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Friday, June 02, 2023

No. 6 Gators tie season high with 17 hits in win against Jacksonville

Late-game offensive surge buries Jacksonville bullpen

Florida pitcher Jac Caglianone pitches the ball in the Gators' win against the Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.
Florida pitcher Jac Caglianone pitches the ball in the Gators' win against the Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.

Freshman second baseman Cade Kurland entered Tuesday night’s matchup against the Jacksonville Dolphins with a team-high batting average and six straight multi-hit performances to start the season.

He stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning sporting an 0-for-3 line, but the Tampa product knew he had to come up big. 

Kurland blasted a grand slam to right-center field — his fourth homer of the young season — to extend Florida’s lead to 9-1. 

The Gators (8-1) survived a shaky bullpen effort with more than enough offense in an 18-8 win against the Jacksonville Dolphins (5-4) Tuesday night at John Sessions Stadium. Kurland, junior left fielder Wyatt Langford and sophomore two-way Jac Caglianone each hit long balls, and six of UF’s nine starters turned in multi-hit performances.

Florida’s 18-run, 17-hit effort is the team’s fourth-straight game with 10 or more runs and its sixth-consecutive contest with double-digit hits.

Langford hit a single to left field for UF’s first hit of the ballgame. He was stranded after Fisher struck out Caglianone and induced a flyout by sophomore right fielder Ty Evans. 

UF sophomore starting pitcher Ryan Slater sent down the Dolphins in order in his first inning; he struck out the final two batters, including former Gators first baseman Kris Armstrong, to end the frame. 

Junior shortstop Josh Rivera reached on a hit by pitch in the top of the second. He advanced to third when graduate left fielder Richie Schiekofer lined a ball to left field that was mishandled by Jacksonville junior Elias Flowers. 

The error put runners on second and third base. Freshman catcher Luke Heyman, who grounded out to third, scored Rivera for Florida’s first run.

Slater allowed a pair of hits in the second frame but worked out of the jam when he caused graduate second baseman Jonny Barditch to fly out to right field. 

The Gators opened up another scoring opportunity in the third but managed to squander it. Langford’s second hit and a double to right from Caglianone put runners on second and third. Fisher buckled down and fanned Evans and Riopelle back-to-back to end the threat. 

Slater retired the Dolphins 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the third.  

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UF took advantage of more Jacksonville defensive miscues in the fourth and decided to play some small ball. Back-to-back singles put runners on the corners for junior third baseman Colby Halter. He dropped a bunt down the third-base line to score Schiekofer on the sacrifice to push UF’s lead to 2-0.

Florida plated its second run of the inning when Kurland grounded a ball to Armstrong at third. The Dolphin let the ball go through him and into left field, which resulted in a Heyman score from second. 

The Gators added their fourth run of the game one batter later on a wacky play in which Dolphins center fielder Cam Ridley committed two errors. Langford singled on a check swing to center field, where the ball was bobbled by Ridley. Kurland hustled from first to score, while Langford ended up at third. Ridley’s rushed throw toward home evaded JU catcher Colin Wetterau. 

Slater’s first chink in the armor revealed itself in the bottom of the fourth. Jacksonville freshman designated hitter Chandler Howard crushed his third home run of the season to right field with two away. 

Fisher hit Rivera and Schiekofer with pitches in two straight plate appearances to continue his struggles. UF had two on and two away, and Dolphins head coach Chris Hayes replaced Fisher with sophomore righty Tommy Allman. 

Heyman greeted Allman with an infield single to load the bases. Allman then walked Halter to push across UF’s fifth run. Kurland’s slam blew open the lead to 9-1. 

Florida dipped into its bullpen for the first time in the bottom of the fifth. Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan went with sophomore right-hander Nick Ficarrotta, whose outing quickly went south. 

Schiekofer failed to adjust to the heavy winds on a fly ball toward left; the ball flew over his head although he initially appeared ready to make the catch. The error quickly snowballed on Ficarrotta, who allowed an RBI single to Flowers and a three-run homer to Ridley two batters later. Armstrong hit the Dolphins’ second-consecutive home run by taking his former teammate out of the ballpark to center. 

In essentially the blink of an eye, Florida’s lead was back down to three, 9-6.  

Ficarrotta sent down the next two batters to get through the inning. 

Caglianone led off the top of the sixth and clocked his team-leading seventh homer of the year, a towering drive to left field. 

Ficarrotta righted the ship with a scoreless sixth and received even more run support from the scorching hot bat of Langford. The junior smashed a fastball right down the middle beyond the left field wall to bring home two more runs, increasing UF’s lead to 12-6 in the top of the seventh.

Sophomore righty Fisher Jameson toed the rubber next for Florida. He looked to bounce back after taking the loss in UF’s bullpen collapse Wednesday against South Florida at home. 

Jameson allowed a base hit to Jacksonville shortstop Chase Malloy before striking out the next two batters. The Dolphins then embarked on a two-out rally, stringing together back-to-back run-scoring hits by senior first baseman Hogan McIntosh and Howard. 

Still ahead 12-8 in the top of the eighth, Rivera hit a single to center field to bring two more runners home — Evans and senior catcher BT Riopelle. 

Sophomore left-hander Philip Abner made his first appearance out of UF’s bullpen since opening day and struck out the side in the bottom of the eighth. 

The Gators poured it on in the top of the ninth; they scored four more on RBIs from Evans and Riopelle. 

UF’s final pair of runs came around on another double-error mishap by the Dolphins’ defense. Armstrong executed two fielding errors — giving him four on the night — on the same play when sophomore outfielder Tucker Talbott put the ball in play toward third. He threw the ball away on a throw to first, bringing Riopelle and Caglianone around to score.

Abner continued his outing in the bottom of the ninth and allowed two hits to go along with three more strikeouts to wrap up UF’s 10-run victory.

Florida wraps up the home-and-home series with Jacksonville at Condron Ballpark Wednesday night. The Gators have not yet named their starting pitcher. The Dolphins will have righty Richard Long take the hill. 

First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+.

Contact Ethan Eibe at Follow him on Twitter @EthanEibe.

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Ethan Eibe

Ethan Eibe is a second-year UF sports media major and covers Gators baseball for The Alligator. Outside of his writing, Ethan is a play-by-play broadcaster for UF student radio and has spent two summers announcing professional baseball with the Alpine Cowboys. He is a long-suffering Miami Marlins fan.

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