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Monday, May 27, 2024

Barco deals, Gators trounce Tigers 7-2

Sophomore Hunter Barco worked through seven scoreless innings in a Friday-night victory

<p>Freshman Deric Fabian rounds third base and sprints for home during a midweek matchup with Florida A&amp;M. Fabian hit his third home run of the season on Tuesday night against Florida A&amp;M. The third baseman knocked a solo walk-off to survive the series in Vanderbilt</p>

Freshman Deric Fabian rounds third base and sprints for home during a midweek matchup with Florida A&M. Fabian hit his third home run of the season on Tuesday night against Florida A&M. The third baseman knocked a solo walk-off to survive the series in Vanderbilt

Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you six earned runs.

The No. 9 Florida Gators found that out Friday night when they faced off against No. 21 LSU’s starting pitcher Blake Money. Sophomore Hunter Barco was his counterpart for the Gators, and the home-side ace delivered seven scoreless innings as Florida (17-5, 3-1) pummeled the Tigers (15-7, 1-3) 7-2.

Fans arriving at Florida Ballpark late probably missed the opening score of the game. 

Sophomore Colby Halter wasted no time waking up the orange-and-blue faithful with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first, sending his shot to the right-field berm. 

After the run, the Gator bats cooled off, recording only two other hits in the opening three innings. Florida failed to bring any runners into scoring position, but Barco held up his end of the bargain on the topside of each frame.

The ace delivered scoreless inning after scoreless inning, never allowing a runner to advance further than second base all game. Barco delivered eight strikeouts on 106 pitches. For an offense as lethal as the Tigers have shown themselves to possess, the Bayou Bengals just couldn’t solve the southpaw puzzle.

“If you’re going to make a run at this thing and have a successful season, you need a guy to set the tone,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “[Barco] certainly has done that for us and he’s done everything that we could possibly ask of him.”

In the fourth, junior BT Riopelle took a defibrillator to the Florida offense, shocking it back to life with a solo homer to right of his own. Waving the ball goodbye, the Coastal Carolina transfer rounded first. Riopelle notched his fifth jack of the year and put the Gators up by two.

A leadoff single from junior Kris Armstrong got gears turning in the subsequent inning, a bunt from freshman Deric Fabian put two runners on with no outs. Halter’s flyout moved Armstrong to third, placing runners on the corners, and that was enough to bring him home via a groundout from Jud Fabian. 

The Gators weren’t done in the fifth.

Sophomore Sterlin Thompson sent a rocket of a single into the outfield, bringing Deric home to make the score 4-0. Still, the Gators weren’t done in the fifth.

Arriving at the plate with Thompson on first, sophomore Wyatt Langford sent a moon shot to the top of the left-field berm, sending the ballpark into a frenzy and bringing the score to 6-0.

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It appeared that UF might be setting up to deliver the finisher, as three-straight walks loaded the bases in the sixth, but the Gators were unsuccessful in delivering a knockout blow. Halter sent a pop fly into shallow center, which was dropped by the LSU fielder. *blank* rounded third and crossed home plate, but that would do it for the sixth. 

After two-thirds of the contest, Florida was ahead 7-0.

All night, tensions between the two squads appeared to near a boiling point. As the game drew on, and Florida pulled away, the fervor from the purple-claden squad seemed to dim, according to Barco.

“We’ve never liked them, they’ve never liked us,” Barco said. “That’s just years and years of building up.”

After a two-strikeout seventh inning, Barco rested. 

Taking over for the starter was freshman righty Nick Ficarrotta. The Palm Harbor, Florida, native faced more trouble in two innings than Barco faced all night. In the top of the eighth, the Tigers loaded the bases on a walk, a single and a hit-by-pitch from Ficarrotta. Then, in the ninth, a leadoff homer cast some nervous anxiety across the crowd.

Still, the freshman got out of the eighth with just one earned run, putting LSU on the scoresheet at 7-1. The leadoff homer brought the score to 7-2, but the damage would finish there.

Florida returns to action tomorrow for a Saturday-night battle against the Tigers with a chance at sealing a series victory. Sophomore Brandon Sproat will start on the mound for the 6:30 p.m. affair.

Contact Carson Cashion at Follow him on Twitter @CarsonCashion

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Carson Cashion

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.

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