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Florida, Florida State season series comes down to walk-off home run as Gators prevail, 7-5

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

The Florida Gators baseball team may not have had a hit for a six-inning stretch Tuesday in the final midweek contest of the regular season, but it ultimately didn’t matter.

Sterlin Thompson’s two-run home run with two outs in the ninth broke the deadlock and gave the Gators (33-19, 13-14 SEC) the walk-off win, 7-5, over No. 21-ranked Florida State at Condron Ballpark, marking UF’s 10th win in its previous 12 contests. 

With their second victory over the ‘Noles (32-19, 15-12 ACC) this season, the Gators captured the season series with their in-state rival. 

“Anytime you play any in-state school, it has a little extra to it,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It means a lot to a lot of people.”

Thompson concurred: His first career walk-off home run felt a bit sweeter coming against a storied rival. 

“I saw it go up and I knew it was gone, and I threw my bat. That’s something I dreamed of as a kid, just something growing up, especially against FSU,” said Thompson, an Ocala native. “A big-time rival, and it was amazing — to go around the bases, I saw my teammates, and it was something that I’ll never forget.”

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Gators start with a home run

Florida's Sterlin Thompson (26) celebrates after he hits a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. Tuesday, May 17, 2022, at Condron Family Ballpark in Gainesville, Florida. Florida beat FSU 7-5.

Florida built a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Wyatt Langford hit a first-pitch home run that bounced off the top of the wall in center field, though FSU would take the lead in the ensuing inning. 

After Brett Roberts hit a double deep to left field, James Tibbs put the ‘Noles in front, 2-1, with a home run into the Florida bullpen, marking Tibbs’ ninth home run of the season.

Florida starting pitcher Nick Ficcarrota proceeded to walk Brock Mathis, and Mathis would score to make it 3-1 on a double by third baseman Logan Lacey. By then, freshman Fisher Jameson had begun to warm-up in Florida’s bullpen, and soon Ficarrrotta’s day was done. He exited in the third inning having tossed just 38 pitches and with the Gators facing a two-run deficit.

UF reclaimed the lead in the third inning, however, after Langford added his second home run of the night and Jac Caglianone proceeded to hit a two-RBI single to right. Ty Evans followed Caglianone’s hit with a double to right field, which jumped out of the glove of FSU right fielder Jaime Ferrer, allowing Evans to advance to third base on the throw and Caglianone to come home.

FSU plated two runs in the fourth inning to pull the ‘Noles level, and the Gators would manage just three base-runners before Thompson’s decisive blast to prevent extra innings.

Tyler Nesbitt entered in relief in the fifth inning with the score notched at five runs apiece and allowed just one hit across a team-high 3.1 innings of play.

Here are takeaways from Tuesday’s contest.

Wyatt Langford powers UF early

Trenton native Wyatt Langford recorded the second two-home run game of his career, and his second home run on the night pulled him into a tie with Jud Fabian for the team lead with 19 home runs. Fabian had a tough day at the plate, going 0-for-4 against the ‘Noles. 

His results may not align with his expectations, but Fabian has maintained his confidence at the plate, said Langford. 

“He’s obviously been struggling just a little bit, but Jud’s a great guy and he always has confidence,” Langford said. “He’s a big team guy, so he’s been doing alright.”

Nick Ficarrotta’s first career start doesn’t last long

Florida pitcher NIck Ficarrotta likely won’t think fondly of his first career start. The redshirt freshman exited the game with no outs in the third inning after allowing five hits across just 38 pitches. He was replaced on the mound by freshman Fisher Jameson, whose tenure against the ‘Noles wasn’t lengthy either. Jameson allowed a pair of runs on a hit and two walks across 1 and ⅓ innings of action as FSU built an early 3-1 advantage. 

“Our pitching was not really sharp early on,” O’Sullivan said. “Nesbitt did his job.”

Ty Evans a top-10 play candidate

Florida freshman right-fielder Ty Evans had a productive day at the plate, but his 2-for-4 hitting performance was almost an afterthought. 

With the score tied in the fifth inning, Evans made a catch at the wall on a deep ball by FSU’s Brett Roberts, only Evans didn’t stop when he reached the wall. His snag took him through the bullpen door at the right field fence, which appeared to open with the force of Evans’ momentum.

Thompson’s blast in the same direction may have proved decisive, but Evans’ grab helped ensure the Gators were in a position to walk it off. 

“That was awesome,” Langford said. “It was a huge catch for the game, and it saved a run, too.”

FSU's Jordan Carrion has RBI against former team

Florida State sophomore Jordan Carrion, who transferred from Florida to FSU, made the most of his one hit in his return to Gainesville.

Carrion tied the game in the fourth inning on a two-out, two-strike single up the right side. Before the ‘Noles could attempt to plate Carrion, the Miami native was thrown out by Mac Guscette while attempting to steal second base.

It may have been his only successful contact against his former team, but it kept Carrion’s current club in position to strike late in the contest. 

What's next? 

The Gators have a quick turnaround, with a weekend series against South Carolina beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. The schedule means Florida will return to Condron Ballpark by 11 a.m. Wednesday to prepare to conclude the regular season against the Gamecocks. Meanwhile, FSU will hit the road to wrap up the regular season at North Carolina, with first pitch set for Thursday at 6 p.m. in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

“I told the guys in the huddle there at the end that we can’t lose sight of what Nesbitt did tonight,” O’Sullivan said. “It was a fun night, the crowd was awesome. They were into it, and we’re looking forward to finishing this thing up this weekend with South Carolina.”