The Florida Gators baseball team prepares for the 2023 season with spring practices and scrimmages. (Photo from @GatorsBB via Twitter)

Gator Baseball Downs Siena to Open Series

“Rainesville” was in full effect at Condron Family Ballpark on Friday night for the sixth-ranked Florida Gator baseball team, who poured on a monsoon of strikeouts but played as if they were under the weather in a close 3-2 win over Siena College after rain delayed the start.

Inclement weather in the area delayed the game for an hour and 32 minutes and also postponed Florida softball’s matchup against Louisiana in the Bubly Invitational. It was the third weather-related delay over the last six days.

“It’s easy to show up and play hard when you got 1,000 people in the stands, the weather’s nice and all that different stuff,” Florida third baseman Tyler Shelnut said after the game. “But I think if we want to be the best baseball team in the country, it shouldn’t matter whether the weather’s bad or there’s a delay or anything else happens. You have to show up and play your best baseball every single day. Today was a good learning experience.”

Gator head coach Kevin O’Sullivan credited Siena for the energy they brought after a 20-hour bus ride followed by the long rain delay.

“We talked about it yesterday that historically, this fourth weekend, we have not played well for whatever reason,” he said. “We needed to bring the same type of energy into this weekend as we did last weekend. Very, very, very disappointing in all phases.”

Brandon Sproat started his fourth game of the year and pitched four innings with seven of the Gators’ 16 strikeouts while giving up three hits and zero earned runs.

With a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning, Shelnut hit a solo home run to left-center field to put the Gators up 3-2, which would end up being the game-winner.

Brandon Neely closed out the game with two strikeouts of his own in the ninth inning to record a save and to seal the win for Florida.

Gators put runs up early, Langford’s injury scare

Although it wasn’t the offensive onslaught the Gators are used to this season, it didn’t take long for the Orange and Blue to put a run on the board.

Jac Caglianone hit a single in his first at-bat to put runners on the corners. Josh Rivera hit into a fielder’s choice, which forced Caglianone out at second. However, an errant throw to first allowed Wyatt Langford to score from third.

The Gators led 1-0 after the first inning.

After singles by Tyler Shelnut, Luke Heyman and Michael Robertson to begin the second inning, Cade Kurland walked to bring home another.

In the next at-bat, Langford swung but was hit by a pitch. After a brief discussion with O’Sullivan and a trainer, he remained in the game. He would eventually be taken out prior to the fifth inning.

“He’s a tough kid, and you could just tell that he was still in pain,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ll see later on when we get the results back.”

Sproat drowns the Saints with strikeouts

Overall, Sproat’s night wasn’t pretty as the Saints were able to put themselves in scoring position multiple times. However, Florida’s Friday starter was able to get outs when it counted and did not give up a single run.

Of Sproat’s seven strikeouts, five came with runners in scoring position. This included a strikeout to end the third inning with the bases loaded.

“Sproat didn’t have his best stuff today,” Shelnut said, “but honestly, when that was going on, Sproat was fighting hard today. He fought through it, and that should fire you up.”

Saints bounce back in fifth, Fisher adds to the K total

Cade Fisher took the mound in the fifth inning, and all three outs came from a strikeout. However, Siena took advantage of infield mistakes by the Gators to tie the game.

After Aiden Stewart walked, Matt Livingston reached first on a fielder’s choice, and Stewart was safe at second after an error by Rivera. Danny Barbero doubled in the next at-bat to clear the bases and tied the game, 2-2.

Fisher struck out the next two batters to halt any more damage and he would strike out three more in the sixth without giving up a run despite three base runners in the inning.

Winning plays down the stretch

The offense briefly began to pull their weight in the sixth after Shelnut’s home run put them in the lead and Kurland added a double. However the Gators would fail to plate any more runs, despite having the bases loaded in the seventh inning.

However, clutch pitching by Nick Ficcarrotta and Neely down the stretch kept the Saints from completing their upset bid. BT Riopelle added more clutch plays from behind the plate in the seventh inning,

Riopelle picked off Willie Schwarick at first base and caught a pop-up in a diving effort to record the final two outs of the seventh inning.

After giving up two singles in the seventh, Ficcarrotta downed the side in the eighth inning. Overall, he recorded three strikeouts in two innings of work.

Neely followed it up with two strike outs to start the ninth and a force out at first to give the Gators the win.

Next up for the Gators

Game two against the Saints is Saturday at 4 p.m. Hurston Waldrep (2-0, 4.76 ERA) will start on the mound.

“They need to come ready to play,” O’Sullivan said of his team. “I don’t know if we were feeling too good about ourselves or what the situation was, but we’ll make sure to address it. Guys don’t want to play, then we’ll play someone else.”

The series concludes on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. Caglianone (2-0, 2.08 ERA) will start on the mound.

“There’s a target on our back, and we got to realize that,” Shelnut said. “We got to play hard every day because everybody wants to beat us. Plain and simple.”

Both games can be listened to on WRUF.

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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