Gator Baseball Downs USF 6-1

It took all nine innings for the Florida Gators to find comfort on the road against the USF Bulls  on Tuesday night as they win on the road 6-1 to run their season record to 4-0.

Taking an uncomfortable 2-1 lead into the final frame, the Gators scored four runs, three of which came off of solo home runs. Tyler Shelnut and Cade Kurland smacked back-to-back home runs to start the ninth inning. Kurland’s 396-foot blast was the first of his young Gator career.

Additionally, Wyatt Langford provided the final run with the Gators’ third home run of the inning. Two strikeouts by relief pitcher Brandon Neely ended the game.

Gator coach Kevin O’Sullivan praised Kurland, a Tampa, Florida native, for his performance in his hometown.

“Cade had a big night, too. Coming back home, in front of his home crowd,” O’Sullivan said. “He got the two-out RBI hit back through the middle to give us a 2-1 lead and obviously, we had the big ninth inning there with quite a few home runs.”

Masterclass by Fisher in his first start

Cade Fisher got his first career start on the mound, and despite an early run by USF, Fisher kickstarted a pitching dominance against the Bulls’ offense.

USF’s Marcus Brodil hit a double, which scored Daniel Cantu from second, giving the Bulls an early 1-0 lead. Fisher would strike out the next five batters, giving him six total through the first two innings.

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A  strong defensive display extended to the Gators’ outfield. In the top of the third, Langford threw out Bobby Boser, who was looking to turn a base hit into a double, to end the inning.

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Langford’s play proved to be extremely valuable. In the game’s next at-bat, Jac Caglianone tied the game with his first home run of the season, a 403-foot blast to center field.

Caglianone finished the game with three hits and a triple short of completing the cycle.

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Fisher would continue his clutch pitching in the bottom of the fourth inning by retiring the last two batters after giving up back-to-back base hits. Fisher finished the night throwing four innings, allowing no runs and four hits with six strikeouts on 64 total pitches.

“I’ve been saying this all along. He’s advanced. He’s got the right demeanor,” O’Sullivan said of Fisher. “His heart rate never gets sped up. He slows the game down. And I think that was evident with how he handled the first inning.”

Gators’ relief pitching keeps dominating, offense finds success

Ryan Slater stepped in for the next three innings and only allowed one hit while striking out four batters.

Florida gained their first lead of the night in the sixth inning. BT Riopelle bunted to get on base and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Kurland provided a two-out RBI single to score Riopelle, giving the Gators a 2-1 lead.

From there, Slater struck out four of his next seven batters he faced over the next two innings, giving him his first win of the season. Brandon Neely took the mound in the eighth inning, striking out the side.

“Really, really pleased with the pitching, and obviously this is a new thing for Brandon to finish games, and I thought he was really good,” O’Sullivan said.

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Overall, Fisher, Slater and Neely combined to strike out 15 batters while only allowing five hits and one run.

“Cade Fisher, to get his first start on the road and pitch like that, hold things together in the first, and just limit it to that one run was huge,” O’Sullivan said.

Bombs away in the final frame

Holding a 2-1 lead heading into the final inning, the Gators needed the bats to come alive to match the dominance by the pitchers. They got that and then some.

With an 0-2 count, Shelnut sent the ball 352 feet to left center field to lead off the inning, his second home run as a Gator.

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From there, the onslaught began. Kurland hit his first career home run four pitches later to extend the lead, 4-1.

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Two batters later, Michael Robertson walked, advanced to second after a balk and eventually scored after a throwing error on a pickoff attempt by Tanner Mink.

In the next at-bat, Langford, who tied Matt LaPorta’s single-season home run record with 26 in 2022, knocked his first of the 2023 season to extend the lead, 6-1.

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Next up

The Gators on Wednesday return home for a rematch on with the Bulls at 6 p.m. Radio coverage on WRUF begins at 5:55 p.m.

About Cam Parker

Cam is a fourth-year broadcast journalism sports and media major at the University of Florida. In addition to writing and recording radio trendings for WRUF, Cam covers North Florida HS football for The Prep Zone and Mainstreet Daily News and UF football and basketball for Inside the Gators.

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