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Langworthy’s homer off glove lifts Florida back to Omaha

June 12, 2018
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Florida celebrates at home plate after Austin Langworthy hit a walk-off home run against Auburn in the bottom of the 11th inning of an NCAA Super Regional college baseball game Monday, June 11, 2018, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Robbed of extra-base hits in his previous two at-bats, Florida’s Austin Langworthy got a little lucky in his final one.

Langworthy homered off Steven Williams’ glove in the 11th inning, giving the overall top-seeded Gators a 3-2 victory against Auburn in the deciding game of their NCAA super regional Monday night and sending the defending national champions to the College World Series for the fourth consecutive year.

Langworthy lined a fastball off freshman All-American closer Cody Greenhill (6-3) to the right-field wall. Williams had a bead on it, but it bounced off his glove and over the fence. It was Langworthy’s fourth homer of the season and second in the best-of-three series, both against Greenhill.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Langworthy, who had hits in the right-field gap and down the left-field line erased by diving catches. “I think in this game everything comes back to you. That’s how this game works.”

Williams dropped to the ground in disbelief as Florida players rushed the field and waited for Langworthy to cross home plate before mobbing him. Williams’ teammates and coaches walked to right field to console him.

“It won’t define him,” Tigers coach Butch Thompson said. “It will be part of his journey.”

The Gators (47-19) advance to play Texas Tech in Omaha, Nebraska later this week. Florida is headed there for the seventh time in the last nine years.

Auburn (43-23) was trying to get to the CWS for the first time since 1997.

Florida closer Michael Byrne (3-1) allowed one hit in four innings. Byrne pitched in all three games, part of a staff that allowed just seven runs in the series.

“He’s special,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He’s a starter that’s in the back end of the bullpen.”

The Gators scored conventionally and unconventionally before the walk-off homer, getting a solo home run from Jonathan India in the first inning and then scoring with a nifty double steal in the fourth.

India, the fifth overall pick by Cincinnati in last week’s MLB draft, drove his 20th homer of the season into the bullpen over the right-center-field fence. India became the fifth player in program history with at least 20 dingers in a season.

Auburn tied it on Williams’ two-out, RBI single in the third. Florida went back ahead with a little trickery.

With two outs and runners at the corners, Nick Horvath took off toward second and then intentionally belly flopped in the middle of the base path. It seemingly confused left-hander Andrew Mitchell, who hesitated just long enough with the ball for Blake Reese to score from third. Reese’s head-first slide beat Mitchell’s throw.

Both teams had chances in the closing innings, but none of them got it done until Langworthy’s game-ender.

“Obviously, he’s been swinging the ball really well as of late,” O’Sullivan said. “I felt really good about him coming to the plate. Not sure I expected him to hit a walk-off home run, but I certainly thought he would give us a really good at-bat.”

AUBURN’S FUTURE

The Tigers don’t look like a one-year wonder. They had four freshman All-Americans this season: Williams, Greenhill, designated hitter Julien Edouard and starter Tanner Burns. The foursome is expected to make up the core of the team in Thompson’s fourth season.

COSTLY MISTAKES

Dalton made a pair of mistakes in consecutive innings. He errantly rounded second base on a ball hit toward the right-center-field gap, thinking it would drop, but Jay Estes made a diving catch and then threw Dalton out trying to get back to first. Dalton misplayed a single in the ensuing frame, allowing Luke Jarvis an extra base. Jarvis moved to third on a wild pitch and then scored on Josh Anthony’s fly ball to right. Dalton made a strong throw home, but Jarvis beat the tag by inches.

INJURY UPDATE

All-SEC catcher JJ Schwarz is expected to return for the CWS. The Gators need him, too, after backup Jonah Girand went 0-for-11 with eight strikeouts in the super regional. Schwarz, the team’s lone captain, took batting practice last Friday for the first time since breaking a bone in his right hand in the regular-season series finale at Mississippi State.

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