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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Florida outlasts Bethune-Cookman in midweek matchup

BT Riopelle’s two-run homer helps Gators to victory

Florida first baseman BT Riopelle slides into home plate in the Gators' 17-8 victory against the Auburn Tigers Sunday, April 2, 2023.
Florida first baseman BT Riopelle slides into home plate in the Gators' 17-8 victory against the Auburn Tigers Sunday, April 2, 2023.

Florida senior first baseman BT Riopelle came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh. The Gators battled with Bethune-Cookman all night, but the senior was about to put the game out of reach.

Riopelle hammered the ball to the opposite field and into the left field berm for a two-run shot to help secure a midweek victory for Florida.

The Florida Gators (25-5, 7-2 SEC) defeated the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (16-13, 7-2 SWAC) 8-4 Tuesday night at Condron Ballpark. Five UF pitchers combined to hold the Wildcats to four runs on four hits.

“Tonight was one of those games that could’ve turned into a trap game,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “

Freshman righty Yoel Tejeda Jr. struggled on the mound in the first inning. He walked a batter and vomited during the next at-bat. O’Sullivan visited the mound to help the young righty, but Tejeda committed an error to put two men on.

“He wondered if I’d seen it before, but I told him on the mound I’ve seen just about everything during the game,” O’Sullivan said.

Wildcats designated hitter Robert Moya took Tejeda yard to put the visitors on the board. He pumped the ball over the opposite field fence for a three-run homer. The Gators forced a flyout to left field to get out of a strange first inning.

Florida’s bats responded early. Redshirt freshman center fielder Michael Robertson beat the throw at first for an infield single, and junior left fielder Wyatt Langford ripped a double down the left field line to put a pair of Gators in scoring position.

Bethune-Cookman lefty Alec Mendez saw the athletic trainer at the mound, and the Wildcats pulled their starter for righty Santiago Gomez before recording an out in the game.

Junior designated hitter Jac Caglianone came to the plate with no outs. He dropped a single just over the shifted infield which allowed Robertson and Langford to score and cut the lead to one. 

Tejeda returned to the bump in the second. Things went smoother for the freshman in the second. Florida retired the side in order for a 1-2-3 inning. Junior third baseman Tyler Shelnut secured a hard-hit ground ball down the line, and Riopelle made the tag at first to end the frame.

Sophomore right fielder Ty Evans blasted the ball into the right-center gap and galloped to third base for a leadoff triple. Sophomore catcher Rene Lastres hit a ground ball that scored Evans and tied the game. 

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Evans came up huge on the defensive end in the third. The sophomore outfielder raced into the right-center gap and dove to his right to snag a fly ball for the inning’s first out. Tejeda forced a pair of groundouts to end another scoreless frame.

Florida’s defense continued to roll in the fourth. Tejeda secured a ground ball and made the throw to first. He later forced an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play after he walked the second batter.

Tejeda pitched a career-high four innings. He allowed two hits and three runs.

Robertson gave the Gators the lead in the bottom of the fourth. The redshirt freshman outfielder lofted a sacrifice fly to bring home Lastres, and Langford scored junior second baseman Dale Thomas with another sac fly.

Junior right-hander Clete Hartzog took the mound for Florida in the fifth. He forced a ground out and struck out another but walked a pair of Bethune-Cookman hitters. O’Sullivan visited Hartzog on the mound after the second walk.

The junior righty responded with an inning-ending ground ball to cap off a fourth-straight scoreless frame for the Gators’ defense. 

Hartzog worked into trouble in the top of the sixth. He allowed a single to right field and walked another batter. O’Sullivan opted to pull the junior and put in sophomore righty Nick Ficarrotta.

Ficarrotta plunked Wildcats first baseman Manny Souffrain to load the bases with no outs. Shortstop Jeremy Garcia lofted a fly ball to Evan in right field, but the throw to the plate was just late, and a run scored for Bethune-Cookman.

Third baseman Brian Perez walked to load the bases again. Ficarrotta struck out Wildcats leadoff hitter Colton Olasin swinging to end the inning and get out of the jam. Florida’s bats couldn’t add to the lead, however, and Ficarrotta returned to the mound in the seventh.

The Gators handled the Wildcats for another scoreless frame. The offense came to life after a pair of dormant innings. Langford blasted the ball into the right-center gap for a standup triple, and junior shortstop Josh Rivera brought home the run with a single.

Riopelle added to the damage. The senior drilled a line drive into deep left field and into the berm for his fifth homer of the season. 

Freshman lefty Chris Arroyo replaced Ficarrotta in the eighth. He forced a pair of outs, but he walked a pair to put two runners on. The southpaw forced a weak hit in front of Lastres at home plate, and Florida’s catcher made the throw to first to end the inning unscathed.

Sophomore lefty Philip Abner came in to close the game after a scoreless eighth from the Gators. He walked Bethune-Cookman outfielder Malik Stephens on four pitches to start the ninth inning.

Riopelle and Rivera visited Abner on the mound after two more balls. The southpaw rebounded and got Wildcats right fielder Hylan Hall swinging for the first out of the frame. 

Abner forced a weak grounder on the next at-bat, and the Gators turned two to seal the win.

Florida will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, to face the No. 11 Tennessee Volunteers in a three-game weekend series. First pitch of game one is scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, and the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Contact Topher Adams at tadams@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.


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Topher Adams

Topher Adams is a fourth-year communications major and in his fourth semester with the Alligator. He previously covered football, baseball and women's basketball. He also enjoys professional lacrosse and Major League Soccer.


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