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Monday, May 27, 2024

Gators collapse in Athens, receive sweep from Bulldogs

Florida allowed eight runs in the bottom of the seventh inning

<p>The Gators fell in the second game of the weekend series against Mizzou Saturday, falling 5-3.</p>

The Gators fell in the second game of the weekend series against Mizzou Saturday, falling 5-3.

Florida needed a rebound in Athens, Georgia. 

After a series loss to LSU last weekend, the No. 14 Gators saw an opportunity to get back in the W column in a weekend tilt with the No. 23 Georgia Bulldogs, a team Florida had topped in six of the previous seven series.

What they got instead was a collapse.

After two losses to open the series, Florida (18-10, 3-6) once again fell victim to a breakdown from the bullpen, allowing eight runs in the seventh inning to blow a four-run lead and eventually fall to the ‘Dawgs (22-6, 6-3) 14-8.

The offense seemingly took the day off Friday, but the bats were buzzing early Saturday afternoon. 

Sophomore Colby Halter delivered a leadoff single, hustling to steal second during the following at-bat. Then, with sophomore Sterlin Thompson arriving at the plate, Halter rounded third on a single, making it all the way home. Florida had a one-run lead after the opening frame.

The lead would not last an inning. In the bottom of the first, graduate starter Garrett Milchin allowed two runs and placed two runners in scoring position before recording a single out. He was pulled, replaced by freshman Brandon Neely, before the inning was over. 

Neely, for his part, delivered after entering the game. With two runners in scoring position, the Seville, Florida, native forced three-consecutive outs to escape the jam. By the end of his day of work, Neely had thrown five innings, allowing just one earned run and three hits while scoring five strikeouts.

Still, Florida once again had given up its lead to the ‘Dawgs.

A pitching duel between Georgia starter Nolan Crisp, a former Gator who transferred to UGA, and Neely ensued. Neither team would score after the first until the fifth inning, where Florida cracked the game open.

The fireworks were started by a leadoff single for junior BT Riopelle, and an ensuing walk that put two runners on base. Sophomore Mac Guscette was up next, and lasered an RBI double down the left-field line to bring Riopelle home.

Halter, up next, secured a sliding RBI triple after Bulldogs right fielder Chaney Rogers dropped a fly ball. Rivera and Guscette both got home, but the show wasn’t over just yet.

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In the final scoring play of the frame for Florida, junior Jud Fabian sent a no-doubter into the woods behind Foley Field, a two-run shot and his 12th homer of the season. All of the sudden, the Gators were ahead 6-2.

The bottom of the seventh inning was likely the worst frame of Florida’s season. 

After Abner was relieved for redshirt freshman Tyler Nesbitt, all hell broke loose in the Classic City. Two homers, six hits and one error by Florida wound up costing the Gators eight runs. Every bit of momentum generated by the lead vanquished. Florida trailed 11-6; once again, relief pitching was costing UF.

Riopelle answered in the top of the eighth, sending a two-run shot off of the scoreboard, but the ‘Dawgs would cancel out the homer with one of their own from graduate Connor Tate. 

A brief ninth inning would be the final act in the Gators’ defeat.

The sweep at the hands of the Bulldogs is nothing short of a disaster. Florida has now lost five-straight SEC games, with pitching proving to be the team’s achilles heel. 

The bad news? The road is only going to get tougher.

The next three weekend-series opponents, Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, are all ranked in the top ten of D1 Baseball’s top 25. The Volunteers and Razorbacks currently occupy the top-two spots in the nation.

As Florida looks to find any semblance of consistency in the pitching staff, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan will have some tough decisions to make this week. With a 1-3 week, Florida will surely plummet in this week’s rankings.

The team will have one quick weekday game against Florida A&M Tuesday before welcoming No. 2 Arkansas to Florida Ballpark next weekend.

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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