Florida junior shortstop Josh Rivera walked up to the plate with a pair of base runners aboard. The Avon Park, Florida, product smacked a three-run shot in the first inning, and he was about to do it again.
Rivera crushed the ball out of Condron Ballpark to cap off a career night in an offensive explosion for both teams.
The Florida Gators (11-3) defeated the Florida Atlantic Owls (7-5) 18-11 Tuesday night at Condron Ballpark in Florida’s highest-scoring game of the season. The teams combined for 29 runs on 25 hits.
“FAU’s lineup is as good as any lineup we’re gonna see this year,” UF head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Hopefully our guys will learn from this and hopefully build off this with confidence.”
Rivera led the way with nine runs batted in for the Gators — the most by a Florida player since 2015.
“You don’t have many nights like this when you have nine RBI,” O’Sullivan said.
Freshman Yoel Tejeda Jr. made his third midweek start of the season against the Owls. The 6-foot-6-inch righty allowed a leadoff single, but he bounced back to force designated hitter Dylan Goldstein to ground out to junior shortstop Josh Rivera, who turned a double play.
Right fielder Nolan Schanuel gave Tejeda his first big challenge of the night in the next at-bat. The junior slugger launched a high fly ball into deep right field for a solo home run to get the Owls on the board first.
Tejeda forced another weak ground out to end the inning.
Freshman second baseman Cade Kurland continued his efficient start to the season with a leadoff walk. Junior left fielder Wyatt Langford followed with a single to right field, which brought sophomore designated hitter Jac Caglianone to the plate.
Caglianone flew out to center field, but Rivera came to the plate with two men on and one out. The junior from Avon Park, Florida, jumped at the first pitch he saw and sent it into deep center field and off the batter’s eye for a three-run home run.
Florida Atlantic starter Evan Waterbor continued to struggle through the first. After Rivera’s homer, he walked senior catcher BT Riopelle and freshman catcher Luke Heyman.
Junior third baseman Tyler Shelnut came up to the plate for his first at-bat of the night. The Santa Fe College transfer smashed a deep fly ball into the Owls’ bullpen in deep left field for the Gators’ second three-run homer of the night.
Florida scored a season-high six runs in the first inning.
The Gators’ defense continued to excel on the ground in the second. Tejeda forced three ground outs to end a quick 1-2-3 inning for Florida.
UF’s impressive hitting continued in the second. Langford hit a high fly ball into shallow center field, but Owls second baseman Lucas Phelps couldn’t track it down, and Langford reached second.
Right after Langford reached second, the game paused for a weather delay due to storms rolling over Gainesville. The weather passed and play resumed within an hour.
Florida’s bats cooled off after the 41-minute weather delay with a pair of quick outs to end the inning.
Tejeda started strong in the third but things quickly fell apart for the young pitcher. He hit FAU shortstop Armando Albert and gave up a single to Goldstein. Schanuel came back to the batter’s box and punished Tejeda again.
The Owls’ outfielder drilled a ball into straight away center field and over the outstretched glove of Florida redshirt freshman center fielder Michael Robertson for a three-run shot — Schanuel’s second of the night.
After Riopelle struck out, sophomore right fielder Ty Evans answered for the Gators. Evans ripped a long fly ball into the Dizney Grove for his third homer of the year.
Tejeda’s control waned in the fourth inning. The freshman walked catcher John Schroeder and allowed a single from left fielder Mitchell Hartigan. O’Sullivan pulled Tejeda and brought in sophomore righty Ryan Slater.
The freshman allowed six hits and four earned runs in three innings of work.
Slater took over with two runners on and no outs in the fourth. He walked second baseman Lucas Phelps to juice the bases for center fielder Jalen Debose. The center fielder dropped a single into shallow left field to score Schroeder and Hartigan.
Florida Atlantic drove in two more on a fielder’s choice and a blooper over Shelnut’s head to tie the game. Schanuel walked, and third baseman Jackson Ross hit a weak grounder. The ball was just out of reach of Shelnut, and the Owls took the lead.
First baseman Christian Adams drove in another run on a fielder’s choice. Slater finally got out of the inning when Riopelle picked up a ground ball at first base and tagged the runner. FAU scored five runs in the fourth inning to completely flip the momentum.
Brandon Smith replaced Waterbor in the fourth inning. He hit Kurland in the shoulder on his first pitch of the night and allowed the freshman to reach second on a wild pitch.
Smith walked Langford, then Caglianone reached after Adams’ double-play attempt drilled Langford on his way to second base. Rivera came to the plate with no outs and scored Kurland with a sacrifice fly.
Riopelle walked for the second time, and Smith hit Evans to score another run and tie the game. FAU head coach John McCormack pulled the junior reliever in favor of righty CJ Williams. A wild pitch allowed Caglianone to score, but Williams struck out Heyman. He forced a fly ball from Shelnut to end the inning.
Slater rebounded from a difficult fourth with a 1-2-3 fifth inning. He forced a pair of 6-3 ground outs and a deep fly out to Robertson in center field.
Smith hit Kurland and walked Langford again. Rivera came back to the plate with two runners on and two outs. The Gators’ shortstop smashed the ball over the left-field fence and out of the ballpark for his second three-run shot of the night.
O’Sullivan kept Slater in to start the sixth, and the sophomore struck out Albert looking to start the frame. He forced a quick fly out which brought Schanuel up to bat again.
The junior continued to punish Florida’s pitchers and ripped another bomb into deep right field — his third homer of the night. Riopelle dove to his right to snag a line drive and tossed the ball to Slater at first base to end the inning.
Shelnut hit a hard line drive down the third base line for a double and Robertson was hit by a pitch. Kurland and Langford had a chance to drive in the runs, but they both hit fly outs to the outfield.
Sophomore right-hander Nick Ficarrotta relieved Slater in the sixth. Schroeder drilled a ball right at the Gators’ reliever, but the sophomore snagged the line drive for an out.
Ficarrotta forced a high fly out, but FAU second baseman Lucas Phelps reached first on a weak grounder to third. The sophomore rebounded and struck out Debose swinging to end the frame.
Junior lefty Sam Drumheller — who replaced Williams — walked Rivera and hit Riopelle in the seventh. The Owls’ pitcher recovered to strike out Evans and force a ground out to end the inning.
Rivera raced to snag a ground ball and launched it to Riopelle at first base. The senior made the catch at full extension for the out. Ficarrotta struck out another FAU batter, but O’Sullivan pulled the sophomore with Schanuel up to bat.
Sophomore lefty Philip Abner came in to see out the eighth inning. He struck out the Owls’ star slugger on three pitchers to end a 1-2-3 inning for Florida.
Shelnut walked, and Robertson narrowly beat the pitcher to first base for a single. Kurland walked again, and Langford came to the plate with bases loaded and no outs. Caglianone was hit by a pitch, and Rivera stepped up with three men on.
The junior worked a full count and drove a single up the middle to score two more. Evans and Heyman left Rivera stranded with a chance to end the game on a walk-off.
The reigning Southeastern Conference player of the week hit a powerful line drive off the glove of a defender for a base hit. Shelnut and Robertson scored to give the Gators a five-run lead.
Sophomore closer Brandon Neely came in to see out the ninth inning. Ross saw Neely’s first pitch and launched it out of the stadium. Adams followed the homer with a single. Neely hit a batter and walked another to load the bases with one out.
Riopelle caught a high infield fly to put FAU on its last out. Neely got Albert looking to give Florida the victory.
The Gators will be back at Condron Ballpark Wednesday for their second and final matchup with the Owls. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+.
Contact Topher Adams at email@example.com. 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.