Florida baseball handles USF with 3-homer ninth
Florida took care of business on the road for the first time in 2023 as the Gators defeated the USF Bulls Tuesday night, 6-1.
Cade Fisher made his first collegiate start and went four innings strong against USF. Fisher struck out the side in each of the first two innings of the night, bringing his season total to seven through five innings (12.6 K/9). He gave up four hits, one unearned run and threw 41 strikes out of 64 pitches overall. The only blemish of the night was a hit batter in the first inning.
It’s clear that Fisher is at the top of the list when it comes to freshmen pitchers on the team Kevin O’Sullivan is willing to let pitch. If he keeps pitching like this, he could find himself with a significant role on the staff after non-conference play ends.
While Fisher was good, the offense didn’t do enough early to give him a decision. Jac Caglianone’s solo home run came in the top of the fourth, but that only ensure that Fisher wouldn’t get the loss. Florida has a few chances to score in the first few innings of the game.
Wyatt Langford got caught trying to stretch a single into a double in the first, and Caglianone just missed a home run in the next at-bat. Caglianone’s double surely would have scored Langford had he not made the base-running gaffe. BT Riopelle struck out to end the inning with a runner in scoring position.
Bulls starter Jack Cebert shut Florida down in the second and third, retiring seven straight Gators in a row. Caglianone broke the shutout in the fourth, but Colby Halter left the bases loaded to start his season off 0 for 10. The Bulls were forced to go to the bullpen though, which matched up with Fisher’s departure from the game.
Ryan Slater pitched the next three innings for the Gators and looked just as good as Fisher. He struck out four and allowed just one hit while holding the Bulls scoreless. He did it with incredible efficiency too, needing just 37 pitches to get through three frames.
Sophomore left-hander Ethan Brown was the first pitcher out of the bullpen for USF. He got through the fifth with little incident. Caglianone got hit No. 3 of the night to put him a triple away from the cycle, but he didn’t score. Cade Kurland did get to him in the sixth for an RBI single to give Florida the lead, though. The freshman continues to make a strong argument for a daily spot in the lineup.
Speaking of freshman, Luke Heyman pinch hit for Halter with a lefty on the mound, meaning the junior third baseman will have to wait another game to collect his first hit of the year. Dale Thomas subbed in for him to play third base for the rest of the game.
Southern Florida turned to Riley Skeen in the eighth and ninth. Florida couldn’t get to him in the eighth, but Kurland and Tyler Shelnut hit back-to-back home runs to kick off what ended up being a brutal ninth. That’s Shelnut’s second in a Gators uniform and the first of Kurland’s first-career big fly.
The Bulls turned to redshirt junior Tanner Mink after Skeen got Thomas to strike out. Mink had some trouble with his pick-off move and balked before throwing the ball into centerfield on the very next attempt. Florida’s fastest player, Michael Robertson, rounded the bases with ease and scored on the error.
Finally, Langford hit his first home run of the 2023 season and officially began the chase to 27. Florida began the ninth with just a one-run lead, but South Florida needed five to tie things up by the middle of the inning.
Brandon Neely, who came in to pitch the eighth and struck out the side, returned for the ninth after a lengthy rest on the bench. He walked a Bull to start the final frame of the night, but Neely ended up cruising to the final out of the ball game. He’s supposed to be the team’s closer, but he didn’t really need to be the one to put the lid on this one after the big inning.
The score makes this win look better than it was, but at least the bats came alive at the end. Fisher didn’t get the win, but he looked good on the bump and it’s always good to have a promising, young freshman left-hander on the staff. Kurland was the offensive MVP of the night for driving in the go-ahead run in the sixth and adding an insurance run with a solo shot in the ninth.
Up next is a rematch with USF in Gainesville on Wednesday at 6 p.m. EST.
Series Preview: Florida set for home-and-home series with USF
How to Watch: Florida baseball at South Florida Bulls on Tuesday
Gators stay put in D1Baseball rankings after opening weekend sweep
5 major takeaways from Florida's opening-series sweep over Charleston Southern
Florida baseball completes sweep of Charleston Southern
Follow us @GatorsWire on Twitter and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Florida Gators news, notes and opinions.