The newly ranked No. 23 Florida Gators paid a visit to Tallahassee, Florida, Tuesday night, but forgot the bats in Gainesville.
In the second matchup of the season against the Florida State Seminoles (19-13, 7-8), Florida (21-12, 5-7) suffered a five-run bottom of the first inning, three of those runs allowed by redshirt sophomore starting pitcher Nick Pogue.
The Gators could never muster a run, let alone a comeback, losing 5-0.
There was hope that Pogue had turned a corner after his last start, where he delivered three scoreless innings last Tuesday against FAMU. That performance came after two forgettable outings to open the year, so it seemed like the Melbourne, Florida, native was showing progress.
That progress was nowhere to be found in the state capital.
A leadoff walk foreshadowed what was to come for Pogue. That runner on first was brought home via a home run from redshirt senior first baseman Alex Toral, plating the first two runs of the game for the Seminoles. The very next at-bat, redshirt senior catcher Brock Mathis found the same patch of grass behind the left-field wall. With only one out registered, Pogue had Florida down 3-0.
The single Pogue allowed to the next batter would end his day. Redshirt freshman Tyler Nesbitt took over, but failed to fare much better. He allowed a single to the first batter he faced, placing runners on the corners of the diamond. The third-straight single for the ‘Noles would plate the runner from third. The final scoring play of the side would come as Florida State sent the runner at first to steal second. The runner was tagged out, but the runner at third advanced home amidst the chaos.
After one inning, the Gators trailed by five.
It seemed as though Florida might have the coffin slammed shut on it in the second, as two walks and a single loaded the bases on Nesbitt. Nevertheless, the righty secured two fly-outs to close the side without allowing any runs.
Florida’s offense found its first signs of life in the fourth inning from sophomore right-fielder Sterlin Thompson who delivered a leadoff double. Junior designated-hitter BT Riopelle and sophomore shortstop Josh Rivera both walked, bringing sophomore catcher Mac Guscette to the plate with the bases loaded. Two outs sat on the scoreboard.
A quick flyout ended the inning, stranding all three runners and keeping the Florida scoreline at zero.
Redshirt freshman Nick Ficarrotta took over for Nesbitt in the fourth, delivering a scoreless side with just one walk allowing a runner on base. The offense returned to its state of dormancy in the fifth, though, going down in one-two-three order.
Ficarrotta would deliver 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing just one walk and one hit but earning three strikeouts before he was relieved by freshman Philip Abner in the sixth.
Abner, like Ficarrotta before him, kept the scoreline clean during his time on the mound. Through just 1.1 innings of work, Abner struck for three K’s and no hits. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan would continue to only let relievers pitch for quick appearances, likely trying to keep them fresh for the weekend series against Vanderbilt.
Freshman righty Karl Hartman replaced Abner in the bottom of the eighth, delivering a perfect three outs on the back of two strikeouts.
No other pitchers would receive work, because the Gators wouldn’t make it to the bottom of the ninth.
No amount of quality relief pitching could produce runs, and that’s all that the Gators needed. Through the last four innings of the game, Florida produced just one hit, a single from Guscette.
Besides that, the Gators could only fire blanks.
In the last stand in the top of the ninth, Florida once again went down in one-two-three order, suffering back-to-back strikeouts to end the affair.
Who knows if the Gators were still riding the high of a series victory over Arkansas, or they were looking ahead to a date with the Vanderbilt Commodores. Either way, they were soundly brought back down to Earth Tuesday night.
Florida will be back in action Friday in game one of a weekend series against Vanderbilt at 7 p.m.
Contact Carson Cashion at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.