Gators Hoping to Rebound on Monday

OMAHA, Neb. – A run through the loser's bracket depends on one thing—pitching. The Gators have plenty of it. At the podium after a 7-3 loss to South Carolina on Saturday night, there wasn't much optimism shortly after defeat. The offense needs to improve after scoring two of its three runs on a misplay in the outfield, but even with a short start from Brian Johnson, there's still pitching left.

"You have to have pitching in this tournament to win ballgames, and I think that's one thing our team has," Preston Tucker said. "It's going to be tough but it has been done before. I think if anyone can do it, we can."

Two years ago in Omaha, the Gators lost their first game in the College World Series to UCLA and future first-round pick Trevor Bauer. It sent them into the loser's bracket, where Florida dropped the next game to Florida State and was the first team eliminated.

The veterans on the current team were freshmen and sophomores then. The Gators had pitching that season, but the depth wasn't close to where it has become in the past two years.

It starts on Monday with Hudson Randall. Kevin O'Sullivan made a controversial decision to hold him from the first game and start Brian Johnson, who gave up five runs in four innings of work on Saturday, against South Carolina instead.

Randall is coming off seven shutout innings against North Carolina State in the Super Regional. He gets the ball against Kent State right-hander Ryan Bores (9-3, 3.35 ERA) on Monday at 5 p.m. ET.

"We have a lot of pitching left," Josh Tobias said. "Quality baseball teams bounce back from failure. We've got a championship team, so we'll bounce back and come out fighting on Monday night against Kent State."

The Gators should have a full bullpen available on Monday outside of Keenan Kish, who threw 47 pitches in three innings of work Saturday. Key reliever such as Greg Larson and Steven Rodriguez threw 16 and 18 pitches respectively and should be ready for action if needed. Austin Maddox didn't get into the game.

Those relievers could be less important if Randall continues his strong work in the NCAA Tournament. In the NCAA Tournament over the past two years, Randall is 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA. In his two starts in the College World Series last year, Randall allowed just two runs in 14 innings against Texas and South Carolina.

Having Randall on the mound on Monday is the only focus for Florida. With a long road of four wins in a row necessary to get back to the championship series, O'Sullivan doesn't want his group to think about anything more than taking on Kent State.

"Once you're in the loser's bracket, you can't look too far ahead," O'Sullivan said. "We'll just concern ourselves with Monday."

The Gators will need deep pitching performances from starting pitchers and an improved offensive performance, but the players believe it can be done. If Florida is able to get by Kent State, the Gators will take on South Carolina or Arkansas the rest of the way through their side of the bracket.

"We've got a great bullpen," Tucker said. "We've got guys we trust. I think that we've got a good shot if we go out there and pitch the way we know we can."

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