Texas Tech jumps into driver's seat at Gainesville Regional

Texas Tech first baseman Gavin Kash (13) hit two home runs, including a go-ahead two-run shot that boosted Texas Tech over Florida 5-4 Saturday night in the NCAA Gainesville Regional. Tech advances to the championship round at 5 p.m. CDT Sunday against the winner of Florida-Connecticut at 11 a.m. CDT Sunday.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Texas Tech first baseman Gavin Kash entered Saturday night's Gainesville Regional game against the Florida Gators in an 0-for-19 slump.

Kash tried something different, changing his pant legs from highs to lows.

Whatever the formula, it worked. Kash belted two home runs, including the go-ahead two-run shot in the eighth, lifting Texas Tech to a 5-4 win over No. 2 national seed and host Florida at the Gainesville Regional.

Kash drilled a first-pitch fastball from Florida starter Brandon Sproat over the right field fence in the fifth inning to give Texas Tech an early 3-1 lead. Then in the eighth, Kash took a 3-2 slider from Florida reliever Ryan Slater the other way over the left-field wall to give the Red Raiders a 5-3 lead.

"It was awesome," Kash said. "Every home run is important to me because it helps your team win."

More: Gainesville Regional: Three takeaways from Texas Tech baseball's 5-4 victory over Florida

Kash said the approach earlier in the game against Sproat was to jump on a first-pitch fastball.

"Not many people who throw the ball hard usually start with off-speed stuff," Kash said. "So I had my mind set going into the at-bat, and I was looking heater."

Sproat, who was throwing in the mid-to-upper 90s throughout his start, credited Kash for jumping on the pitch.

"First-pitch heater and he was hunting a fastball," Sproat said. "Props to him."

Scores, pairings: NCAA Gainesville Regional baseball results, schedule

The home runs by Kash were his 25th and 26th of the season, but he'd hit only two in his previous 14 games.

Tim Tadlock credited Kash for keeping a level-headed mindset through his recent slump.

"Really proud of him," the Red Raiders coach said. "He got some pitches to hit today. Just proud that he's moving on the right pitch and he's present. He has his, all hitters go through rough stretches. The one thing he hasn't wavered with is his preparation."

A two-run homer by Austin Green and Kash's two drives were the difference for Texas Tech, which moved on to Sunday's championship round at 5 p.m. CDT, where the Red Raiders could see the Gators again. No. 1 seed Florida and No. 2 seed Connecticut will play an elimination game at 11 a.m. CDT Sunday.

"It's definitely a lot easier to win one of these winning the first two than losing the second one or the first one," Tadlock said. "It's very hard to do it the other way, and so yeah, it definitely puts you in a good spot. At the same time, I think we have a group that has the utmost respect for other teams in the game."

An emotionally charged game

Texas Tech won a tight, emotionally-charged game.

After Florida tied the game at 3-3 following a two-run homer by Jac Caglianone in the sixth inning, Texas Tech looked ready to respond by loading the bases in the seventh. But with two outs, Kevin Bazzell was called out looking on a strikeout on a borderline pitch on the inside corner. Umpire Chris Griffith then ejected Texas Tech first base coach Eric Gutierrez.

"He said something he shouldn't have," Tadlock said.

The Red Raiders dealt with the partisan crowd of 7,311 at Condron Family Ballpark in Gainesville, overcoming an early error that set up Florida's first run.

"Anytime you go on the road in a regional, you are going to play in a hostile environment, and you're going to have to play the right way, the best you can," Tadlock said.

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Tech leading toward Zane Petty for Sunday start

Tadlock said freshman righthander Zane Petty (3-1, 6.27 earned-run average) likely will be the Red Raiders' starting pitcher Sunday, though it wasn't a firm decision in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's game.

Both Petty and freshman lefthander Taber Fast (1-0, 6.03) made starts last week at the Big 12 tournament.

Usual No. 2 starter Trendan Parish is on the shelf with a shoulder issue.

Hurston Waldrep to start for Gators against UConn

Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said righty Hurston Waldrep will start in Sunday's early game against Connecticut. The Gators (45-15) need to win three games in a row over the next two days to reach the super regionals for the first time since 2018.

Florida left eight runners on base. In the fifth inning, with runners on first and third, O'Sullivan said Michael Robertson was supposed to push a bunt up the first-base line on a squeeze play, Instead, he bunted down the third-base line. Robertson still ended up reaching to load the bases with one out, but the next batter, Florida second baseman Cade Kurland, grounded into a double play to end the inning.

"We made a couple of key mistakes in the game that hurt us a little bit," O'Sullivan said.

On UF's approach against Kash, O'Sullivan said: "The bottom line is he jumped the first-pitch fastball and he hit it out to right. And then we got to a 3-2 count — his splits are about the same against righties and lefties — so Ryan has been pitching really good for us; he just left one out over the plate."

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This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Texas Tech baseball team jumps into driver's seat at Gainesville Regional