Liam Peterson
Liam Peterson struck out six batters through four innings in Florida's 7-3 win over the Columbia Lions on Feb. 24. [Catherine McCarthy/FloridaGators.com]

Liam Peterson And His Road To Glory With Florida Baseball

Standing at a slender 6-foot-5, Florida freshman pitcher Liam Peterson has always towered above his competition.

The young Gators ace has already made a name for himself over the last five months. After an impressive offseason, Peterson worked his way into UF’s starting rotation for the 2024 campaign. Now nearly a month into his first collegiate campaign, the true freshman has more than lived up to the hype.

In his first three starts this season, Peterson has compiled a 3.75 ERA and a 1-1 record. He has also tallied a team-high 20 strikeouts over just 12 innings pitched. While his consistency on the diamond has earned him praise from coaches and teammates, it would be hard to argue that any arm in Florida’s bullpen can get the crowd riled up like Peterson can.

But even with all of this newfound recognition, Peterson refuses to let the fame get to his head. He remains focused on one thing: competing on the mound.

“I care more about winning games rather than how I’m doing individually,” Peterson said. “Obviously, it’s really cool to get recognition. But, the goal is to win, to go to Omaha and win.”

While Peterson has already dazzled fans throughout UF’s early action, the Florida right-hander is still just getting started. With SEC play right around the corner, the Gators are gearing up for what should be an eventful 2024 campaign. But even as one of the youngest members of Florida’s clubhouse, Peterson is ready to lead the charge on the mound and power the Gators back to glory.

Florida pitcher Liam Peterson looks on from the mound during the second inning Feb. 20, 2024 at the University of North Florida’s Harmon Stadium. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

Putting The Pieces Together At A Young Age

Peterson grew up in a family where athletics ran in their blood. His grandfather played baseball at the University of Miami, while his mother originally pursued a career in softball before switching to volleyball at the University of North Florida. With his roots already set in the world of baseball, Peterson fell in love with the sport early in his childhood.

As he grew older, Peterson had to work out some kinks both physically and mentally on the diamond. As he grew into his frame, he continued adjusting his approach on the mound and adapting in his training. But he also initially had trouble containing his emotions on the diamond, which served as another road block to his development.

“Growing up, I had a little attitude problem when I was younger,” Peterson said. “My mom and my grandpa had two different approaches — they never really got mad at me if I played bad, but it was like if my attitude was bad.”

Peterson eventually adopted breathing techniques that allowed him to keep his composure on the mound. With his emotions now in check, he dominated the competition throughout his high school career.

In his final two seasons at Calvary Christian High School, Peterson compiled a 1.28 ERA and collected 141 strikeouts through 24 appearances. He also thrived at the plate, leading his team with a .484 batting average and five home runs in his senior season. Peterson now prefers to stick to pitching full-time, but he also admitted he “had some fun” working as a designated hitter in his off days at Calvary Christian.

Peterson capped a successful high school career by leading his squad to a Class 3A State Championship. He earned 3A Player of the Year honors, bringing the hype around his name to an all-time high. But Peterson had still barely scratched the surface of what he could be capable of.

Rising To The Top In Florida’s Bullpen

Following his success at Calvary Christian, many scouts slated Peterson as a potential top-100 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft. But the young up-and-coming ace had already made his mind up on his next steps. Peterson still wanted to be a Gator, and nothing would deter him from that plan.

“The biggest thing was how genuine the coaches were,” Peterson said. “But also… there’s not many facilities and stadiums better than this, along with the education part too. You’re not going to go to a top public university and come out without a good degree. There’s a lot of factors, but I think the biggest thing for me was how genuine the love felt from the coaches.”

So far, it would appear that Peterson’s decision to come to Gainesville has paid off. With two of Florida’s starting pitchers departing for the 2023 MLB Draft, Peterson slid right into the rotation for the Gators and got to work. UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan had nothing but praise for how Peterson has not only survived, but thrived in his role in Florida’s bullpen.

“Liam is physically more advanced than most freshman at this stage,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s got a really good arm, he commands the ball — he’s got a really good curve ball and slider, he’s got a feel for a change-up. He’s another one who’s extremely competitive too, he’s a little bit advanced.”

Peterson has already employed a versatile arsenal of pitches in his first month on the mound. He noted that so far this season, he has primarily relied on his fastball and curve ball, but he hopes to incorporate his change-up more.

There’s no doubt the arm talent has been there for Peterson, but above all else, he credits his mentality for his early success with the Gators.

“I don’t want to sound cocky saying this, but I just try to go out there and think ‘These guys aren’t going to get a hit off of me,'” Peterson said. “I just have that ability, not necessarily as a cocky thing, but more as confidence going in there and trusting myself.”

Liam Peterson earned Co-SEC Freshman of the Week honors six days after making his debut for the Gators. [Catherine McCarthy/FloridaGators.com

Peterson Starts Season In Style

In his first two career starts, Peterson made it clear that he was ready to shake up the world of college baseball. In his road debut against the North Florida Ospreys, he sat down seven batters on strikes through three innings while only allowing a single hit. O’Sullivan even quipped in his post-game remarks that he kept Peterson in longer than intended because “his pitch count was too low.”

Four days later, he made his first start at Condron Ballpark against the Columbia Lions. This time, he faced some tougher tests, including a bases-loaded jam with one out in the fourth inning. But Peterson went back to his fundamental teachings: he got his breathing back under control and went to work.

He ended up striking out back-to-back Columbia batters to retire the side and fire up the Condron crowd. Peterson finished the outing with six strikeouts, zero runs allowed and a win on the mound.

Peterson has served as the face of an unofficial youth movement in Florida’s bullpen this season. Alongside freshman relievers Alex Philpott, Robert Satin and Luke McNeillie, O’Sullivan has increasingly relied on the team’s young arms this season. With the Gators off to a 9-4 start, the results have spoken for themselves.

“They’re going to be some dogs,” Florida senior third baseman Dale Thomas said. “They come out there and compete every single day in practice, and it’s all you can ask for.”

Surpassing Expectations And Breaking Past Every Limit

As his star power continues to rise, the hype around Peterson just keeps on growing. Perfect Game ranked the Florida right-hander as the No. 5 prospect in their 2026 MLB Draft Class rankings. Additionally, Peterson was named SEC Co-Freshman of the week after his first two career starts.

Yet, even with the Liam Peterson hype train running full steam, the freshman ace has remained unstirred. Peterson continues to tune out all the noise and remain focused on the diamond.

“I try not to focus on [the media] or let it get to me too much,” Peterson said. “I’d rather just go out there and compete for my team more than for social media.”

Florida’s Liam Peterson pitches during the second inning Feb. 20, 2024 at the University of North Florida’s Harmon Stadium in Jacksonville. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]
Outside of the diamond, Peterson just sees himself as a simple guy. He enjoys playing pickleball, hanging out with his teammates and listening to “chill music” in his free time. Nothing too out of the ordinary there.

But as soon as he takes to the mound, Peterson transforms into an animal. His hunger, fiery spirit and innate competitiveness have pushed him to levels that most athletes could only dream of. But the best part of it all: the Florida freshman ace is still just getting started. Saying the sky is the limit for Liam Peterson would be an understatement. As far as he’s concerned, there are no limits: only new levels to be reached.

About Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year student at the University of Florida. He is majoring in Journalism and specializing in Sports and Media.

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