The Texas Tech Red Raiders are one game away from elimination in the 2018 College World Series, setting the stage for Thursday's action in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Arkansas Razorbacks defeated Texas Tech on Wednesday, thus earning themselves a berth in the semifinals. Also as a result, Texas Tech will match up against the defending national champion Florida Gators, having already registered a win over Florida in the College World Series.
The Gators and Red Raiders will have their eyes on the semifinals when they hit the diamond Thursday night.
Florida vs. Texas Tech, 8 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Full bracket is available on NCAA.com.
Florida hasn't announced its starter for Thursday, but Gators Country's Nick de la Torre speculated Tuesday that Jack Leftwich will get the nod.
With their season on the line, the Gators would ideally be able to use first-round draft pick Brady Singer.
However, the junior right-hander went 6.1 innings in the team's defeat to the Red Raiders, so expecting him to start four days later would be risky. Coach Kevin O'Sullivan also has to keep an eye on the rest of the College World Series, so he needs to leave some options open for a prospective semifinals series.
Leftwich has made 23 appearances, 11 of which were starts, so far this year. In 75 innings, he has a 4.32 ERA and 79 strikeouts to 24 walks. His last appearance came in the 3-2 win over the Auburn Tigers on June 11 that sent Florida into the College World Series.
The Gators' pitching will be difficult for the Red Raiders to overcome. The Gators are 19th in ERA (3.42) and ninth in WHIP (1.21) as a team. As long as Leftwich can deliver five or six strong innings, which he did against Auburn, Florida has the bullpen depth to see the win through.
But Texas Tech has the offense to knock Leftwich out of the game early.
Getting Grant Little and Zach Rheams back to their best at the plate will be one key for Texas Tech. Prior to Wednesday's loss, Little was slugging .662 with 12 home runs and 74 RBI, while Rheams is the team leader in slugging percentage (.736) and home runs (17).
Together, they combined to go 0-for-7 against Arkansas, which is a big reason the Red Raiders combined for just six hits. Compare that to the win over Florida, when Little and Rheams each drove in a run and Little went 3-for-3 at the plate.
Texas Tech's five runs against Singer are somewhat deceiving since three of them were unearned. It was an uncharacteristically poor outing from Singer, and the Red Raiders may not have the same kind of luck once again.
Florida's pitching gives it the slight edge Thursday.
Prediction: Florida 4, Texas Tech 2
Stats are courtesy of NCAA.com.