OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Jackson Kowar’s first inning didn’t portend the stellar afternoon he was about to have Tuesday. He didn’t give up a run in the first, but he threw 25 pitches.
“Just reminded him he’s going to have to be a little more economical,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
No worries, coach.
Kowar struck out a career-high 13 in 6 2/3 shutout innings, mixing his changeup with a fastball still touching the mid-90s deep into his season-high 121-pitch performance that flummoxed Texas in a 6-1 win eliminating the Longhorns from the College World Series.
“It’s probably the best I’ve seen him, to be honest with you, with the whole package, with everything concerned,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought he was really good last week with Auburn, too.
He was really good against A&M during SEC play. But on this stage, I think this is about as good as he’s pitched all year.”
The Kansas City Royals’ first-round draft pick struck out the side in the third and sixth innings and broke his previous high of 11 Ks he set against TCU in the CWS last year. He became the first pitcher in the CWS since UCLA teammates Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer in 2010 to record 13 strikeouts.
“Those guys are doing pretty well for themselves right now, so that’s pretty cool company,” Kowar said.
He’s the first to strike out 13 at the CWS in fewer than seven innings in 40 years, according to ESPN.
Jonathan India, the No. 5 overall draft pick by the Cincinnati Reds and Southeastern Conference player of the year, singled to make it 1-0 in the first inning and he broke the game open with a three-run homer in the sixth.
Texas starter Blair Henley (6-7) struggled with his control and lasted only 2 2/3 innings, the second-shortest of his 22 career starts. He gave up four hits, walked four and threw a wild pitch.
Florida (48-20) came into the game after a 6-3 loss to Texas Tech in its CWS opener. The Gators had committed 16 errors in their last 11 games and had batted .186 and scored a total of eight runs in their previous three games.
The Gators played error-free against the Longhorns, and their offense had 10 hits.
Kowar (10-5) didn’t allow a base runner past second until the seventh. With runners on second and third, Kowar struck out Tate Shaw and Ryan Reynolds and then left to applause from both Florida and Texas fans.
“The first inning, the first three batters I didn’t make really any quality pitches,” Kowar said. “Getting through that first was big, and then I was able to kind of get the fastball command working, and everything else played off of that the rest of the way.”
Chase Shugart took over for Henley in the third and kept it a 1-0 game until there were two outs in the sixth. Nelson Maldonado’s RBI single came before India’s 21st home run of the season made it 5-0.
“Nelson, the whole year, he’s a clutch hitter for us,” India said. “He rarely strikes out. He competes at the plate. That’s what we needed. And he came through clutch for us. As they say, hitting is contagious. Just pass it on to me and I’ll pass it on to the next.”
Texas (42-23) broke through for a run in the eighth on DJ Petrinsky’s one-out single.
The Longhorns struck out a season-high 15 times against Kowar, Jordan Butler and Michael Byrne, the most for the program since fanning 17 times against TCU in 2017.
“People expected it to be a building year due to everybody we lost last year,” Shugart said. “But these guys proved everybody wrong and that’s because of their attitude. The attitude we had was gritty. We weren’t giving anything; we had to take it. We took the Big 12 championship and the regional and super regionals. We went out and competed every inning, every out, and that’s what good teams do and I wouldn’t trade this for the world.”
CLEMENS HITS TILL END
Big 12 player of the year Kody Clemens reached base twice against Florida and extended his hit streak to nine games, including multi-hit games five times. The son of seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens batted .419 (13 for 31) in the NCAA Tournament with five home runs, two doubles and 11 RBIs.
Florida plays another elimination game Thursday against the loser of Wednesday’s game between Arkansas and Texas Tech. The Gators still need three wins to reach the best-of-three finals for the second year in a row.
The season is over for Texas, which lost 11-5 to Arkansas on Sunday and went winless in the CWS for only the fifth time in its record 36 appearances.
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