OMAHA, Neb. -- A couple of right-handers who were first-round Draft picks earlier this month struggled on Day 1 of the College World Series. Sonny Gray's Vanderbilt team escaped unscathed, but Taylor Jungmann's Texas team did not.
Jungmann, taken as the No. 12 overall pick by Milwaukee, lasted just 4 1/3 innings as Florida overcame an early three-run deficit for an 8-4 victory over the Longhorns on Saturday night. Jungmann allowed just three hits, but walked four, had two wild pitches and hit a batter.
The Gators got two in the third, two in the fourth and finally chased Jungmann in the fifth.
"In the third inning, I got out of rhythm and made some bad pitches," Jungmann said. "I set them up to have some opportunities to score runs. I walked more guys than I usually do."
Florida's win over Texas followed Vanderbilt's 7-3 victory over North Carolina on a day when Gray, taken No. 18 overall by Oakland, also struggled with his command.
Vanderbilt had a solution. If the first-round Draft pick is having a tough day on the mound, just hand the ball to the third-round Draft pick.
That was the formula for pitching-rich Vanderbilt as the Commodores used left-hander Corey Williams' brilliant relief job as a springboard to the victory. Williams had the honor of winning the inaugural game at new TD Ameritrade Park with a performance that had to bring a lot of smiles in the Minnesota Twins' organization.
The Twins, who took Williams with the 117th pick in the First-Year Player Draft, couldn't have imagined how prominent he would be on a day when Gray was the starter.
Gray had control issues from the outset and the Commodores were trailing by 3-2 in the fifth when a wobbling Gray walked Seth Baldwin to load the bases. At that juncture, Gray had allowed eight hits and five walks on 99 pitches.
Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin elected to bring on Williams with no margin for error and the move paid off big-time when Williams struck out Chaz Frank. Williams wound up working 2 2/3 shutout innings while the Commodores' offense was putting it in overdrive.
By the time Williams made his exit with two outs in the eighth, the Commodores were comfortably ahead by four and headed for the winner's bracket.
"We've been a team that has been able to get ourselves through the middle of the game and then put games away in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings," Corbin said.
Thanks largely to the resourceful Williams, it happened again.
"I just tried to get the ball over the plate and not give them freebies," Williams said.
On Sunday, California faces Virginia in the afternoon game, then South Carolina meets Texas A&M at night. On Monday, the two losers from Saturday, North Carolina and Texas, do battle before the two victors, Vanderbilt and Florida, meet up at night.
Vanderbilt's Williams caught the attention of the Twins after overcoming a major injury last year when his kneecap was shattered in a game against Florida. A line drive through the middle caught Williams flush on the kneecap. Nevertheless, he managed to throw the runner out at first despite not being able to move any parts of his legs while on the ground. That inspiring play was the last for Williams until this season, when he re-emerged to help the Commodores reach their first College World Series.
"I'm just glad to be pitching again," Williams said. "It's an unbelievable time right now."
The Tar Heels appeared to be on the verge of blowing the game open against the celebrated Gray. But after knocking out the Vanderbilt starter, North Carolina simply couldn't keep it going against Williams. When Williams struck out Frank to end the fifth with the bases loaded, momentum shifted in a hurry. One inning later, Williams got out of a first-and-third jam by retiring Jacob Stallings, the son of Vanderbilt basketball coach Kevin Stallings.
"He did a nice job getting ahead with his fastball and keeping us off-balance with his off-speed pitches," said Tar Heels center fielder Ben Bunting.
On a day when former President George W. Bush delivered a firm ceremonial first pitch right into the catcher's glove to usher in TD Ameritrade Park, Gray and North Carolina starter Patrick Johnson had to grind it out with less than pinpoint control.
Johnson needed 105 pitches to get through six innings. A two-run homer by Connor Harrell in the sixth snapped a 3-3 tie and put the Commodores on top to stay.
Gray can take solace in the knowledge that his team was able to prevail even though he didn't have it. The Commodores fully expect their star right-hander to come back strong in his next start.
"He was probably just trying too hard," Corbin said. "Sometimes, these first games at Omaha are very difficult on the starting pitchers."
Those words rang true in the second game as Jungmann couldn't protect a 3-0 lead. Florida's Bryson Smith went 2-for-2 with two runs batted in and Brian Johnson broke it open with a two-run double in the seventh that NCAA umpire coordinator Gene McArtor admitted afterward should have been ruled a home run.
McArtor said Johnson's drive "was mistakenly ruled in play rather than a home run that did clear the yellow line of the outfield fence."
In the NCAA, umpires do not have the ability to use video review.
Florida's Hudson Randall turned in the best start of the day, pitching 6 2/3 innings and allowing five hits and four runs.
"It was good to get the first one," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We have a long way to go, but I was proud of the way we battled tonight."
Jungmann's team goes into the loser's bracket. Meanwhile, Gray's team is good shape because of its pitching depth.
Although the Vandy ace wasn't sharp, that proved to be no problem for the Commodores. They had Williams next in line to pitch, and that was plenty good enough.
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.