OMAHA, Neb. — When his team needed it most, Texas Tech's Caleb Kilian turned in one of his best performances of the season.
Kilian, a sophomore right-handed pitcher, limited top-seeded and defending national champion Florida to no hits through four innings in an elimination game of the College World Series.
But the No. 5 Red Raiders' offense was unable to get going early, and despite a late rally, suffered 9-6 loss at TD Ameritrade Park.
"It's just basically an overview of our season," Texas Tech sophomore Josh Jung said of the late-inning rally, which included scoring three runs in the seventh and eighth. "Every time is seemed like we were out of it, or had some adversity, we bounced back and we fought."
With the loss, Texas Tech (45-20) was eliminated from the College World Series. Florida (49-20) advanced to play Arkansas on Friday.
The Red Raiders appeared to be clicking on offense in the seventh inning.
Florida starting pitcher Jack Leftwich, who had stifled and shut out the Texas Tech bats for six innings, was pulled after giving up a Braxton Fulford one-out single to put runners on the corners.
Gator reliever Andrew Baker walked Gabe Holt and gave up a bases-loaded single to Brian Klein and Florida's lead was cut to 5-1.
Seeing the Texas Tech bats were heating up, Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan called in righty Tommy Mace, who gave up an RBI single to Josh Jung and watched as Grant Little secured an RBI following an error to put things at 5-3.
After the Red Raiders plated their third run, the Gators called for lefty Jordan Butler from the pen.
The freshman reliever, who inherited a bases-loaded jam with one out, struck out Rheams and induced a flyout to get Florida out of danger with a 5-3 advantage.
"We just kind of rallied behind each other," Rheams said. "This is a big family. One guy does one thing, the next guy feeds. It's amazing how we can just continue and grow together. It's just like a fire with us, once it gets started, it rolls."
The Gators rallied for three runs in the eighth, and despite giving up three in the eighth, cemented their first victory over Texas Tech in the College World Series.
"We knew our backs were against the wall, and we knew if we didn't respond there that it probably would have been game over," Little said. "But, we put together some good at bats and found some holes. Those last two innings could not say more about this team, especially with all we've been through. It just shows the type of people this team has. We're fighters, and it's not over till it's over."
The Red Raiders had their chances to plate runs in the early going, though, starting in the second inning.
Rheams hit a leadoff single to right field while Michael Davis drew a six-pitch, full-count walk to put a runner in scoring position. Texas Tech loaded the bases after Cody Farhat drew a one-out walk and set the stage for the first run of the game.
But Fulford in the nine-hole popped up to shortstop and leadoff hitter Gabe Holt did the same to end the threat.
In the fourth, Rheams appeared to stoke some offense once more after hitting a leadoff single to center field. Two batters later, Cam Warren hit a one-out single to left field to put a runner in scoring position.
Farhat looked to have capitalized on the opportunity, smacking a ball into left field, but it was caught by Austin Langworthy and developed into a double play as Rheams was doubled off at second base to leave two runners on base.
Texas Tech left five runners on base heading into the fifth, which is where Florida began to figure out Kilian.
The Gators netted their first hit of the game after Blake Reese singled to right field in the top of the fifth. A couple of batters later, Nick Horvath hit a double just under the glove of Warren and into right field. Horvath's hit scored Reese to put Florida up 2-0.
Prior to that, Kilian was dealing on the mound — sans three walks — as he struck out four and allowed only one earned run following a wild pitch in the fourth.
Instead, he was pulled in favor of right-hander Ty Harpenau, who yielded one more run before getting out of the top half of the fifth with the Red Raiders trailing 3-0.
The Gators scored two more runs — thanks to a two-run home run by JJ Schwartz — to take control of the contest with a 5-0 advantage at the end of six complete.
Texas Tech rallied late, but could not overcome the scoring gap.
"I think we just kept the same approach as we did all game, we just had some hits fall at the right time," Klein said. "We just put some good at bats together, you know? We just happened to score a couple of runs."
Player of the game
Jonathan India, Jr., 3B, Florida
The right-handed batter showed baseball IQ after drawing a six-pitch, full-count walk by advancing to second base on a wild pitch and stealing third base. India later scored on another wild pitch.
Prior to Thursday's game, Texas Tech held a 2-5 record in the College World Series. The Red Raiders were 2-0 against the Gators before dropping the Thursday contest.
The Red Raiders season ended Thursday with the loss as they were eliminated from the College World Series. Texas Tech advanced to college baseball's biggest stage for the third time in the last five seasons.