Florida baseball: 3 takeaways from UF's comeback win over FSU

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun

Third-ranked Florida rallied from an early three-run deficit to beat rival Florida State 5-3 before 7,441 on a blustery Tuesday night at Condron Family Ballpark.

The Gators (28-6, 9-3 SEC) entered the bottom of the 8th down 3-1, But Florida cut the lead to 3-2 when FSU reliever Doug Kirkland threw the ball into center field on a pickoff attempt at second base, with Josh Rivera scoring from third on the error. Then, with two outs and two runners on, Florida right fielder Ty Evans belted a three-run homer to left to give the Gators a 5-3 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Florida State (13-18, 4-11 ACC) lost for the 16th time in its last 18 games. The Seminoles jumped to a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning on an RBI double by center field DeAmez Ross and two-RBI double by first baseman James Tibbs III but couldn't hold the lead.

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Florida beat FSU for the second time this season after knocking off the Seminoles 9-5 last month in Tallahassee. The final game of the series will be on May 2 at the Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville, a matchup that was postponed by bad weather last month.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's Florida win.

Florida right fielder Ty Evans delivers in the clutch

Evans didn't start and entered the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning. But an inning later, Evans laced a hanging slider from Kirkland inside the left field foul pole and over the fence for his fourth homer of the season.

The Gator dugout erupts after Ty Evans three run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat Florida State University, Tuesday, April 11, 2023, at Condron Family Baseball Park in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators beat the Seminoles 5-3. [Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun] 2023

"Every college baseball player dreams of that kind of moment," Evans said. "Obviously, it's our rival Florida State so to be able to do that against a team like that, it's super cool."

It was Florida's lone home run in the game and 74th of the season.

"I didn't think anyone was going to get the ball out tonight to be honest with you," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "But the way the ball came off the bat you were like, yeah, he got it in the right spot. It was just to the left of the bullpen. Anything in the gap was not going to get out of here."

Ryan Slater solid in first start of the season

Slater allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits in six innings. He didn't walk a batter and struck out one in an efficient 62-pitch outing.

"Florida State's a really aggressive hitting team," Slater said. "They swing at first and second pitches and they did that a lot and I got a lot of ground balls ...

"Obviously today was really windy and the wind was blowing straight in so anything that was hit out there was going to be caught. So, it was really easy just to keep throwing strikes and not worry about anything being hit hard."

O'Sullivan called upon the righty to start after Florida's bullpen was taxed in a 14-2 loss to Tennessee on Saturday.

"With the way the game got away from us Saturday, we felt like Ryan was our best option," O'Sullivan said.

Another strong game for Florida's bullpen

Cade Fisher pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win and improve to 3-0 on the season. In the ninth, Brandon Neely struck out the side for his SEC-leading seventh save of the season.

Neely (0-0, 2.96 ERA) has thrived in the closer's role this season with 38 strikeouts in 24.1 innings pitched.

"His fastball command was the best it's been all year long," O'Sullivan said. "Last year, he was at 88-92, now he's at 94-95. He's just a different guy. His mound presence is really, really good."