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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Peterson excels in collegiate debut, Gators soar past Ospreys

Florida earned its first victory of the season against North Florida

Sophomore second baseman Cade Kurland rounds the bases during Florida's 10-0 win against North Florida Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024.
Sophomore second baseman Cade Kurland rounds the bases during Florida's 10-0 win against North Florida Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024.

The Gators got everything they could have hoped for from Liam Peterson in his collegiate debut.

After a rainy opening weekend that led to two canceled games and a delay to the freshman’s first outing, Peterson finally got to grace the mound Tuesday night against the North Florida Ospreys.

He didn’t disappoint.

Peterson struck out seven batters and surrendered just one hit in three innings pitched. It was a remarkable start to a notable game for Florida’s pitching, which logged 14 strikeouts and held the Ospreys scoreless.

“We pitched ahead better,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “All in all, everybody did their job.”

The No. 4 Florida Gators (1-1) routed the North Florida Ospreys (1-2) 10-0 Tuesday night to secure their first victory of the season. Florida’s pitching suffocated the Ospreys’ lineup in a 10-run drubbing, which ended in seven innings.

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Many expected Peterson to elect to skip the collegiate level and opt to start his professional career immediately out of high school. The 6-foot-5 freshman was ranked as the No. 34 overall player and No. 8 right-handed pitcher in Perfect Game’s 2023 recruiting class. MLB Pipeline projected Peterson to go as high as No. 85 in the 2023 MLB Draft.

“His pitch arsenal is very impressive,” Florida assistant coach David Kopp said before the season began. “Whether you’re looking at it through your eyes, or you’re looking at it through analytics, it’s all firepower stuff.”

Peterson was plain-spoken about his mindset Tuesday.

“Just attack, attack, attack,” Peterson said.

The freshman’s first inning of action went exactly to plan.

In just 11 pitches, Peterson struck out the Ospreys’ top of the order and carried the momentum into the next inning to strike out another two batters.

He collected two more strikeouts in the third inning and closed the curtain on his collegiate debut with three innings pitched, one hit, one walk and seven strikeouts on 37 total pitches. Florida chose to limit his pitch count to maintain his ability to start Saturday against Columbia.

“I was definitely upset when the rain came, especially wanting to get back after the loss [Friday],” the freshman said. “So, I was just happy to get out here today.”

Peterson wasn’t the only Gators pitcher to make their debut on the mound Tuesday night.

Florida right-handed redshirt freshman Jake Clemente made his first appearance in the sixth inning after missing all of 2023 due to a shoulder injury.

Clemente was ranked the No. 102 overall player and No. 5 right-handed pitcher from Florida in the 2022 Perfect Game class. As a senior in high school, he produced a 10-0 record on the mound with a 1.10 ERA.

Peterson’s dominance must have been infectious — Clemente pitched one inning and struck out the side in 20 pitches.

O’Sullivan was pleased despite some of the freshman’s errant pitches early in the inning.

“If he can figure out that slider for a strike,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s got tremendous value out of the pen.”

Florida’s pitching finished the night with 14 strikeouts and allowed just six runners on base in seven innings. Right-handed junior Fisher Jameson earned three strikeouts in two innings, and right-handed redshirt junior Blake Purnell closed the contest with a 12-pitch seventh inning.

The Gators ended the night early due to a dominant showcase from their offense, which logged 14 hits and 10 runs for a seven-inning, run-rule victory.

Sophomore second baseman Cade Kurland led Florida with four hits and scored all four times he reached base. Junior two-way player Jac Caglianone, who hit No. 2 in the order, recorded his first home run of the season with a first-inning, two-run blast and produced four RBI.

Nearly every single Gators hitter reached base one or more times. Florida designated hitter Brody Donay was the only batter who struggled at the plate, striking out three times.

The Gators continue their midweek series against the Ospreys at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Condron Family Ballpark. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.

Contact Luke Adragna at ladragna@alligator.org. 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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