The Florida Gators were all but ready to exit Condron Family Ballpark Wednesday out to a dominant 5-0 start. After four solid performances versus Charleston Southern and South Florida, the Gators were ready and waiting with a five-run in the ninth lead to pick up their second series win. Instead, the Gators gave up seven ninth inning runs and entered the final frame facing disaster.
That miracle never came, and Florida (4-1) fell to USF (2-3) 10-9. The loss secured the Gators’ first loss of the season and split the midweek series 1-1.
“Bottom line is, we need to get some more help from other guys on the mound,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
Sophomore two-way player Jac Caglianone has had his hands all over the Gators’ production on both sides of the plate, and that continued Wednesday evening. He sent his first pitch over the Condron Family Ballpark wall for his second homer of the season. The big fly gave Florida a 1-0 lead after the first inning of play.
Freshman starter Yoel Tejeda Jr. got the start on the mound, finishing with four hits, two earned runs and a strikeout in three innings. He opened up the third inning with his first career strikeout before allowing two singles to put a runner in scoring position. A potential double play ball gave the Gators a chance to close the inning, but junior infielder Josh Rivera whiffed on the throw to first and allowed the tying run to score. Another walk plus an RBI single put the bulls ahead, 2-1, before the Gators could escape the inning.
In the bottom of the third, the Gators put two runners in scoring position with star hitter Wyatt Langford up to bat. Langford managed a sacrifice fly to tie the game and send Caglianone back up. The Bulls chose to intentionally walk Caglianone, but wrre punished by a subsequent single from Rivera that plated a runner.
After the opening third, the Gators led 3-2.
Sophomore right-hander Nick Ficarrotta entered in relief of Tejeda in the fourth. He made quick work, earning three consecutive outs and notching his first strikeout of 2023. Ficarrotta finished his outing with seven strikeouts, four hits and just one earned run in 3.2 innings. He’s the sixth Florida pitcher to throw 5+ strikeouts in a game this year.
The Bulls battled back after the Gators snagged a lead. Three consecutive singles allowed USF to plate the tying run in the fifth inning.
Florida came back in the bottom fifth with some more offense of its own. Coastal Carolina transfer Dale Thomas led things off by smoking a ball to deep left for a standing double. Then, redshirt freshman outfielder Michael Robertson laid down a bunt to put runners on the corners with Langford up again.
Langford ended up striking out, but Caglianone stepped up behind him for a single and another RBI. Rivera was able to plate a runner of his own. Sophomore outfielder Ty Evans did the same. After five, the Gators led by three runs, 6-3.
Florida cruised through the back third, adding two runs in the ninth for what they thought was good measure. That was until UF reliever Fisher Jameson came in and gave up five scores in what could have been the final frame, including a three-run homer that tied the ballgame. Jameson was pulled for right-handed sophomore Anthony Ursitti with two outs needed to escape the jam.
Ursitti couldn’t get the job, allowing an RBI triple and another run thanks to a passed ball. Rather than closing the top of the ninth inning and heading home, the Florida batting order stepped up needing a miracle.
Freshman Cade Kurland stepped up to pinch hit and was walked. Senior BT Riopelle followed up. He struck out and Matt Prevesk emerged from the dugout with two outs. He earned an RBI single to pull the Gators within one, before Rutgers transfer Richie Schiekofer grounded out to third to finish the game and solidify UF’s first defeat of the year.
“It’s always disappointing when you’ve got errors in critical points of the game,” Rivera said. “But I have to help [the team] understand that this is a part of the game.”
Next up the Gators have another weekend series at home, this time against the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Bearcats opened the season 2-2 after splitting their opening series with Georgia State. Cincinnati did not play a midweek series, so Florida will be just its second opponent of the year. First pitch on Friday is set for 6:30 p.m. The game will stream on SEC Network+.