Gators junior third baseman Tyler Shelnut approached the plate in the sixth inning and knew someone needed to step up. Florida’s offense had been quiet all night and scored only twice so far — a season low.
With Florida tied 2-2, Shelnut swung at a hanging changeup over the middle of the plate. He sent the ball to deep left center to put the Gators back on top, 3-2.
The run sealed the Gators’ victory and was one of few notable moments of UF’s lackluster series-opening performance.
Weather delays watered down the Gators' hot bats against the Saints in Condron Ballpark Friday night. The No. 6 Florida Gators (13-3) barely edged out the Siena Saints (2-11) 3-2.
Florida right-handed junior Brandon Sproatgot the series started for the Gators. He put a runner in scoring position in all four innings he pitched but managed to tidy up the messes created.
Siena started the game with a quick pop out to short. The Saints followed it up with a screeching liner that hit Sproat’s leg. Sproat continued to play through the game and seemed unaffected from the hot-shot. He closed out that inning which made way for the Gators to take an early lead.
Florida scored its first run on a fielder’s choice run batted in hit by junior shortstop Josh Rivera. Rivera hit a grounder to shortstop, and Siena attempted to turn a double play to end the inning. Siena senior Donovan Montgomery committed a throwing error to make way for an early Gators lead.
Florida’s bats came alive in the bottom of the second but produced little on the scoreboard. Shelnut, freshman designated hitter Luke Heyman and freshman center fielder Michael Robertson all singled to load the bases.
The Gators scored just one run on a walk by freshman second baseman Cade Kurland that allowed Shelnut to score. UF junior left fielder Wyatt Langford and sophomore first baseman Jac Caglianone hit themselves into outs shortly after.
Both team’s offense struggled in the third and fourth innings.
The only noteworthy result came in the fourth inning when Heyman rounded first after a single up the middle. He maneuvered back to first but injured his hamstring in the process.
Florida sophomore outfielder Matt Prevesk replaced Heyman and pinch-ran for the injured Gator.
The severity of the injury is unknown at this time, Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
O’Sullivan pulled Sproat to make way for freshman lefty relief pitcher Cade Fisher. Sproat finished without allowing a run in four innings — he also had seven strikeouts, allowed three hits and three walks.
“He didn’t have his best stuff today but found ways to get out of it with no runs,” Shelnut said. “That’s huge.”
Fisher collected three strikeouts in the fifth inning but gave up a two-run double to freshman designated hitter Danny Barbero. The game was tied at 2-2 to start the bottom of the fifth.
The Gators only other offensive spark came from Shelnut in the sixth inning. The Lake City, Florida, native hit a solo shot to left center to put the Gators back on top.
The blast by Shelnut extended the Gators’ streak to 13 games with a home run. The stretch ties the program's record set 25 years ago.
Kurland also hit a double that inning, but Florida failed to bring him home after a groundout by senior outfielder Richie Schiekofer to end the inning.
Runners left in scoring position was the theme for both teams all night. Florida finished 1-13 with runners in scoring position, and Siena was 1-12. The team’s offenses opened innings strong but couldn’t finish as they progressed further down the lineup.
Fisher was taken out of the game after two innings for sophomore reliever Nick Ficarrotta. The sophomore pitched the Gators’ sole 1-2-3 inning in the eighth and struck out the first batter then retired the next two by contact.
Sophomore righty Brandon Neely entered the game with Florida up just one run and hoped to finish off the subpar night.
Neely’s performance was the “only positive” of the night, O’Sullivan said. Neely struck out the first two batters, gave up a single, then forced the final batter into a ground out to earn the win for the Gators.
The victory was Florida’s 16th versus Siena, and they now hold a 16-0 record against the Saints.
UF will hope to get its bats rolling and clinch the three-game series at 4 p.m. Saturday at Condron Ballpark. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+.
Luke Adragna is a third-year journalism student and the Florida Gators football reporter at The Alligator. He is a cat ethusiast and completes the NYT Daily Mini in less than a minute each day.