For the Florida Gators, it’s win-or-’cue o’clock in Omaha.
After a College World Series-opening loss to Texas Tech on Sunday, the Gators face elimination in the losers’ bracket on Tuesday (3:37 p.m. Eastern, ESPN or WatchESPN or ESPN Plus) against Texas, one of the nation’s most storied collegiate baseball programs.
The Longhorns, though, also lost their opener in Omaha — and in far more distressing fashion than the Gators did, believe it or not, getting sideswiped by Arkansas in an 11-5 rout. And while the Gators will throw MLB first-rounder Jackson Kowar in this game, Texas will throw a lesser-regarded No. 2 in the form of Blair Henley, who has worked as both starter and reliever for the Longhorns this postseason, and has just one outing of more than three innings since April 18.
That could be the tonic for what ails Florida’s offense, which struggled to score against Texas Tech’s assortment of softer-tossing pitchers — but it’s also possible that the Gators will continue what has been a weeks-long allergy to scoring runs and collecting hits with runners on. And the return of Florida captain JJ Schwarz did not energize the Gators on Sunday, as he struggled both in the field at first base and at the plate.
Schwarz being better would go a long way toward Florida playing better, but so would any of Florida’s batters stepping up. And Kowar going deep into this game without a blow-up like the one Brady Singer dealt with in the latter stages of his Sunday start would help, too.
But the plain fact is that Florida either has to play better baseball in all facets or hope that Texas plays poorly to avoid a winless trip to Omaha, the sort of two-and-barbecue disappointment the Gators hoped to avoid as defending national champions.
We’ll see if that comes to pass.