UF's Colby Shelton hits Friday against St. John’s at the Condron Family Ballpark on Friday. [Lee Ann Anderson/WRUF]

Gators Fall To St. John’s On Opening Night; Weather Claims Games 2-3

In front of an opening night record-setting crowd of 7,898 fans at Condron Family Ballpark, the Florida Gators were undefeated in openers since 2014.

Key word: Were.

St. John’s University upset the No. 2 Gators 9-5 on Friday, as the Gators put themselves in a quick hole by giving up seven runs early in the game.

“The crowd was outstanding, but when you fall behind that early, it amplifies the pressure that you put on yourself,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.

UPDATE: Because of inclement weather, Saturday and Sunday’s games against St. John’s were canceled.

The Gators (0-1) next play at North Florida at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Fisher Out Of Rhythm

The Red Storm jumped on sophomore left-hander Cade Fisher in the first inning, scoring on a pair of two-out hits to get things going at 2-0.

The following inning, St. John’s took advantage of a walk and an error by Fisher on a bunt to collect back-to-back hits scratching three more runs to stun the Gators, 5-0.

“It looked like the game got sped up on him,” O’Sullivan said. “I know opening night’s different, I get that … but we really put our offense in a tough situation to try and battle back from seven runs early.”

In the third, Fisher’s chance to find rhythm was cut short when he gave up a lead-off double. Ryan Slater replaced him on the mound. Fisher tossed just two innings, giving up five runs on five hits, four strikeouts and two walks.

“I’ve pitched in a lot of big moments in my career, but tonight just wasn’t my night,” Fisher said.

UF’s Dale Thomas slides to second base Friday against St. John’s at the Condron Family Ballpark.
[Lee Ann Anderson/WRUF]

A Glimpse Of Life

The quality of at-bats came at no shortage for Florida. The Gators collected 10 hits to St. John’s 11. Michael Robertson (2-for-4), Jac Caglianone (2-for-4), Colby Shelton (2-for-4) and Dale Thomas (2-for-3) all had multiple hits.

The Gators finally responded in the bottom of the third with a trio of runs, starting with a line drive scorched off the left field fence by Thomas.

Robertson, Cade Kurland, and Luke Heyman notched an RBI to cut the Red Storm lead to 7-3, followed up in consecutive innings by a pair of transfer players getting their first hits for UF.

Jalen Guy hit a sac fly in the fourth and Colby Shelton launched an 0-1 breaking ball into the bullpen in right field in the fifth for his first homer as a Gator and first for Florida in the 2024 season.

The crowd and Gator dugout woke up in an attempt to regain the momentum from St. John’s, cutting the deficit to 7-5.

Though the Gators kept St. John’s off the scoreboard the middle innings, it took Florida five different pitchers to do so. The Gators collected just three hits in the next four innings going silent again at the plate.

Slater pitched the majority, tossing 3.1 innings and giving up one run on four hits and striking out four batters on 63 pitches (40 strikes).

Fisher Jameson stepped in for Florida in the sixth, but fell apart in the eighth inning after retiring five straight Red Stormers, giving up a solo-homer to Jackson Tucker.

This prompted the pitcher carousel by O’Sullivan, bringing in four pitchers in the inning with the bases filled for St. Johns, which scratched another run across to make it 9-5.

The Gators were silenced from a comeback with the Red Storm retiring six of the next nine Gators to complete the upset over the 2023 national runner-up and move to 1-0 on the season.

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