Florida Gators baseball falls to Oklahoma, 9-4, setting up rematch with Central Michigan

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

Florida baseball suffered a 9-4 defeat Saturday in Game 4 of the NCAA Regional at Condron Ballpark to the No. 2 region seed Oklahoma Sooners, who jumped all over UF starter Brandon Neely in a game featuring seven home runs between the two teams. 

The Sooners (39-20) plated four runs in the third inning and added to their total in the fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth innings to defeat the host Gators. 

Florida (40-23) has a quick turnaround as the Gators will return to Condron Ballpark to face Central Michigan at 1 p.m. Sunday in an elimination game. UF defeated the Chippewas, 7-3, Friday.

"It was unfortunate. We had scored two runs in the second. We had the momentum and then walked the nine hitter on four straight," UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "It kind of spiraled out of control at that point. It seemed like anytime we had the momentum, we turned and gave it up the next inning. From that standpoint it was difficult and disappointing."

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Big home runs for both Sooners and Gators

Jac Caglianone (14) after a home run against against Oklahoma in NCAA Regionals, Saturday, June 4, 2022, at Condron Family Ballpark, in Gainesville, Florida.

The host Gators got on the scoreboard first with home runs from a pair of freshmen in Ty Evans and Jac Caglianone in the second inning, but the 2-0 advantage didn’t last long.

The Sooners answered right back in the top of the third with a pair of home runs of their own from Peyton Graham and Blake Robertson. The two-run shot from Graham marked his second hit to leave the ballpark in as many days after the Sooners’ shortstop hit a grand slam in OU’s 16-3 victory Friday over Liberty University. 

Kendall Pettis needed just a single to add a run to the Sooners’ total in the fourth inning, and Jimmy Crooks’ solo home run in the fifth inning extended Oklahoma’s lead to 6-2.

A sacrifice fly by Evans scored Sterlin Thompson in the sixth inning, though Crooks would add his second home run of the night in the seventh inning to make it 8-3 for the Sooners.

Mac Guscette provided his fifth home run of the season in the bottom of the seventh, which ultimately capped the scoring for the Gators.

An RBI single by Tanner Tredaway brought another run across the plate for the Sooners in the eighth.

Facing elimination in the NCAA Tournament, the Gators will throw Nick Pogue against Central Michigan. 

“I thought it was really good every time they scored, we scored, which was really good,” Sooners coach Skip Johnson said. “Jimmy hit two good pitches you love to hit, and kind of took the game over offensively. All in all, I thought our kids handled the environment good and got after it.” 

Here are four takeaways from Saturday night's game. 

Brandon Neely’s tough outing

Neely was making his first start since UF’s 10-0 loss in the second round of the SEC Tournament, and Neely, UF’s Saturday starter during the regular season was looking for a bounce-back performance against the Sooners. 

But Neely lasted just two and ⅓ innings against Oklahoma, forcing the Gators to rely on four pitchers across the final 6 and ⅔ innings of play. 

Controversy in the third inning

lorida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan argues with the umpire about a call during the game Saturday night.

The Sooners added a run in the third inning, but it wasn’t without controversy. With the bases loaded, a wild pitch by Fisher Jameson sent Tredaway headed for home, and UF catcher Mac Guscette appeared to be obstructed from fielding the ball by OU’s Jackson Nicklaus. O’Sullivan exited the dugout to converse with the umpire behind home plate about the lack of an interference call. 

"It was unintentional," O'Sullivan said of the umpire's message. "(They said) there was no intent."

O’Sullivan didn’t say whether he agreed with the call or not, or what his response was to the umpire’s determination. 

Florida’s BT Riopelle, playing at first base against the Sooners instead of at catcher, didn’t bite either, saying "I mean, the call was no interference. I guess there was not any interference." 

Kendall Pettis turns single into run

Oklahoma's outfielder Kendall Pettis (7) is safe at second under the tag by Florida's infielder Josh Rivera (24) during NCAA Regionals, Saturday, June 4, 2022, at Condron Family Ballpark, in Gainesville, Florida.

OU’s ninth-hole hitter, Kendall Pettis, managed to add to the Sooners’ total with just a single in the top of the fourth inning. After his single to left, Pettis proceeded to steal second base, and Pettis headed to third after a balk on Jameson. With leadoff man John Spikerman at the plate, a wild pitch by Jameson would send Pettis home to make it 5-2, Sooners. 

“Any time Kendall gets on, it’s going to help our offense. He’s a steal threat and he can really run,” Johnson said. “That puts some pressure on defenses. If he can get on and keep creating havoc. I’m really proud of what he has done this year. It’s pretty awesome to watch him go out and play.”

Pettis finished the day with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate to go along with a walk. 

Moving Jud Fabian doesn’t pay off

Jud Fabian was moved from fourth to fifth in the batting order, the same spot he hit in during the SEC Tournament, when the Gators were looking to break Fabian out of a cold-streak at the plate. Unfortunately for Florida, the move didn’t have similar results. Fabian went 0-for-3 at the plate against the Sooners.