Pitching Weary Gators Drop Game One To Texas

The Florida Gators rolled the dice with a freshman on the mound in game one of the NCAA Championship Weekend at the College World Series. With the pitching situation in a quandary after the injury to Alan Horne Thursday, Coach Pat McMahon went with freshman lefty Stephen Locke Saturday but the experienced Texas Longhorns teed off on him for four early runs and held on to a 4-2 win.

Game two will be played Sunday at 3 p.m. Florida (48-22) will probably start senior righthander Tommy Boss who will be working on two days rest against Texas (55-16).

Staked to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Longhorns extended the lead to 2-0 in the third on a solo home run by Will Crouch with two outs. Crouch is now 8-16 in the College World Series.

In the fourth, David Maroul hit his tenth homer of the year, a two-run shot to left field that gave Texas a 4-0 lead.

It was ironic that Texas got its offense from the long ball. The Longhorns have been winning on singles, bunts and sacrifice fly balls all season long. The home runs were only numbers 53 and 54 on the season in 71 games.

That early offense was all Texas freshman Adrian Alaniz needed. Using pretty much the same formula that Arizona State used on Wednesday and Thursday, Alaniz consistently used a slow breaking ball to get ahead early in the count. Once ahead in the count, he kept the Gators guessing and did an exceptional job of mixing the breaking ball with changeups, all of which made his 84-mile per hour fast ball seem better than it really was.

Alaniz (8-3) gave the Longhorns seven strong innings. He gave up a single to Brian Jeroloman in the second inning that was the only hard hit ball that got a Gator on base. Matt LaPorta had a double on a blooper to right field in the sixth inning.

It wasn't until the eighth that Florida finally mounted a scoring threat. Justin Tordi's bunt single and a walk to Stephen Barton ended the evening for Alaniz, forcing Texas to bring in its bullpen ace, J. Brent Cox, who was a second round draft pick of the Yankees.

Cox advanced the runners to second and third with a wild pitch before getting Jeff Corsaletti on a called third strike with a full count. Cox steadied to strike out Adam Davis before LaPorta delivered a single up the middle to score Tordi and Barton.

Jeroloman and Matt Gaski followed with walks to load the bases, but Cox steadied himself once again and struck out Brian LeClerc on a wicked slider on that broke down and in.

In the ninth, Cox struck out the side for his NCAA leading 18th save of the season.

Texas, which teed off on Locke, was shut down from the fifth inning onward. Connor Falkenbach relieved Locke in the fifth and he gave Florida three and two-thirds innings of three-hit relief, striking out three. He was relieved in the eighth by Mike Pete who got a strikeout to end the inning.

Darren O'Day pitched a one-two-three ninth with a pair of strikeouts.

Boss, who threw 61 pitches Thursday when he threw nearly five innings of relief to get the win against Arizona State that advanced the Gators to the championship, is expected to take the ball for Florida Sunday. Boss doesn't throw high velocity and his arm has proven fairly resilient in the past. He's not an overpowering pitcher but relies on keeping the ball in the strike zone and keeping the ball low.

It could actually work in Florida's favor that Boss will be pitching on short notice. In that he is a sinker ball pitcher, he may have what baseball analysts call a "heavy arm" which translates into more sink on the ball. If he's able to get the sinker working early, expect a lot of ground outs.

If Boss can give the Gators five solid innings, Falkenbach, Pete and O'Day will probably get the call to close the game out, but Florida's offense will have to wake up. The Gators hitting has been far too sporadic in the five games they've played in Omaha. It's do or die now for the Gators but this is a team that has shown the ability to bounce back. Never will that be more tested than Sunday.

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