Sunday setback, instead needing Alex Faedo or A.J. Puk — who cameoed as a reliever, hitting a batter and being immediately pulled — to do the job Shore did by blanking the Seminoles.
Against a Texas Tech team that won the Big 12 in 2016, that might be difficult. And the Gators' margin for error has now disappeared.