Florida served notice Saturday night that it intends to make this year's trip to the College World Series much different from last year's visit.
The top-ranked Gators rode a strong start by Hudson Randall and an opportunistic offense to an 8-4 Bracket One victory over Texas before 25,521 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.
Florida was eliminated in two games from the 2010 CWS.
“We were very disappointed to go two-and-done last year,'' Florida left fielder Daniel Pigott said. “To start off this way, to have good pitching and solid hitting, was very big for us.
“This definitely will give us a lot of confidence going through the rest of the tournament and going into the game on Monday.''
The Gators' next assignment will match them against Vanderbilt, which won its CWS debut earlier in the day, in a 6 p.m. winners game Monday. The meeting will be the fifth between the Southeastern Conference rivals, with Florida (51-17) holding a 3-1 edge.
Texas (49-18) will need a better effort than it turned in against the Gators to survive its elimination game against North Carolina at 1 p.m. Monday.
“We played a below-average game against a very good team,'' Texas coach Augie Garrido said. “They had the ability to capitalize on it and penalize us severely for the mistakes or the gifts or the bad decisions.
“We gave them extra base runners, we gave them free bases, we gave them extra outs within the framework of innings. They're too good to do that.''
Florida was in a giving mood of its own, committing errors on back-to-back plays to open the third in staking Texas starter Taylor Jungmann to a 3-0 lead. Jungmann, the dominating right-hander, is a first-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers.
“To be honest with you, I didn't have a real good feel at that point,'' Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “Down three and facing a first-round pick, a guy that has had a lot of success this year.''
O'Sullivan's players were a bit more optimistic.
“I knew we were going to battle regardless of the situation,'' Pigott said. “With our hitters, I always feel we're going to put together good at-bats and find a way to score. In that situation, you have to hope he kind of gives you something and you can take advantage of it.
“I think we did that.''
Florida took advantage of two walks from Jungmann to get two runs back in its half of the third. Pigott and Cody Dent followed another walk — this one with two outs in the fourth — with back-to-back doubles to give the Gators a 4-3 lead.
Jungmann left after hitting Bryson Smith with a pitch with one out in the fifth. Preston Tucker greeted reliever Hoby Milner with a double that scored Smith for a 5-3 lead.
Jungmann's 4-1/3-inning outing was his shortest start of the season, and he lost for a third straight game after opening the season 13-0.
“I think mechanically things have been going wrong lately,'' said Jungmann, adding that there's nothing physically wrong with him. “We worked on it in the bullpen. It was fine in the bullpen. I just didn't bring it to the field today.
“You fall behind in counts, like I did today, and a good team is going to take advantage of it. They're a good team.''
Meanwhile, Randall rebounded from the shaky third inning, retiring 13 straight before Jacob Felts singled with two outs in the seventh. Jordan Etier followed with a double to pull Texas within 5-4, but the Gators tacked on two runs in their half of the seventh and another in the eighth to seal it.
Randall scattered five hits and walked no one in the 62⁄3-inning performance that allowed him to improve to 11-3.
“Once he got the lead, he settled down and became more competitive,'' Garrido said. “It re-established his confidence, and he took it from there. He really gained momentum and confidence and took charge of the game.''