Redshirt sophomore Ryan Slater returned to the mound in the top of the ninth. Florida’s third reliever of the night had the chance to secure a midweek victory and a strong outing from the Gators’ pitching staff.
Slater struck out one and forced a groundout to put North Florida down to its final out. He walked a batter to put runners on the corners with two outs. Slater put Ospreys shortstop Alex Lodise in an 0-2 count.
Lodise hammered the ball and looked to shift the momentum of the game in the final moments. However, the ball stalled out at the warning track for a comfortable fly out to secure a win for the Gators.
The No. 4 Florida Gators (32-10, 11-7 SEC) defeated the North Florida Ospreys (22-19, 8-10 ASUN) 6-2 Tuesday night at Condron Ballpark. Four UF pitchers combined to allow just two runs on 10 hits with 10 strikeouts.
“Tonight was an important one for us to get back in the win column, so the guys feel a little bit better about themselves heading into the weekend,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
Freshman righty Yoel Tejeda Jr. took the mound after a weather delay pushed the game’s start back by 47 minutes. The tall right-hander allowed a pair of runners on the corners with one out in the first inning.
Tejeda worked out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts to end the frame.
“That was huge,” Tejeda said. “I knew I had to make a big pitch.”
Junior left fielder Wyatt Langford smashed a one-out double down the third-base line to put a runner in scoring position. Junior shortstop Josh Rivera knocked a single just over the head of Ospreys second baseman Aidan Sweatt to send Langford home.
Rivera showed his defensive prowess in the top of the second. The Avon Park, Florida, product rolled to his left to snag a ground ball, made the play at second base and threw to first in time to turn a double play.
Freshman catcher Luke Heyman started in the batter’s box for Florida in the bottom of the inning. He hammered the ball over the left-field berm for a 416-foot solo home run.
Sophomore designated hitter Jac Caglianone looked to add another run with a solo shot of his own. After a replay review, the umpire ruled that the ball went through the bullpen wall, not over it, and the play was ruled a ground-rule double.
Senior first baseman BT Riopelle scored Caglianone from third with a sacrifice fly to give Florida a 3-0 lead through three.
North Florida put Tejeda under duress in the top of the fourth. Left fielder Cade Reich reached on a fielder’s choice. Right fielder Cherokee Nichols then doubled just over Langford’s extended glove in left field to put a pair of Ospreys runners in scoring position.
Tejeda got out of the one-out jam again. He struck out one batter and induced a lineout to Kurland at second base to post his fourth shutout inning of the night.
O’Sullivan replaced Tejeda with redshirt sophomore Nick Ficarrotta in the fifth inning. Tejeda allowed five hits and zero runs with four strikeouts in four innings of action.
“I felt great,” Tejeda said. “I’ve been working all year long [on] how do I get better … worked out pretty good today. ”
North Florida finally cracked through Florida’s defense after the pitching change. Center fielder Austin Brinling doubled off the wall in right field to score one run, and designated hitter Jakob Runnels singled to score Brinling and cut the deficit to one.
Ficarrotta settled in to strike out a pair and end the frame.
The right-hander carried that momentum into the sixth inning. Ficarrotta forced a ground out before he struck out two more Ospreys batters to end a 1-2-3 inning. Florida’s offense failed to get going, however, and went down in order.
Sophomore left-hander Philip Abner replaced Ficarrotta after the redshirt sophomore walked the leadoff batter in the seventh. Abner turned in a scoreless frame to keep the Gators on top through seven.
The sophomore southpaw worked into trouble in the eighth inning. With two on and one out in the frame, O’Sullivan opted to replace Abner with Slater. The right-hander struck out the first batter he faced and induced a weak fly out to get out of the jam.
Florida finally found some offense late to add insurance. Langford singled, and Rivera walked to put a pair on for Riopelle. The senior ripped a single between first and second to score Langford and take a 4-2 lead.
“One-one ballgame, he comes in and gets a really big hit,” O’Sullivan said. “That was really important for him and was important for us.”
Heyman scored another when he dropped a single into center field. Junior third baseman Colby Halter continued the rally with a sacrifice fly that scored another run. The Gators’ late flurry of small hits gave Slater a four-run lead in the top of the ninth.
The redshirt sophomore allowed a pair of baserunners, but he took care of business and kept the Ospreys off the board in the final frame to secure the win.
Florida will be back at Condron Ballpark Friday for the start of a three-game weekend series against the Missouri Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for 7 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 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.