Photo by Brian Fox | ChompTalk

The Florida Gators woke up to the news this morning that their game against Alabama had turned into a double header. Suddenly, a 9-inning sprint became an all-day, 18-inning marathon that crawled through the Friday afternoon. Despite securing the series in the first leg, the Gators ultimately sputtered out and fell in the series finale, finishing the opening weekend of SEC play at 2-1.

No. 5 Florida (18-4, 2-1 SEC) fell to No. 24 Alabama (17-4, 1-2 SEC) 6-3 Friday night in the finale of both teams’ opening conference series. The Gators were unable to take a lead despite producing four-straight scoreless innings from the Crimson Tide through the middle innings.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hurston Waldrep came out to a sluggish start in game three. He walked multiple batters and put UF into tough situations, which led to three runs scored on a single, a passed ball and an unearned run on a single. He threw 32 pitches before getting out of the frame with the Gators down 3-0.

“Our starting pitching is obviously better than what is was today,” Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.

Florida made up for its errors by taking advantage of Alabama’s own mistakes. Freshman Cade Kurland advanced to third thanks to a few errors and fielder’s choices. Then, junior infielder Josh Rivera stepped to the plate. After walking off the previous game, he sent a two-run shot over the wall to make it a 3-2 deficit for the Gators after one inning.

“In the past I would dwell on mechanics and stuff like that instead of focusing on my mentality,” Rivera said. “It’s just mentality.”

Alabama continued to sit on the fastball and found success. The first one of the second inning was turned on for a solo-shot home run, giving the Crimson Tide the lead. Florida was able to put a pair of runners on base with some walks but ultimately left its men stranded. After two innings, the Gators trailed 4-2.

Despite giving up a single in the top of the third, Waldrep snagged his fourth strikeout and the frame closer to escape the third with Alabama’s lead stagant.

The Gators continued to get runners on base without converting runs, leaving two more stranded in the bottom of the third to keep it 4-2. Both teams went scoreless through the middle third as the game trudged on towards the final three innings.

Sophomore right-hander Brandon Neely entered in relief of Waldrep in the seventh. Waldrep finished with six innings pitched, seven hits, three earned runs and seven strikeouts on four walks.

Neely got caught in a jam after a single turned into a runner on third with the help of a stolen base and an error. He was able to secure the third out with strikeout to keep the Crimson Tide scoreless through four consecutive innings.

Florida made things interesting in the bottom of the seventh. Freshman Luke Heyman entered to pinch hit and singled. Junior infielder Colby Halter singled behind him to send pinch runner Richie Schiekofer to third. The top of the order was due up with just one out.

Redshirt freshman Michael Robertson added an RBI single to make it a one-run game. Despite the momentum, Florida managed to run itself into a freak double play to close the seventh inning still trailing, 4-3.

After four scoreless innings, ‘Bama broke through with a two-run bomb to left field to make it a 6-3 lead for the Tide.

The Gators couldn’t get anything going in their penultimate offensive frame, committing their first 1-2-3 strikeout inning all season.

“Those were two tough games,” senior catcher BT Riopelle said. “I give Alabama a lot of credit. We really wanted to solidify a sweep there.”

After holding Alabama scoreless in the ninth, the Gators dug in with a chance for lightning to strike twice. Instead, the Gators went 1-2-3 on strikeouts again to close the series on a not-so high note.

Next up, the Gators travel to Tallahassee for a midweek matchup Tuesday against Florida State. It will be the first of three games played by the two teams this season. The Seminoles came out with a six-game win streak to start the season, but have since won just six of their last 12. They defeated Boston College in their series opener this afternoon. The game is set to begin at 7 p.m. and will stream on ACCNX.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: