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Gators survive upset bid from Marist in NCAA Regional opener

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida didn’t get the pitching performance it was hoping for from starter Jackson Kowar on Friday night. Or from the next arm it sent to the mound. Or the usual steady defense to which it’s become accustomed.

No, this was not a pretty performance from the Gators in their NCAA Regionals opener.

But it was enough — for this night at least.

Florida, the No. 3 national seed in the NCAA Tournament and top seed in the Gainesville Regional, eventually pulled away for a 10-6 win over No. 4 Marist in a tenser-than-expected tilt before 2,390 fans at McKethan Stadium.

The Gators (43-16) advance in the winners bracket of the double-elimination regional to play No. 2 South Florida (42-17) at 7 p.m Saturday night (on ESPN3).

Marist (32-22) will play No. 3 Bethune-Cookman (33-24) in an elimination game at 1 p.m.

“I was talking to these guys at the end of the game. You know, everybody in this tournament is in the tournament for a reason, because they’re playing their best baseball,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “You can’t really take a pitch off, you can’t take an inning off and you’ve just got to play your best baseball. You look across the nation and there’s 4 seeds beating 1 seeds, there’s one-run ballgames, there’s No. 1 seeds falling behind early in games and it’s what makes this game so exciting. You just never know what’s going to happen. … This is championship baseball.”

The Gators had plenty of…

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