Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan meets with his players. [Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun]

Florida Baseball Falls At No. 5 LSU

No. 5 LSU took control from the start of Friday’s series opener at Alex Box Stadium to defeat the No. 6 Florida Gators 6-1.

The Tigers (19-4, 2-2 SEC) rode ace Luke Holman (5-1) and two strong innings by their offense, while Florida struck out 19 times and just had four hits.

Florida (12-9, 2-2) is now 3-3 on the road and  53-69-1 all-time vs. LSU, including 15-32-1 in Baton Rouge. Under coach Kevin O’Sullivan, the Gators are 24-22 overall against the Tigers and 7-12 in Baton Rouge.

The Good and Bad Cade Fisher

Florida starting pitcher Cade Fisher has shown to be unhittable this season by striking out 10+ hitters in some starts. The sophomore has also had outings where he has given up at least five runs. On Friday, he showed both the good and the ugly.

In the first inning, Fisher (2-2) allowed two walks, a hit by pitch and two singles that scored two runs for LSU.  The Gators have given up the most runs in the first inning than any other inning. The Gators are 2-8 when their opponents score in the first.

But then Fisher started to settle down.  In the next four innings, Fisher allowed just one base runner and was rolling. Entering the sixth inning, Fisher sat down 13 of his last 14 batters. Fisher struck out three batters in that stretch and allowed light contact for easy outs.

The issue for Fisher earlier in the season was missing his pitch location and allowing hard-hit balls for extra bases. But Fisher minimized that hard contact vs. LSU and looked the best he’s been between the second and sixth inning.

In the sixth inning, Fisher became sporadic again. A lead-off double and a hit by pitch put runners on first and second with no outs. Fisher then gave up a single and his night was over.

Ryan Slater came in to relieve Fisher and immediately walked in a run on four pitches. A sac fly scored another run to make it a three-run ball game. Two batters later, a single scored LSU’s third and last run of the sixth.

The final line from Fisher: 5 IP/ 5 R/ 5 ER/ 2 BB/ 5 K/101 TP

“You look back at the innings that we give up runs and it usually involves a walk or two, a hit by pitch, that type of thing,” O’Sullivan said. “We didn’t handle the first inning very well, but we settled in and put up four zeros in a row. The sixth inning, went 3-2 on (Hayden) Travinski and he hit a double. Then a bunt situation and (Josh) Pearson is hit by a pitch. We fall behind (Ethan) Frey 2-0 and he’s trying to bunt. That kind of opens things up there.”

Bats Colder Than Ice

Holman, an Alabama transfer, held the Gators from hitting a ball in play until the fourth inning. Florida, however, had chances in the first three innings. The Gators had three runners in scoring position and had a situation with a man on third with one out and still could not bring him home. Holman finished by going six innings on one hit and struck out 13.

But that one hit that Holman allowed was a solo home run by Ty Evans in the fourth. Evans had two of Florida’s four hits.

Off Game By Some Gators

Cade Kurland, Jac Caglianone, Luke Heyman and Colby Shelton went hitless. The top four of the Gators’ lineup went 0-for-14 with 12 strikeouts. Kurland and Heyman struck out in all four of their plate appearances. Kurland had his team-high nine-game hitting streak come to an end, while Shelton and Heyman snapped their 20-game on-base streak.

“We had a plan against (Luke) Holman,” O’Sullivan said. “Stay off the breaking ball and let’s take his fastball away and push the fastball down. We did the exact opposite, we chased breaking balls early. We chased breaking balls late and swung through some up fastballs or hit the ball in the air. I think that’s the frustrating part, because we did have a plan, but we obviously didn’t stay with it.”

Florida was 1-for-10 with runners on base, stranded six runners and squandered two opportunities with runners on third and less than one out.

Up Next

Game 2 of the series is set for 7 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network+, ESPN 98.1-FM, 850-AM WRUF). Liam Peterson (1-2, 7.50 ERA) is expected to take the mound for UF, while LSU goes with lefty Gage Jump (2-0, 2.12).

About Nick VanZandt

Nick VanZandt is a senior journalism student at the University of Florida and this is his third semester working for WRUF.

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