The last time Florida State made the trip to Gainesville, junior first baseman Kendrick Calilao sent the Seminoles packing with a walk-off home run onto the left-field berm.
This time, the ‘Noles watched another Gator end their evening with a missile, now into right field.
That Gator was sophomore second baseman, Sterlin Thompson.
Redshirt freshman Nick Ficarrotta started on the mound for Florida (33-19, 13-14) in a thrilling Tuesday matchup that clinched the season series over FSU (32-19, 15-12), 7-5.
The weekday starters for both sides of the in-state rivalry cranked their ERA’s up early.
‘Noles starter freshman Jackson Baumeister was warmly welcomed to Condron Ballpark by sophomore left fielder Wyatt Langford. On the first pitch of the bottom of the first, Langford rocketed a leadoff home run into Dizney Grove to put the Gators on the board.
FSU quickly answered, though, responding with three rebound runs in the second inning; the runs were highlighted by a two-run moonshot from freshman left fielder James Tibbs.
After a four-nothing walk for freshman designated hitter Jac Caglianone was followed by a double for freshman right fielder Ty Evans, Florida appeared primed to score some rebound runs of its own.
Two strikeouts later, courtesy of sophomores Mac Guscette and Colby Halter, the frame ceased.
Ficarrotta’s day was cut short after a leadoff single to start the third.
Replacing him was freshman Fisher Jameson, who closed out the top of the third to hand the duty of clawing back to the offense.
Langford opened the third, and once again acted as the Florida bats’ defibrillator, shocking them back to life with another leadoff homer. Clocking in at an exit velocity of 110 mph, UF drew within one.
This time, the rest of the lineup followed Langford’s lead.
Thompson was hit by a pitch, and sophomore shortstop Josh Rivera watched another four-pitch walk to put two runners on. Caglianone returned to the plate with a multi-RBI opportunity at stake.
The freshman delivered, roping a single that plated both runners. Freshman right fielder Ty Evans was next and kept the good vibes rolling with an RBI double.
After three, the Gators were back on top 5-3.
Continuing the trend of brief outings, Jameson was pulled in the fourth inning for redshirt freshman Blake Purnell. The Boynton Beach, Florida, native, entering the game with two runners on base, was unable to strand the garnet-and-gold baserunners. One wild pitch and a single plated both to tie the game at five.
Purnell lasted 1.2 innings before redshirt freshman Tyler Nesbitt took over on the mound to open the sixth. The Labelle, Florida, native worked a clean, three-up-three-down frame; in a game full of quick trips to the mound, Nesbitt’s 3.1 inning day of work was the most efficient with five strikeouts, one hit and no walks.
Despite the clinical work from Nesbitt, the offense was unable to capitalize. The orange and blue failed to register a hit for four frames after the third inning, only garnering a base runner in the seventh via a Thompson walk.
Thompson got caught stealing.
Nesbitt worked another clean eighth inning, adding two strikeouts to his total on the night. Once again, Florida went dormant on offense.
Condron Ballpark sat in anticipatory silence as the rivalry matchup entered the final frame tied at five.
The leash for UF pitchers has been short all night, and that remained the case late. All it took was a one-out single for Nesbitt to get replaced by freshman righty Ryan Slater.
“You can’t lose sight of what Nesbitt did tonight,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He kind of settled things down.”
The Palm Harbor, Florida, native seemed primed to allow an RBI single, but an acrobatic play from Halter kept the ‘Noles from capitalizing. A quick flyout ended the top of the ninth, giving Florida one last chance to win the season series before extra innings.
A groundout from Halter and a swinging strikeout for junior pinch-hitter Kris Armstrong set up a two-out situation for Langford.
With two homers already recorded in the stat sheet, FSU opted not to intentionally walk the Trenton, Florida, native.
It didn’t pay off. Langford lined a single into shallow center, bringing Thompson to the plate. FSU set up a lefty-on-lefty matchup by bringing sophomore southpaw Andrew Armstrong to the mound.
That didn’t pay off either.
Thompson blasted a missile to right field, ending the 7-5 game with a vicious bat flip, a parade around the diamonds and a group mob at home plate.
“It’s all just a blur,” Thompson said. “That’s just something I dream of as a kid growing up, especially against FSU. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
After the electric ending, the Gators rest up before ending their regular season with a weekend series against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The series starts Thursday at 7 p.m. on SEC Network+.
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.