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

Florida Bullpen Continues to Struggle In Loss To South Carolina

The No. 24 Florida Gators baseball team fell 10-3 to the South Carolina Gamecock on Friday.

With an audience of 7,869 at Condron Family Ballpark, the Gators (17-16, 6-7 SEC) continued the slump. The same issues showed their face against the Gamecocks (24-10, 7-6), starting pitching giving up early runs, Jac Caglianone showing out on offense and the bullpen malfunctioning.

This loss marks the fifth straight defeat for the Gators, the first time Florida has lost five straight games since 2011, and the first time at Condrom Family Ballpark.

Good Neely

Starting pitcher Brandon Neely (1-1) gave a sturdy outing for the Gators. Tossing 6.1 innings with seven punchouts. Neely set a season-high in innings pitched and strikeouts. At some points in the game, Neely had total command. In the second inning, the junior tossed just five pitches to retire the side. But Neely’s fourth inning was better than his second.

Neely pitched another one-two-three-inning in the fourth, but showed his fielding ability on an athletic throw to first base to end the inning. Through four innings, Neely had given up just one run on 42 pitches. However, it would be the next three innings that would be Neely’s downfall.

Bad Neely

Neely (1-1) allowed his first run on a weakly hit home run in the first. Strong winds at Condron Family Ballpark carried the ball over the right field fence. In the fifth inning, Neely ran into trouble.

Neely allowed two more solo home runs. The Seville, Florida, native cruised through the sixth and gave up a triple to start the seventh inning. A RBI single a batter leader ended Neely’s night. But that runner eventually came home off a walk with the bases loaded with Cade Fisher pitching.

Neely’s final line: 6.1 IP/ 7 H/ 5 ER/ 2 BB/ 7 K/ 105 TP/ 71 ST

Caglianone and The Bottom Two

If you told Gator fans beforehand that the eight and nine hitters of Tanner Garrison and Michael Robertson got on base five of their seven plate appearances, they would have thought this would be a blowout. Instead, Garrison and Robertson were the sole contributors with Caglianone.

Garrison and Robertson had back-to-back doubles in the third inning to even the score at one. Robertson was unable to score from second, despite only just one out. South Carolina decided to intentionally walk Caglianone with a runner on third and two outs. A decision that proved to be the right move once Colby Shelton swung at the first pitch he saw and lined out to center to end the inning.

The bottom two men in the order both reached base with just one out in the fifth. But yet again, the Gators could not bring home the runners. Two more Gators were stranded an inning later, all of this in a one-run game.

Florida scored its final two runs on a Caglianone missile to right field, his 58th career home run. That homer moves the junior to second-most in program history in home runs. Matt Laporta is the only person ahead of Caglianone with 74.

Bullpen Malpractice

The Gators were still in the game down 5-3 after seven innings. That was until coach Kevin O’Sullivan pulled Cade Fisher in the top of the ninth. Fisher retired the side in the eighth and did not return for the final frame.

O’Sullivan went for the veteran arm of Blake Purnell, whose stint was short after giving up a leadoff single. O’Sullivan went back for another veteran pitcher, Ryan Slater.

The Slater decision is a peculiar one. Slater was on three days rest following his Tuesday start against Florida State. A start where he did not record an out and was relieved after 20 pitches and five earned runs.

Slater allowed six batters to reach base, as the Gamecocks pulled away with five runs.

Up Next

UF did not announce a Saturday starting pitcher after the game. This is do-or-die territory for Florida.

“If we are going to turn this thing around, our best players have to play better, it’s really that simple. I don’t know what else to say other than your best pitchers got to pitch better and your best players have to perform,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s really as simple as it is. We’ve just got to get this thing going again.”

The Gamecocks are expected to go with righty Ty Good (4-0, 1.93 ERA).

First pitch for Saturday is at 4 p.m. (SEC Network+, ESPN 98.1-FM/850-AM WRUF, WJXL 1010-AM Jacksonville).

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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