You have eyes. If they work, and you watched the Florida Gators’ 6-3 loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Omaha at the College World Series late Sunday night, you know what I’m going to write here.
I don’t have to tell you that Florida played astonishingly poor defense on the collegiate game’s biggest stage, that JJ Schwarz looked overmatched in his return to the lineup and the field after a hand injury, that Brady Singer pitched gamely and brilliantly until he didn’t, that the combination of all of those three things led to the Red Raiders building a lead that Florida’s anemic offense couldn’t meaningfully dent outside of a late Nelson Maldonado homer.
I don’t have to note that Florida got good fortune in the form of Texas Tech miscues on the way to scoring the game’s first run, and immediately gave it back via its own mistakes. I don’t have to dwell on Singer being nearly unhittable his first time through the order, then being betrayed by a borderline balk call and defensive inadequacy behind him. I don’t need to spend any words on Jonah Girand turning back into a pumpkin this postseason after his phenomenal Gainesville Regional, or marvel at how Texas Tech making enormous defensive plays to thwart Florida fits the NCAA Tournament’s theme of Florida’s opponents making enormous defensive plays to thwart Florida.
And I really don’t even need to say that Florida has, to its credit, rallied when challenged by the threat of elimination in this postseason, winning do-or-die games at both levels thus far, and that Kevin O’Sullivan does have moves available to kick-start his scuffling team. O’Sullivan shifted Brady Smith to catcher to replace Girand after Sunday bled into Monday, and he was instantly an upgrade at the plate and arguably no worse behind it; he could do that and reinstate Keenan Bell at first base on Tuesday against Texas to put Florida’s best defensive first baseman in the field to handle the increasingly errant throws from Jonathan India and Deacon Liput.
And while Sully will throw Jackson Kowar against the Longhorns — Florida’s not going out of Omaha without throwing both of its first-rounder starters — he also has options available among his reliable bullpen hands and his deep bench of starters-to-be for a long, arduous road back from the elimination bracket. Florida will need to win four games from Tuesday to Saturday to make the championship series, but it could conceivably do so by throwing Kowar on Tuesday, a potential future Friday starter in Jack Leftwich on Thursday, the guy who won the last game of last year’s College World Series in Tyler Dyson on Friday, and Singer again on Saturday.
There are no worse situations at the College World Series than the one Florida is currently in by virtue of having lost its first game, in other words — but there are also few programs that have ever been better-equipped to make a charge on the long road back than the Gators, whose incredible arsenal of pitchers groomed by O’Sullivan is an exceedingly rare asset in the college game.
That depth probably won’t mean a damn thing if Florida doesn’t start hitting, and it might not mean anything if Florida starts hitting but keeps hemorrhaging runs in the field. But it exists, as does Florida’s pride in having reached this stage a year after claiming a trophy on it.
And if the Gators are to leave Omaha with heads held high, they will need to do so — championship or not, victory or loss — by going out fighting.
We’ll see if that happens on Tuesday afternoon.