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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Florida’s bullpen collapses in loss to Jacksonville

Gators allow six runs in sixth inning

Florida catcher BT Riopelle slides toward second base in the Gators' 13-7 victory against the Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.
Florida catcher BT Riopelle slides toward second base in the Gators' 13-7 victory against the Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.

Jacksonville first baseman Colin Wettereau saw ball four whizz by, and he took first base for the second time in the sixth inning. The entire JU lineup got to the plate in a momentum-changing sixth for the Dolphins.

Three Florida pitchers combined to allow four hits, four walks and six runs in a disastrous half-inning that gave the Gators their second loss of the young season. 

The No. 6 Florida Gators (8-2) fell to the Jacksonville Dolphins (6-4) 10-8 Wednesday night at Condron Ballpark. Eight different pitchers took the mound for Florida and allowed a combined eight hits and walked 11 batters.

“We’ve had two really bad innings this year on the mound,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “You’re not going to win many games when you walk 11 and hit three.”

Freshman Yoel Tejeda started for UF. He hit the first batter he faced, but he rebounded and struck out Jacksonville center fielder Cam Ridley looking. 

The freshman then got third baseman and former Gator Kris Armstrong swinging. Florida junior left fielder Wyatt Langford tracked a high fly ball to retire the side.

Sophomore designated hitter Jac Caglianone continued his excellence at the plate with a booming solo home run in the first inning. The sophomore has homered in six of his last seven appearances.

Tejeda allowed a single but fanned two more batters in another scoreless frame. Freshman Luke Heyman ripped a double off the left-field wall to send junior third baseman Tyler Shelnut home and double the Gators’ lead.

Senior BT Riopelle — playing first base instead of his usual catcher position — snagged a hard line drive down the first-base line for the first out of the third inning. 

Florida’s freshman pitcher struggled with his control. Tejeda walked Dolphins shortstop Chase Malloy. After Malloy stole second, he advanced to third on a wild pitch. Tejeda walked another Jacksonville batter before Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan visited him on the mound.

The freshman walked Dolphins catcher Hogan McIntosh after the mound visit to load the bases. Tejeda walked his third-straight batter to allow the first run of the night before O’Sullivan replaced him with sophomore Blake Purnell.

Purnell forced a flyout to end the inning without any further damage. The Gators’ bats couldn’t add to the run support in a scoreless third inning.

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The righty reliever also started to struggle with his control. Purnell walked a batter and hit another before Florida forced an out. Ridley singled up the middle and scored two runners to give Jacksonville its first lead of the night.

Purnell forced a ground ball down the first-base line, and Riopelle made the play to end the inning.

Freshman center fielder Michael Robertson — playing his first game since an injury against Cincinnati Friday — hit a weak ground ball to the first baseman. However, Jacksonville first baseman Colin Wetterau mishandled the ball, and Robertson got to first.

The errors compounded for the Dolphins on the next at-bat. Freshman Cade Kurland hit a grounder to third base, but Armstrong’s throw sailed past Wetterau. The error allowed three Gators to come home and gave Florida a 5-3 lead. 

Sophomore righty Fisher Jameson relieved Purnell in the fifth inning. Jameson and Florida’s defense made quick work of Jacksonville’s hitters with a 1-2-3 frame, including a strikeout from the sophomore pitcher. 

Dolphins reliever Blake Barquin matched his Florida counterpart with a quick 1-2-3 inning of his own to end the fifth inning. 

Jameson gave up a single up the middle and walked the next batter to start the sixth. An errant throw from Shelnut at third base allowed a Jacksonville runner to score, and Malloy singled to left field to send home another.

O’Sullivan brought in sophomore southpaw Philip Abner to replace Jameson. Ridley and Armstrong both singled to send two more Dolphins across home plate and take a 7-5 lead.

Abner walked a batter to load the bases with no outs in the sixth. The sophomore finally struck a batter out, but he walked the next two to send two runs in. Sophomore righty Anthony Ursitti replaced him with one out in the sixth.

Ursitti struck out the first batter swinging. Robertson sprinted back to the warning track and snagged a high fly ball to finally end a disastrous half-inning for the Gators. Florida allowed four hits and six runs and walked four batters in the sixth inning.

The UF bats couldn’t get the Gators back on the board with no hits to close the sixth.

Freshman lefty Chris Arroyo replaced Ursitti on the mound in the seventh. He walked a batter but followed it up with a strikeout. Jacksonville catcher Hogan McIntosh drove in another run for the Dolphins, but Arroyo responded with his second strikeout to end the frame.

Junior shortstop Josh Rivera finally got Florida back on the board. Rivera crushed the ball deep into center field and over the fence for a solo homer. Riopelle nearly doubled the damage, but Jacksonville right fielder Blake DeLamielleure snagged his deep fly ball to end the inning.

Junior Clete Hartzog made his Florida debut in relief of Arroyo in the eighth. The Wallace Community College-Dothan transfer struck out the side in his first-ever appearance on the mound.

“It was good to get Clete back out there,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought he looked good tonight.”

Sophomore right fielder Ty Evans and Shelnut started the eighth inning for the Gators with consecutive singles. Sophomore outfielder Matt Prevesk — who came in to pinch hit for Robertson — ripped another single to load the bases with one out.

Kurland came up to the plate with a chance to tie the game with a homer. The freshman singled to center field to score a pair of runs and cut the Dolphins’ lead in half. Langford — coming off a four-hit game Tuesday — followed with a chance to put Florida ahead.

The junior outfielder popped out to right field and Caglianone then hit a flyout to left field to end the inning. 

Sophomore Brandon Neely came in to pitch the final inning for the Gators. 

After a walk and strikeout from Neely, Ridley ripped a high fly ball into right field. Evans raced to track down the ball and dove to his right to secure a miraculous out. Neely forced a fly out to left field to retire the side. 

Rivera narrowly reached first base to start the final frame for Florida. Riopelle grounded out and Evans struck out swinging to put the Gators down to their final out. Shelnut worked into a 3-1 count, but grounded out to the shortstop to end the game.

The Gators will return to Condron Ballpark Friday for the start of a three-game weekend series against the No. 22 Miami Hurricanes. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+.

Contact Topher Adams at Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.

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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.

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