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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Florida bats roar past Lions

The Gators scored 10 or more runs for the third consecutive game

Gators baseball left-handed pitcher Cade Fisher throws the ball in Florida's 9-5 loss to St. John's University on Friday, February 16, 2024.
Gators baseball left-handed pitcher Cade Fisher throws the ball in Florida's 9-5 loss to St. John's University on Friday, February 16, 2024.

It didn’t matter how left-hander Cade Fisher pitched Friday night. 

Comforted behind a 10-run lead, the southpaw got to kick his feet back and pitch a stress-free game. It was a huge turnaround for Fisher, who struggled on Opening Day and pitched just two innings, surrendering six runs and six hits.

“I was just more in the zone,” Fisher said. “I wasn’t trying to nibble away at all. I was just trying to throw across the plate and let my defense work.” 

Other than one pitch that bled too much into the strike zone, resulting in a two-run home run for outfielder Anton Lazits, Fisher was squeaky clean. He pitched five innings and recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts as the No. 4 Florida Gators (3-1) roared past the Columbia Lions (0-1) 15-6 Friday night at Condron Family Ballpark. 

“When we’re up 10, it’s just a lot easier to kind of settle down and realize, if I give up a few hits, it’s okay,” Fisher said.

The sophomore waited more than 30 minutes to return to the mound at the top of the second inning. As he patiently stood along the dugout fence — at one point, even going to the bullpen to stay loose — the Gators' offense exploded for 10 runs. Florida logged seven hits and nearly hit around the order twice in the first inning. 

Lions junior right-handed pitcher Joe Sheets could not locate the strike zone. And when he did, the Gators took advantage. 

Florida shortstop Colby Shelton cracked onto the scoreboard first with an RBI single to center field. Right fielder Ty Evans followed with a two-run triple.

Then, the mental mistakes began to set in for the Lions.

Columbia freshman shortstop Eric Jeon allowed two runs to score on a misplayed ground ball that ricocheted off his glove and into the outfield. Sheets surrendered a single and then plunked Gators second baseman Cade Kurland. 

Kurland exited the game and received an X-ray, which turned out to be negative.

Lions head coach Brett Borretti finally elected to go to his bullpen, but the Gators continued to tack on runs.

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Junior left-handed pitcher Will Parkinson allowed three additional runs on two hits and a sacrifice fly to make it 10-0.

It was all Florida’s offense needed as Fisher continued to attack the strike zone and punched out six batters in three innings. He recorded four more strikeouts in the fourth and fifth innings.

“My stuff was a lot better than last week,” Fisher said. “I threw more strikes today.”

The Gators bullpen also got to enjoy a comfortable lead, which was needed.

Florida right-hander Fisher Jameson struggled and lasted just one inning. He surrendered three hits and three runs. Redshirt junior right-hander Blake Purnell followed and recorded just one out. He surrendered two hits and a run. 

Gators junior right-hander Ryan Slater led the bullpen and pitched 1.2 innings, recording four strikeouts.

“We shouldn’t have to use Slater in a game like this,” said O’Sullivan. “That’s probably the only disappointing part.”

Columbia gradually chipped away at Florida’s lead, largely due to a multi-homer night by Lazits, who recorded four of the Lions’ six RBI. The Gators' offense went dormant for six innings but finally picked up the pace in the last two innings of the game.

Left fielder Tyler Shelnut hit a no-doubt solo home run to left-center field in the seventh inning that landed outside of Condron Ballpark. Florida added four more runs with a pair of RBI singles and a two-run home run by sophomore catcher Luke Heyman in the eighth inning.

Freshman reliever Reilly Witmer made his first collegiate appearance and recorded the final three outs of the contest for the victory.  

The Gators continue their weekend series against the Lions at 6 p.m. Saturday at Condron Family Ballpark. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.

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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