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Florida baseball overcomes four-run deficit to defeat Stetson: Takeaways from the game

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

Seeking some much-needed momentum before hosting the nation’s top-ranked program this weekend, the Florida baseball team overcame an early four-run deficit and downed Stetson, 10-8, Tuesday night at Florida Ballpark. 

The Hatters (18-18, 5-10 ASUN) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on a RBI groundout by Brandon Hylton despite the Gators turning the double play. Hylton proceeded to drive in three runs in the third inning, putting Stetson up 4-0 on Florida and temporarily stunning the home crowd.

Then UF’s bats proceeded to come alive. 

Home runs by Josh Rivera and Wyatt Langford were part of a five-run bottom of the fifth inning for the Gators (23-14, 6-9 SEC), giving UF a 7-5 lead heading into the sixth frame. 

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Jud Fabian would add a home run of his own, his 16th of the season, in the bottom of the eighth to give the Gators some more breathing room. They’d end up needing it, as the Hatters weren’t about to allow the comeback without one last effort. 

Hylton would add an RBI groundout in the ninth, and the tying run would reach base before the Gators got out of the inning and secured the victory. 

“It’s hard to come back in a game when you’re down four runs early without having a sense of urgency,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I thought that they stayed in the game, they were engaged, the dugout was good, and, like I said, there have been games in the past where we’ve fell behind and we’ve kind of slept-walked through it. Obviously, with a big weekend coming up, that could have easily happened, but I was pleased with how they battled.”

Here are takeaways from Tuesday’s contest. 

Jud Fabian passes Mike Zunino

Florida outfielder Jud Fabian (4) gets a hug from his brother Deric Fabian (23) after Jud hit his 48th career home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, Tuesday, April 19, 2022, at Florida Ballpark in Gainesville.

Fabian’s 16th home run gave him 48 in his UF career, putting him fifth on Florida’s all-time career home run list, ahead of Mike Zunino, now with the Tampa Bay Rays in the MLB. 

Considering the Hatters recorded their 16th home run of the season in Tuesday’s contest, Fabian’s prowess at the plate was put in even greater context with Florida’s victory.

“It’s an incredible milestone for him,” O’Sullivan said.

Before being told of his feat prior to his postgame comments, Fabian said he was unaware of his place in program history. 

He can’t forget it now. 

“It’s special to pass a guy like Zunino,” Fabian said. “It’s always special. I didn’t even think (my home run) was going to get over.”

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Top 5 Gators in home runs

1. Matt LaPorta 74, 2004-07 

2. Preston Tucker 57, 2009-12 

3. Brad Wilkerson 55, 1996-98 

4. JJ Schwarz 50, 2015-18

5. Jud Fabian 48, 2019-present

6. Mike Zunino 47, 2010-12

Brandon Hylton has a day for Stetson

He may not have jumped any current Major League Baseball players in the program rankings, but redshirt sophomore Brandon Hylton had a performance to remember Tuesday. 

Hylton drove in five of his team’s seven runs, including the three-run shot in the third that came off his bat at 112 miles per hour.

His run in the ninth inning gave Stetson one last chance It was a much better outing than the previous matchup between the two teams this season. Stetson suffered an 8-1 defeat at the hands of the Gators back on Feb. 22 in the fourth game of the season for the two teams. 

Gators go deep into bullpen

Florida utilized seven pitchers in Tuesday’s contest, with redshirt freshman Nick Ficarotta securing his second victory of the season after tossing 3.0 innings. He threw a clean fifth inning to help the Gators maintain their advantage before Nick Pogue took over in the sixth inning. Blake Purnell entered in relief in the ninth inning to close the game, and he’d manage to secure his fourth save of the season despite allowing one run to come across. 

Rather than simply planning on getting multiple arms into the game, O’Sullivan said the Gators were just focused on a positive outcome — which Florida’s head coach anticipated would require a contingent of pitchers.

“To be honest with you, we were just trying to win the game,” O’Sullivan said. “We knew that we were going to have to use a bunch of arms tonight.”

Florida's infielder Deric Fabian (23) is tagged out at third by Stetson's Kyle Ball (13) in the bottom of the eighth inning, Tuesday, April 19, 2022.

Kyle Ball’s defense impresses

Stetson third baseman Kyle Ball made a pair of impressive defensive plays to keep the Hatters in the game as the tide turned. 

Ball made a pair of impressive throws throughout the night, including an unlikely toss to end the fifth inning and help the Hatters avoid any further damage. Ball made a sliding grab before turning to throw to first baseman Jake Bullard.

On a night marked by 18 runs, Ball’s defense managed to stand out.