Published November 20, 2014
Brian Johnson delivered the big blow this time.
In the lineup for the first time in three weeks after suffering a freak concussion, Johnson broke open a close game with a two-run double that helped send Florida to an 8-4 victory over Texas at the College World Series on Saturday night.
"Sully talked to me before the at-bat," Johnson said, referring to coach Kevin O'Sullivan. "He said it's going to be a big at-bat for the game. So I just went up there really looking for one pitch I could drive. And I ended up getting that pitch.
"I was really excited to get back out there after three weeks not being able to play."
Johnson, the Gators' designated hitter and No. 2 starter, was knocked out by a throw from catcher Mike Zunino while pitching in the Southeastern Conference tournament May 28. Zunino, Johnson's roommate, tripped trying to throw out a runner at second base and hit Johnson in the back of the head.
It turned out Johnson's big hit in the seventh inning should have been ruled a home run. Replays showed that the ball bounced back into play after striking the railing above the yellow line atop the right-center wall. NCAA umpire coordinator Gene McArtor said in a statement after the game that the umpires' decision to hold Johnson at second base was wrong. Umpires aren't allowed to use video review.
No one on the Florida side was arguing the call after the game.
"I thought it went out," O'Sullivan said. "But you don't know. It's a tough call."
The No. 2 national-seeded Gators are just glad to be off to a winning start in the CWS after going two games and out last year in Omaha.
Florida (51-17) moves to a Bracket 1 winners' game against Vanderbilt on Monday night. No. 7 seed Texas (49-18) meets North Carolina in an elimination game that afternoon.
"We came here last year and we were very disappointed to go two-and-done," Florida's Daniel Pigott said. "So to start out this way — having a great game, good pitching, solid hitting — I think it was very, very big for us. Definitely going to give us a lot of confidence going through the rest of the tournament."
Hudson Randall (11-3) followed up a terrific eight-inning outing in the super regionals against Mississippi State with another 6 2-3 strong innings against the Longhorns, who are in the CWS for a record 34th time.
Randall scattered five hits, walked none and struck out five. Only one of the four runs against him was earned.
Randall, Greg Larson and Maronde limited Texas to five hits, with Maronde earning his third save with two innings of no-hit relief.
Randall retired 13 straight batters starting in the third inning. Jacob Felts broke through with a two-out single in the seventh, and Jordan Etier followed with a run-scoring double to cut Florida's lead to 5-4 and bring on Larson.
The 6-foot-8, 225-pound right-hander caught Tant Shepherd looking at strike three to end the threat.
Taylor Jungmann (13-3), the Milwaukee Brewers' first-round draft pick, had another rough postseason outing for the Longhorns. He went 4 1-3 innings for his shortest start of the season, and four of the five runs against him were earned.
Jungmann, who started the season 13-0, had come into the CWS off losses in his previous two starts. He allowed two doubles and a single, walked four, hit a batter and threw two wild pitches.
"I felt for the first three innings I had decent command, but after that I fell out of rhythm," Jungmann said. "I walked more guys than I usually do. They took advantage of it, and that was about it."
Now the Longhorns find themselves in a familiar position. They had to win three straight in regionals after losing their second game, and they came back to win two in a row against Arizona State after losing the opener of their super regional.
"We've been pretty good in elimination games," Texas coach Augie Garrido said, "and here we are again.
"We all know we played a below-average game, and they capitalized on it. But doesn't mean we have to lose our spirit or our confidence in each other and it doesn't have to mean we give up. We've been here before. We know we can win. This championship's been won out of the losers' bracket before. So we know it can be done."
The game drew an overflow crowd of 25,521 at the new TD Ameritrade Park, which replaced Rosenblatt Stadium as the CWS host.