To say Florida baseball has struggled with consistency would be an understatement to many Gators faithful. Joined by the typically grueling SEC schedule, the Gators’ shortcomings this season has earned the team their worst conference record since 2019.
This past weekend’s series against Mizzou perfectly exemplified those struggles.
Florida (32-18, 13-14) defeated the Tigers (26-21, 8-18) 4-3 Sunday in a victory that was much too close for comfort.
The Gators arrived in Columbia, Missouri, and got to work quickly Friday. After going down 1-0 out of the gates in the first inning, Florida responded with 13 runs on the way to a dominant win over the Tigers. The explosion of offense and clean work from the bullpen looked to be signs of good things to come for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday didn’t exactly meet UF’s expectations.
The Gators entered with a solid start, grabbing an early 3-1 lead thanks to a trio of RBIs from redshirt junior catcher BT Riopelle. Florida looked to be inching towards the series clinching victory before a three-RBI homer from Mizzou’s Trevor Austin brought the Tigers ahead by one.
UF’s sluggish play from there on led to a 5-3 defeat and set up a Sunday afternoon rubber match.
The low scoring energy from the game before seemed to carry over. Through the first three innings, neither team could get on the board, with Florida snagging just one hit. Redshirt sophomore right-handed pitcher Nick Pogue got in an early groove on the mound. The Melbourne, Florida, native allowed zero hits, threw five strikeouts and recorded three 1-2-3 innings.
The game began to crack open in the bottom of the fourth. Pogue allowed his first hit, a single-shot homerun, once again coming off the bat of Austin. His second hit allowed? Another homerun. Pogue allowed one more double before finally getting out of the early jam.
Florida responded emphatically the next frame, as sophomore shortstop Josh Rivera blasted a two-run shot into left field to bring the score even at 2-2. Pogue got back in his groove, sitting three-straight batters once more to close the fifth.
From there, it was all Gators.
Junior infielder Kris Armstrong recorded his third hit of the day, driving in two runs to give the Gators a 4-2 lead. Pogue would let up one more run, but freshmen Blake Purnell and Ryan Slater took the mound in relief to earn the save and the Gators’ win.
With the Sunday victory, Florida has won three-straight conference series as well as nine of its last 11 games.
Next up, UF will head home for the final of three games played this season against Florida State. Florida defeated its in-state rival 6-3 in the initial matchup, followed by a 5-0 loss to the ‘Noles on April 12 in Tallahassee.
First pitch is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
Contact Jackson Castellano at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jaxacastellano.
Jackson Castellano is a UF journalism junior and The Alligator's Summer 2023 Sports Editor. He has previously served as the assistant sports editor and a reporter covering football, men's basketball and baseball. In his free time, Jackson reluctantly cheers for the Houston Rockets.