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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Fisher tosses gem, Gators set for regional finale against Texas Tech

The freshman finished with six strikeouts across seven innings

Florida pitcher Cade Fisher walks to the dugout during the Gators' 7-1 win over Texas Tech Sunday, June 4, 2023.
Florida pitcher Cade Fisher walks to the dugout during the Gators' 7-1 win over Texas Tech Sunday, June 4, 2023.

After using the top three arms in his starting rotation, there was ambiguity for who Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan would turn to for Sunday’s elimination game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

The 15-year head coach placed his trust in true freshman right-hander Cade Fisher to make the start. 

Fisher went seven innings and surrendered five hits with only one run in a performance that kept the Gators’ season alive. 

“My goal was just to go as deep as I can,” Fisher said. “Give our bullpen a little bit of a break.”

The No. 2 Florida Gators (47-15, 20-10 SEC) defeated the Texas Tech Red Raiders (41-22, 12-12 Big XII) 7-1 Sunday in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Gainesville regional. Florida freshman left-hander Cade Fisher surrendered one run in seven innings to help advance the Gators to the regional finale Monday. 

The Red Raiders earned the first hit of the game with an up-the-middle leadoff single by sophomore catcher Hudson White in the second inning. Two outs later, designated hitter Drew Woodcox knocked a single to left field and slid into second after UF senior left fielder Richie Schiekofer attempted to gun down White at third.

Fisher was faced with his first challenge of the game: getting out of the inning with a pair of runners on second and third. 

After a quick mound visit from O’Sullivan, the lefty got the job done. Texas Tech junior second baseman Austin Green hit a shot to third, and Gators junior third baseman Colby Halter picked the ball and returned a throw to first with ease.

The fourth inning ended in less than five minutes total. Petty tossed six pitches to retire the heart of Florida’s order and Fisher responded with a seven-pitch inning to retire the heart of Texas Tech’s batting order.

Sunday’s stalemate came to an end in the sixth inning, characterized by some unconventional occurrences.

Florida nine-hole hitter Richie Schiekofer made way for the top of the order when he ran-out an infield single to second base. Then, true freshman second baseman Cade Kurland drove a towering fly ball to center.

Red Raiders freshman center fielder Gage Harrelson lost sight of the ball. It hit the warning track dirt and bounced over the fence to land into the outfield concourse. 

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UF junior outfielder Wyatt Langford stepped up to the plate with a pair of runners on and rolled over a pitch and sent a dribbler to third base. Red Raiders freshman third baseman Kevin Bazzell charged the ball and fired a throw to home to gun down Schiekofer at the plate. 

The play continued when Langford tried to stretch the fielder’s choice in an attempt to reach second. He stumbled himself into a rundown between first and second, and while the infielders squeezed Langford closer, Kurland made his pursuit home.

He was tagged out at the plate, and Langford reached second.

Florida two-way sophomore Jac Caglianone broke onto the scoreboard with a run-batted-in single to right field which scored Langford. 

Caglianone advanced to second on a wild pitch and junior shortstop Josh Rivera hit an infield single to third base that led to a throwing error by Bazzell. The ball soared to the backstop to score Caglianone and advance Rivera to second.

Gators junior outfielder Tyler Shelnut capped off the inning with a two-RBI single through the left side hole.

“Earlier in the day, I had two pitches that I could’ve hit hard and I kind of had not great swings put on them,” Shelnut said. “I said, you know what, I’m gonna make up for it right now.” 

Fisher continued to navigate his way through the Red Raiders’ order and completed two more innings.

“We were hoping to probably get five [innings],” O’Sullivan said. “I just said, ‘Keep going, keep going.’”

The freshman was brought out for the top in the top of the eighth, and after quickly surrendering a double to the Red Raiders’ nine-hole hitter and a bunt-single to their leadoff hitter, O’Sullivan made a call to the bullpen to limit the damage.

Gators sophomore Brandon Neely jogged out to the hill. He immediately surrendered a sacrifice fly RBI on the first pitch he threw, but rebounded and earned the final two outs of the inning.

The Gators tacked on extra run support in the top of the ninth when White attempted to gun down freshman pinch runner Michael Robertson and soared the throw over the glove of Bazzell. One run crossed the plate, and two more scored on an RBI double by Langford.

Neely surrendered two singles in the bottom of the ninth but finished the outing, striking out his final batter. 

“We’ve got a bunch of guys that have pitched in big leverage situations that will be available tomorrow,” O’Sullivan said. 

The Gators play in the Gainesville regional finale against Texas Tech Monday at noon. The season is on the line for both teams, and the winner advances to the NCAA Super Regionals. 

Contact Luke Adragna at Follow him on Twitter @lukeadrag.

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Luke Adragna

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.

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