The sixth-ranked Florida baseball team on Thursday night won their seventh-straight game after a 7-2 win over North Florida at Condron Family Ballpark.
After being held scoreless through the first four innings, Florida plated seven runs over the next two frames. Ty Evans brought home three runs off of two singles to help spark the offense.
“He had some really good at-bats. He was better tonight offensively for sure,” Gator head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
Pitcher Fisher Jameson picked up his first win over the season with 3.0 innings of relief pitched while giving up four hits and one earned run with three strikeouts. Nick Ficarrotta added three more innings of work and only allowed one hit to keep the Ospreys at bay.
“Our performances have been better,” O’Sullivan said of the Gators’ relief pitching, which has struggled this season. “We’re going to use this as motivation as we have started to get better. But we’re certainly, we’ve got a long way to go.”
Ospreys up early, pitching dominates Gators
North Florida didn’t need many pitches to put runners on base and eventually a run on the board.
Tyler Nesbitt started on the mound and hit leadoff batter Aidan Sweatt. Infielder Fletcher Cline hit a single to right field in the next at-bat to put runners on the corners From there, catcher Jakob Runnels grounded out, but scored Sweatt from third.
In five pitches, the Ospreys already had a lead. Nesbitt would strike out the next batter and retire the one after, giving UNF a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
After Florida brought in Jameson to replace Nesbitt in the third inning, the Ospreys recorded two singles. A two-out double by Cade Reich scored another, giving UNF a 2-0 before Florida had even recorded a hit.
Defensively, the Ospreys dominated the Gators behind the arm of pitcher Clayton Boroski, who retired all 12 Florida batters through the first four innings. He added three strikeouts in 40 pitches during that time.
Meanwhile, Jameson would pitch in the fourth inning and fifth innings without giving up any more runs.
Gators take lead
Despite being held scoreless and without a base runner through the first four innings, the Gator bats woke up and scored seven runs over the next two innings.
Boroski returned to the mound in the fifth inning but struggled in what would be his last inning of work.
After Josh Rivera walked to open the bottom half, BT Riopelle singled to put runners on the corners. From there, Evans recorded his first RBI of the night with a single off the shortstop.
Two batters later, Colby Halter reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners for the second time in the inning. Catcher Rene Lastres cleared the bases with a two-run triple that gave Florida the lead.
Lastres, who had Tommy John surgery in May, added a pick-off out on a steal attempt in the game, which earned praise from O’Sullivan.
“I think he played really well tonight,” O’Sullivan said. “Blocked a lot of balls in the dirt, threw out a guy at second, obviously hit the triple that opened it up. It was a great game for Rene and I’m happy he had the opportunity to do that.”
In the next at-bat, Michael Robertson recorded his first RBI in nine days with a single to score Lastres. Robertson’s RBI would eventually seal the win for Jameson, which was his first of the season.
Quickly, the Gators went from a two-run deficit to a two-run lead, and they continued to rake in the sixth inning.
Jac Caglianone singled, and Rivera walked to put two runners on base. After Riopelle advanced both on a sacrifice bunt, Evans recorded his second and third RBIs with a two-run single.
Deric Fabian contributed to the Gators’ total with a base hit to put Evans on third. He stole second base in the next at-bat, which allowed Evans to steal home.
Florida scored all seven runs in two innings behind seven total hits.
Ficarrotta fans the Ospreys in relief
Just as the offense began to pick up, Florida’s bullpen continued to shut down North Florida’s bats. After two innings without a run given up by Jameson, Ficarrotta took to the mound and retired his first eight batters. He recorded his first strikeout in the fifth inning, a full-count swinging miss by Blake Pound to end the inning.
Additionally, Ficarrotta retired all three batters in the sixth inning without recording a strike. He forced a groundout on the first pitch, and the next two outs came off of 2-0 counts.
After the offense put up their seventh run, Ficarrotta continued to retire batters with back-to-back groundouts. After Sweatt hit a single, Ficarrotta struck out Cline to end the inning.
“Pitching with a lead, it shouldn’t be a lot different, but it is,” Ficarrotta said. “You feel like you have a little cushion. You obviously still don’t want to give up hits, but even if you do, you feel like it’s not the end of the world.”
The eighth inning would prove to be his last inning of work, and, as was the previous two, the Ospreys were held at bay. A ground out and an out at first gave Ficarrotta two more downed batters in only three pitches. Another strike out, this time on a 1-2 count, ended the top half.
“We’ve been really working on just always talking every day of how just attacking, straight attacking the hitters,” Ficarrotta said. “‘Here’s my best stuff. This is what I’ve got. See if you can hit it.’ That’s what we’ve been working on.”
Ficarrotta finished the game with 3.0 innings pitched and two strikeouts while only giving up one hit and no runs.
“Fic was outstanding, kept his pitch count down. Twenty-seven pitches over three, that’s really all you can ask for,” O’Sullivan said.
Brandon Neely closed the game in the ninth after a walk and an error by Evans put two runners on base.
Florida returns to Condron Family Ballpark on Thursday for the three-game SEC opener against number 24 Alabama. First pitch for Thursday’s game is at 7 p.m. with television on SEC Network and radio coverage on WRUF.
With inclement weather possibly on the way, the Gators and the Crimson Tide may have to meet for a double-header.
“The way this works is you got to get a hold of the SEC office, and you got to get permission to play on a certain day,” O’Sullivan explained. “There’s a percentage of rain that it needs to meet in order to have that happen. It does look like the weather on Saturday, certainly it’s going to rain at some point in the morning for sure. Maybe early afternoon, but one thing that is encouraging Saturday night, so we’ll continue to monitor that.”
The Gators (16-3) and Ospreys (10-8) will meet again on Thursday, April 25 beginning at 6 p.m. at Condron Family Ballpark.