Senior outfielder Richie Schiekofer stepped into the batter's box with a chance to be an unexpected hero.
Florida allowed seven runs in the top of the ninth inning, and the Gators found themselves trailing by two in the final half inning of play. Sophomore outfielder Matt Prevesk drove in one run to give Schiekofer a chance to send in the tying run.
The senior hit the ball toward third base, and South Florida turned the easy out to complete a wild final-inning comeback.
The Florida Gators (4-1) lost to the South Florida Bulls (2-3) 10-9 Wednesday night at Condron Ballpark. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said critical defensive errors played a big role in the late-game collapse.
“We just didn’t play very good defense, and that’s the bottom line,” O’Sullivan said.
Tejeda got off to a hot start in his collegiate debut. The 6-foot-8-inch freshman forced a fly out to left field on his first pitch of the game. He walked one batter but forced a pair of ground outs to end the first inning unscathed.
After two quick outs, Jac Caglianone kickstarted the Gators’ offense. The sophomore two-way player hammered a pitch deep over the right-field wall for a solo home run — his second homer of the season.
Florida got into trouble in the top of the second. Junior catcher Nelson Rivera singled into left field for the Bulls first hit of the day. After Rivera stole second, Tejeda committed an error to put runners on first and third with one out.
Tejeda forced an out at first base and then induced a fly out to get out of the inning.
The freshman went back to work after a scoreless second inning. He struck out USF junior first baseman Daniel Cantu swinging for his first career strikeout.
A line drive from sophomore center fielder Bobby Boser narrowly glanced over Florida junior shortstop Josh Rivera’s glove for a single.
The Gators nearly turned a double play, but Rivera skied his throw over Caglianone’s head at first base. The mishap allowed junior right fielder Drew Brutcher to tie the game at one. Rivera singled into right field, which sent sophomore left fielder Macus Brodil home to give USF a 2-1 lead.
A quick ground out allowed Florida to avoid any more damage.
Freshman Michael Robertson doubled into deep left field. Star junior left fielder Wyatt Langford stepped up to bat with two runners in scoring position and one out in the bottom of the third inning. The Bulls replaced starting freshman pitcher Justin Jackson with fellow freshman Lawson Gailey.
Langford laced a pitch to the warning track but into the waiting glove of Brodil. It was enough for sophomore catcher Jost Lastres to score from third and tie the game. After the Bulls intentionally walked Caglianone, Rivera singled to bring in another runner and retake the lead.
O’Sullivan pulled Tejeda for sophomore lefty Nick Ficarrotta after the third inning. The freshman starter allowed four hits and two earned runs on 49 pitches.
Ficarrotta went to work in the fourth with a quick 1-2-3 inning. He forced a quick ground out and then struck out a pair of batters swinging to retire the side. Gailey and the Bulls’ defense answered with a 1-2-3 inning of their own.
After another strikeout for the Gators’ pitcher, USF found a rhythm on offense. The Bulls rattled off three-straight singles, the last of which allowed Boser to score and tie the game. Lastres caught a runner stealing third, then Ficarrotta struck out his fourth batter to end the frame.
South Florida junior Parker Seay replaced Gailey in the bottom of the fifth. Florida junior second baseman Dale Thomas smoked a leadoff double into left field to start the inning. Robertson singled with a bunt to set Langford up with no outs.
The first-team All-American struck out looking. Caglianone stepped up to the plate and ripped an RBI single to right field to restore Florida’s lead. Rivera doubled the damage with an RBI single of his own.
The Bulls pulled Seay and put junior Jackson Cothren on the mound. The move did little to stop the Gators’ onslaught. Sophomore right fielder Ty Evans made Florida’s third-straight RBI single. South Florida finally ended a difficult fifth inning with a double-play.
Ficarrotta put in another 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He forced a ground out before he struck out his fifth and sixth batters of the night. Florida’s bats responded with three quick outs to end the inning.
O’Sullivan pulled the sophomore after he hit a batter and allowed a hit. Ficarrotta struck out seven batters and allowed four hits and one earned run in slightly more than three innings of work.
“I thought he threw the ball good,” O’Sullivan said. “We just didn’t help [the pitchers] defensively.”
Freshman lefty Chris Arroyo made his debut in relief.
Arroyo forced a high fly ball into left field, and Langford tracked the ball down to force the out and end the frame. The Bulls avoided any damage after a pair of early singles to keep the game at 6-3 heading into the eighth.
Sophomore Blake Purnell replaced Arroyo after the freshman threw just eight pitches. Purnell struck out the first batter he faced. Robertson snagged a hard-hit fly ball in center field to retire the side unscathed.
Freshman designated hitter Luke Heyman mashed a fly ball into deep right field for a double. His hit meant all nine Florida batters registered at least one hit. Heyman scored after an error to push the Gators’ lead to four.
Robertson hit another RBI single to give Florida a five-run lead heading into the final inning.
Brutcher launched a home run into the Gators’ bullpen to get the Bulls off to a hot start in the ninth. Boser advanced all the way to third after Evans mishandled a fly ball in right field. Purnell walked Brodil before he was pulled.
Sophomore Fisher Jameson came in to see the game out for Florida.
Jameson struck out the first batter, but Rivera brought in a run with a single to cut UF’s lead to three. Sophomore outfielder Jackson Mayo stepped into the batter’s box and changed the game with one swing.
Mayo smashed the Bulls’ second home run of the inning into deep right field. The three-run shot tied the game. Jameson walked the next batter and O’Sullivan replaced the sophomore with fellow sophomore Anthony Ursitti.
USF completed its miraculous ninth-inning comeback. Cantu tripled off of Ursitti and sent freshman Eric Snow in for the go-ahead run. Cantu scored from third after a wild pitch to give the Bulls a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
South Florida freshman Chandler Dorsey – who came in halfway through the eighth — was now tasked with closing out an improbable upset victory. He struck out Evans on the first at-bat and walked Florida freshman pinch hitter Cade Kurland.
Florida put BT Riopelle in to help retake control of the game. The preseason All-American started the game on the bench, but was called in with the Gators in a desperate situation. Riopelle struck out swinging, and Florida was down to its final out.
Sophomore outfielder Matt Prevesk ripped an RBI single to cut the deficit to one. Senior outfielder Richie Schiekofer hit a weak ball to the third baseman who threw out Prevesk at second to end the game.
The Gators will be back at Condron Ballpark Friday for the start of a three-game series against the Cincinnati Bearcats. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+.
Contact Topher Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.
Topher Adams is a third-year journalism major and one of the assistant sports editors for the Spring 2023 semester. He also covered Florida football lacrosse for the paper and loves to follow MLS soccer and professional lacrosse.