Although the Gators were playing in Deland, Florida, in a stadium with a capacity of 2,500, one of the smallest they will play in all year, the hunger to win was visible from the start. Florida was reeling after a series loss in opening weekend to the Liberty Flames, including back-to-back losses to close out the series.
Florida’s return to Stetson went as well as fans could have hoped for: an 8-1 route to redeem last season’s embarrassing 6-1 fall to the Hatters in Melching Field at Conrad Park
Pitching duties were spread across the bullpen for the evening, with starter Timmy Manning throwing just a single frame. The offense did more than enough to compensate with freshman Tucker Talbott finishing the game 4-5 with two RBIs, and sophomore Sterlin Thompson recording three RBIs and a homer to assist the Gators’ victory.
Thompson got the offense cranking before fans could look up what a “Hatter” is, bringing base runner Colby Halter home and advancing junior Jud Fabian to second. Sophomore Josh Rivera followed up with a double-play ball that brought Fabian the rest of the way home. Stetson was in a two-run hole before it could get a batter to the plate.
The Florida scoring frenzy continued in the third, as Thompson sent the first pitch of the inning into the trees behind right field. His solo shot brought the score to 3-0. Then, in his collegiate debut, freshman Tucker Talbott doubled into deep left that brought sophomore Josh Rivera home.
Stetson finally found an answer, more of a whisper, as a wild pitch from freshman righty Karl Hartman brought in a runner from third. That would be the Hatters’ first and last run of the evening, and would trigger the third pitcher of the night taking the mound for the Gators: freshman Nick Ficarrotta.
Florida got back to business in the fourth; Thompson, already sitting at two RBIs, added a third with a double that brought Fabian home from second. The sophomore on a scorcher to start the season was a triple away from completing the cycle.
The youth of the Gators came to play in the fifth, as Talbott drove home his second RBI of the night with a single that Rivera got home on. Freshman Deric Fabian brought Talbott home himself with a single, increasing the score to 7-1.
Ficarrotta continued to hold down the bottom of each inning, keeping the Hatters off the scorecard. The freshman from Palm Harbor, Florida, finished the game with 60 pitches, six strikeouts and one hit.
The final score of the night would come on a wonky play, as Deric redirected a hit off of the Hatter pitcher’s leg, causing enough of a pause for Deric to get to first and for Rivera to get home. As if the game was in any doubt, Florida boosted the score to 8-1.
Freshman Blake Purnell put two K’s on the board in a single-inning appearance in the eighth, and fellow freshman Brandon Neely brought the game home with three quick outs.
Florida will return to action tomorrow night in a return to Florida Ballpark against the North Florida Ospreys. First pitch is scheduled for 7 o’ clock.
Contact Carson Cashion at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @carsoncashion.
Carson Cashion is a third-year sports journalism major at UF, and the sports editor at The Alligator for the 2022 summer semester. A native of Altamonte Springs, Carson spends his free time walking his dog, Baxter, and listening to good music. He is an avid Tennessee sports fan, and eagerly awaits watching one of his teams win a championship for the first time.