Sandwiched between series against Vanderbilt and No. 1 Tennessee, the Florida Gators needed to avoid a potential trap game against the Stetson Hatters.
After trailing early by four, the Gators (23-14, 6-9) rallied back to secure a win over Stetson (18-18) in a shootout, 10-8.
Freshman starting pitcher Karl Hartman, entering Tuesday’s game with a 9.26 ERA, didn’t help that statistic when he allowed back-to-back singles to open the game. His infield was able to turn a double play against the third-faced batter, but the play still brought home the runner on third base.
One quick bottom-of-the-first later, the team Florida trounced 8-1 in the previous meeting this year was ahead 1-0 after the first.
Hartman would only last twoinnings. Leading off the third with a hit-by-pitch and single, pitching coach David Kopp visited the mound to replace him with redshirt freshman Nick Ficarrotta.
Ficarrotta was greeted by Hatters first baseman Brandon Hylton with a three-run homer, vaulting the Stetson lead to 4-0.
In the first offensive showing of the day for Florida, sophomore second baseman Colby Halter knocked a leadoff double to engage the attendants at Florida Ballpark.
Junior center fielder Jud Fabian flew out to deep center, nearly getting out of the park, which advanced Halter to third.
Sophomore right fielder Sterlin Thompson got him home on an RBI single, putting the Gators on the board. Junior catcher BT Riopelle would reward Thompson with a trip back to home plate himself, singling him home.
Florida still trailed but the deficit was cut in half in the third frame.
The Hatters responded to the push with a double and single to open the fourth inning. Ficarrotta was able to avoid a complete collapse, but a sacrifice flyout to center brought home the runner from third to push Stetson’s lead back to three.
Sophomore shortstop Josh Rivera answered right back, sending a leadoff solo jack to the right-field berm. Florida put two more runners on base in the fourth, one of them being Halter. In a moment of deja-vu from the third frame, Thompson once again knocked an RBI single to plate the second baseman.
The biggest scoring play of the frame came from sophomore left fielder Wyatt Langford. With two runners on base, Langford blasted his 13th home run of the season off of the left-field foul pole.
It took four innings, but the Gators had finally taken the lead for the first time all night.
“I think it’s a really positive thing for our team to be able to play from behind,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I was really pleased with how we battled back.”
Redshirt sophomore righty Nick Pogue took over on the mound in the sixth for Ficarrotta, ending the relievers three inning, three hit and three strikeout day. In his first appearance since a disastrous start against Florida State last week, Pogue recovered with a scoreless opening inning.
He retired two more in the seventh before being relieved of his duties by freshman Philip Abner. In the Charlotte, North Carolina, native’s first battle, he allowed a double to Hylton which brought home one run.
After allowing a walk to the next faced batter, he allowed his second run of the day on a single from Hatters second baseman Yohann Dessureault. That was enough to bring freshman Anthony Ursitti in for the first appearance of his career.
With two runners on base, Ursitti recorded his first K in the orange and blue to escape the frame. Still, the Hatters pushed their run total to seven.
If not for a sac-fly in the sixth from Langford that plated Fabian, the Gators would have faced a tie ballgame. However, that run became the difference, as Florida still led 8-7 entering the eighth.
Graduate Garrett Milchin took over for Ursitti on the mound in the eighth, closing a quick one-out outing for the freshman. After a leadoff single, the inning was closed by a double play followed by a strikeout.
Stetson had three outs to make a comeback.
Fabian made it two runs more difficult to pull off in the bottom of the eighth, sending his 16th home run of the season to the left-field berm. With that homer, the 48th of his career, he passed Gator legend Mike Zunino for fifth all time in career home runs.
“It’s special when you get to pass a guy like Zunino,” Fabian said. “I didn’t even think [the home run] was gonna get over.”
That wasn’t the last score of the night; redshirt Blake Purnell entered the game to close in the ninth, allowing one run to Stetson before closing the affair on a swinging K.
The Gators secured a much-needed weekday win after a series loss to Vanderbilt over the weekend. The road doesn’t get easier, though.
The Volunteers await.
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.