BY ERIC OLSON
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Texas Tech cleared the hurdle of winning a College World Series opener. It was a high one, too.
Gabe Holt hit a tiebreaking single in the fifth inning and drove in an insurance run in the ninth, leading the Red Raiders to a stunning 6-3 win over defending national champion Florida on Sunday night.
The Red Raiders (45-18) won their CWS opener for the first time in their three appearances, and they did it against the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and a first-round draft pick in starting pitcher Brady Singer.
“There are a lot of good teammates on this team, and they’re thankful we’re in the position we’re in. They don’t take it for granted,” Tech coach Tim Tadlock said. “There aren’t too many guys in there after we won tonight saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got this figured out.’
“That’s one game. Really proud of our guys of how we went out and competed. We were going to have to do that each inning to come out on the right side. And also have some good fortune.”
Texas Tech pitchers limited the Gators to five hits but issued five walks. That was more than good enough against a Florida offense that has struggled for three straight games.
To have a chance to repeat as champions, the Gators (47-20) must win four straight to reach the best-of-three finals. Only Oregon State in 2006 and South Carolina 2010 have lost their Omaha openers and made it to the finals since the tournament went to its current structure in 1999.
“There’s no rewind button here. We lost. We’ve got to move forward,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It’s certainly doable. Ultimately, we’re going to have to have some other guys step up.”
Until Nelson Maldonado’s two-run homer into the left-field bullpen pulled the Gators to 5-3 in the seventh, Florida’s only run had come when Deacon Liput came home on a balk by Ryan Shetter.
Shetter (6-0), who pitched 4 1/3 innings of three-hit relief, earned the win.
Singer (12-2), the No. 18 overall draft pick by the Kansas City Royals, went 6 1/3 innings and allowed five runs — two earned — and nine hits.
The Red Raiders took a 3-1 lead in the fifth after Cody Farhat singled with two outs and ended up on third when shortstop Liput threw wildly to first on Braxton Fulford’s grounder. Farhat and Fulford both scored when Holt chopped a ball through the right side.
Tech added two more in the sixth, and it was a three-run game in the ninth when Holt, the Big 12 freshman of the year, singled into right field.
“We’re fortunate to have guys who can swing the bat,” Tadlock said. “I don’t know how much coaching was going on. The guys were hunting pitches to hit.”
Florida allowed three unearned runs on a passed ball and a two-out error. The Gators didn’t allow an unearned run in last year’s title run at the CWS.
Offensively, the Gators had runners at third three times and failed each time to get them home, and they were just 1 for 15 with runners on base and 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
In its last three games, Florida has scored a total of eight runs while batting .186.
Texas Tech’s six runs and 12 hits were its most in a CWS game. Seven players had at least one hit. The Red Raiders’ previous highs in a game in Omaha were five runs and nine hits against Coastal Carolina in 2016.
JJ Schwarz returned to the Florida lineup for the first time since breaking his right hand May 18. The Oakland Athletics’ eighth-round draft pick started at first base and batted fourth. He was 0 for 4 with two strikes.
Jonah Girand, who had been filling in for Schwarz and remained in the lineup at catcher, continues to struggle with the bat after hitting three home runs in four regional games. Since then he has struck out on 10 of 13 at-bats. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning.
Texas Tech plays Arkansas in a Bracket 2 winners’ game on Tuesday night. Florida plays an elimination game against Texas in the afternoon. Arkansas beat the Longhorns 11-5 on Sunday.
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