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Monday, May 20, 2024

Florida baseball wins first midweek game since Feb. 28

The Gators defeated Florida A&M 10-7, Tuesday

The Florida baseball team huddles up before its game against Mississippi State on Sunday, March 31, 2024.
The Florida baseball team huddles up before its game against Mississippi State on Sunday, March 31, 2024.

Up 8-7 in the seventh inning, Florida baseball head coach Kevin O’Sullivan walked out to the mound to signal Cade Fisher to the mound. Fisher, who moved to the bullpen in the Gators’ most recent SEC series against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, entered for his second appearance out of the bullpen. 

He came in with trouble on the basepaths, as Florida A&M had the tying run on second with just one out.

It was no problem for Fisher. 

He struck out two Rattlers hitters, both on fastballs, to get the Gators out of the small jam and end the inning. 

Though, Fisher faced a bigger threat in the top of the eighth. With runners on third and second, and with the Gators up two, the junior needed one out. 

Fisher got a pop-up, but it looked like the ball was going foul. However, junior first baseman Jac Caglianone sprinted towards the Gators' dugout and made the grab while reaching slightly over the dugout railing. 

It got Florida out of the threat, and Fisher pointed at his first baseman, thanking him for the catch. 

The southpaw pitched the final 2 2/3 innings of the game, giving up no runs. Fisher, along with five home runs from the UF offense, propelled the Gators (17-12, 6-3 SEC) to their first midweek win since Feb. 28 over Florida A&M (12-17) 10-7 Tuesday. 

“It’s kind of taking a little pressure off,” Fisher said about moving to the bullpen. “I don’t have to worry about getting six innings, I just have to worry about getting a few outs. Just not much pressure out of the bullpen for me.”

The former Friday night starter had a 7.55 ERA coming into the game. But his last two outings, both out of the bullpen, have been solid. Over his last two appearances, Fisher has recorded 10 strikeouts and has given up just one earned run in six innings.

Despite the win, the midweek woes looked evident in the early innings. Coming into the contest with a 10-8 non-conference record, Florida pitching surrendered six runs in the first three innings. 

Junior Ryan Slater started on the mound for UF, but the veteran gave up five runs in his two innings. Although three of them were earned, Florida found itself down 3-0 quickly, and 6-3 heading into the bottom of the third. 

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“Starting pitching’s got to get better,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We’ve been saying that the entire year.” 

Despite the early runs, Florida’s offense used the long ball to tack on runs. 

Caglianone and sophomore shortstop Colby Shelton hit one home run each. Caglianone now has 14 home runs on the season, the most on the team. His long ball in the bottom of the seventh inning traveled 491 feet and extended Florida's lead to 9-7. Shelton’s third-inning blast was his 13th of the year, good for second on the team. 

Sophomore second baseman Cade Kurland hit a three-run home run in the first inning. Sophomore designated hitter Brody Donay hit two home runs, one in the third and eighth inning. Donay's long ball in the third gave Florida its first lead of the game at 7-6, and it would hold onto the advantage for the remainder of the game. His second of the game put UF for good 10-7.

“It felt really good,” Donay said. “It’s something I needed and hopefully we just keep moving forward from now.”

This was the seventh game where the Gators recorded 10-plus runs, and the team improved to 8-0 when they hit the double-digit run mark. 

However, the team was out-hit by the Rattlers 13-8. On the season, the Gators were just 2-8 when their opponent recorded more hits coming into Tuesday’s contest. Also, Florida earned its first win when its opponent scored seven runs. 

“We’ve proven that we’ve been extremely inconsistent,” O’Sullivan said. “I’m glad that we got a win tonight… not trying to be negative, but I mean, bottom line is we need to get better.” 

A bright sign in the Gators’ win was the bullpen’s performance. Fisher Jameson, Blake Purnell and Fisher came on in relief and allowed just two earned runs and combined to strike out nine Rattlers in seven innings. Kurland finished the night 3-for-4 and now has two hits in three out of his last four games. 

Kurland and Donay brought in seven of the team’s 10 RBIs. 

UF will next turn its attention to the Missouri Tigers, who they’ll play in a three-game series beginning Friday in Columbia. First pitch is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network +. 

“Missouri is certainly capable of playing well and giving us fits,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s the bottom line. I mean, anybody can.” 

Contact Bennett Solomon at bsolomon@alligator.org. Follow him on X @B_Soly11.

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