Rivera drives No. 6 Florida to victory over FAU
about an hour ago
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 6 Florida used a nine-RBI night by shortstop Josh Rivera to take game one of its midweek series against Florida Atlantic by a score of 18-11 at Condron Family Ballpark on Tuesday night.
Rivera had a career night against the Owls, finishing 3-for-4 with two home runs, a career-high nine RBI and two runs scored. Rivera’s nine runs driven in were the most by a Gator since JJ Schwarz drove in 10 vs. Stetson on April 7, 2015.
The Owls (7-5) went ahead 1-0 in the top of the first thanks to a two-out, solo home run by Nolan Schanuel to right field. It did not take the Gators (11-3) long to get the run back and then some, responding with a season-high six-run first inning. Josh Rivera blasted a three-run homer off the batter’s eye in center field, followed by another three-run shot – this one to left-center off the bat of Tyler Shelnut.
A 41-minute weather delay paused the game in the bottom of the second inning moments after a one-out Wyatt Langford double. Langford was ultimately left stranded, allowing the Owls to reduce their deficit to two runs on Schanuel’s second long ball of the night – a three-run homer to straightaway center.
With a 6-4 lead in hand, Ty Evans gave the Orange & Blue a boost in the third. Evans connected for a home run for the second-straight game, leaving the yard to dead center.
Florida’s three-run advantage quickly disintegrated in the fourth as the Owls put together a five-run frame. The outburst was highlighted by RBI singles from Jalen Debose, Dylan Goldstein and Jackson Ross.
The Gators got right back to work in the bottom of the fourth, retaking the lead with a trio of runs. Rivera brought in the first with a sacrifice fly to center, while Evans was drilled with the bases loaded and Jac Caglianone crossed home on a wild pitch.
Florida put up another three spot the very next inning. With two ducks on the pond, Rivera unloaded for his second homer the game, setting a new career high and team season high with seven RBI.
FAU drew within three runs in the sixth, as Schanuel hit his third home run of the night.
In the eighth, the Gators put the game out of reach. Florida tacked on five more runs, beginning with two-run singles by Langford and Rivera. BT Riopelle capped off the frame with a sacrifice fly to center to plate Caglianone.
The Owls did not go quietly, with Ross homering to left field to open the ninth. Florida Atlantic proceeded to load up the bases, but reliever Brandon Neely navigated the Gators away from further damage to end the matchup at an 18-11 tally.
Florida reliever Ryan Slater (3-0) picked up the victory, pitching three innings with four earned runs allowed on five hits and two walks. He struck out one.
FAU right-hander C.J. Williams received the loss after tossing 1 2/3 frames with three earned runs allowed on two hits and one walk.
Both starting pitchers received the no-decision on Tuesday night. Florida starter Yoel Tejeda Jr. allowed six earned runs over three-plus innings, giving up six hits and one walk. FAU starting pitcher Evan Waterbor forfeited seven earned over three frames, surrendering five hits and four walks while striking out three.
In addition to Rivera, Langford (3-for-4) and Shelnut (2-for-3) collected multiple hits in the victory.
- A 41-minute weather delay paused the game in the bottom of the second inning.
- Florida tied its season high with 18 runs scored.
– The 29 combined runs on Tuesday are the most in a Florida baseball game since the Gators defeated Winthrop, 28-5, on March 3, 2019 (33 combined runs).
- Rivera set a new career high with nine RBI while tying his personal best with two home runs.
– Rivera’s nine RBI represent a new season high for the Gators and marks the most by a UF player since JJ Schwarz drove in 10 vs. Stetson on April 7, 2015.
- Evans homered for the second-consecutive game, hitting a solo shot in the third inning.
- Kurland saw his team-leading 11-game hitting streak end, although he did reach base four times and score four runs.
- Florida has struck out 163 batters in 120 innings – translating to 12.2 per nine innings.
- Florida’s run differential of plus-82 is the team’s best through 14 games since the 2003 season.
– The Gators have scored in 68 of 114 batted innings this season (59.6%).
- For the 12th time in 14 games this year, the Gators recorded double-digit hits.
- The Gators have a nation-leading 175 hits through 14 games (12.5 hits/game). The Gators improve to 25-10 all-time against the Owls including 19-8 at home.
– Florida rises to 12-5 vs. FAU under Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan featuring a 9-5 record in home matchups.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN
On the win…
“I don’t know if it was as much sloppy. The rain delay obviously wasn’t ideal, but I said on Sunday, FAU can hit. We got a freshman that’s still trying to find his way against a difficult lineup to navigate through, they have five lefties and a switch-hitter. There were two turning points in the game. I think when Slater went back out in the top of the fifth and went one-two-three after we scored three in the bottom of the fourth was huge for our momentum and obviously Josh’s defensive play in the bottom of the eighth with the leadoff hitter was an outstanding play. I had no idea that he had nine RBI on the night. He’s just playing at a high level right now. Offensively, we were really good.”
On the bullpen’s performance…
“The other takeaway for me, Ryan’s line does not really indicate how he threw. The ball was coming out way different than it did this weekend. His fastball had a little bit of hop. His slider was short and had quick break at the end. He had a little bit of misfortune with the pop up over the third baseman’s head and then the swinging bunt down the third-base line. I thought he threw the ball good, so we got him to a point where he felt good about his outing and got him out. We brought [Nick Ficarrotta] in, he did his job, we got him out. Phillip [Abner] went in, did his job, we got him out. They swing on a first pitch fastball, it wasn’t located against Neely. His last three or four fastballs, they had real intent, so we just need to keep getting him out there. The bottom line is he has not pitched as much as we need him to and once we get him out there more, he’ll be more consistent. For those three guys in particular in the middle, to do their job and not spiral out of control and like I said, put up a zero in the top of the fifth and it was good to get them out there, have success, get them out, so now they can move forward and hopefully we keep building.”
On the pitching and FAU’s lineup…
“They attacked the strike zone. I think at times we kind of nibble a little bit early in the count and then sometimes with two strikes we get to 0-2 and then it ends up being a 2-2 count and then we get into a predictable fastball count. We still got some things to work on but, let’s face it, FAU’s lineup is as good as any lineup we’re going to see this year for the most part. It’s an SEC lineup and they’ve got one of the best hitters in the country hitting right there and they start the game off left, left, left. Unless you can slow the ball down, they’re pretty good. I said that all along.”
Florida and FAU go head-to-head again on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. with coverage on SEC Network+.