The No. 5 Gators entered Tuesday night’s game in Tallahassee looking for revenge after Florida State ended its 11-game losing streak to UF last season in what turned out to be the final game at McKethan Stadium.
Instead, they got a butt-whooping. The Seminoles pounced on the Gators early and cruised to a 10-2 win.
FSU (7-6, 4-5 ACC) freshman pitcher Carson Montgomery, regarded as one of the top high school pitchers in the country last year, struck out three Gators in a scoreless top of the first.
In the bottom half of the inning, UF (13-5) starter Garrett Milchin walked Tyler Martin and gave up an infield single to Logan Lacey. Milchin fell behind Robbie Martin 1-0 and hanged a breaking ball. Martin didn’t get all of it but was still able to muscle it over the wall in right field for a 3-0 Seminoles lead. As it turned out, that was all the offense the Seminoles needed.
Montgomery picked up two more strikeouts in a 1-2-3 top of the second.
Milchin retired the leadoff batter in the second before surrendering a double to Nander De Sedas and plunking Tyler Martin. Lacey brought them both in with a double to left center field. Robbie Martin moved Lacey to second with a groundout, and Matheu Nelson scored him with a single to center. Nelson stole second and was driven in by Parker Messick’s RBI single to right field.
Just like that, FSU led 7-0 before an hour had even passed.
Milchin entered the day having walked just one batter in nine innings. So, the usually patient Seminoles knew that Milchin would be around the zone and were aggressive. Milchin lasted just 1 2/3 innings and gave up eight hits yet only threw 39 pitches. His pitches caught way too much of the plate, and the Seminoles lit him up like they were taking batting practice.
Things didn’t go any better on the other side of things. Montgomery struck out eight Gators in his first four innings of work, and he carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning.
The Gators received a glimmer of hope in the fifth inning. Jordan Butler led off with a walk, and Kendrick Calilao broke up the no-hitter with a single to right center field. After a fielder’s choice moved Butler to third, Josh Rivera got the Gators on the board with a single up the middle. Jacob Young brought in another run with a two-out single to left.
That glimmer of hope was squashed in the sixth inning. In the top half, Kirby McMullen stroked a one-out double off of the right field wall. However, Butler and Sterlin Thompson struck out, and the Gators couldn’t cut into the lead even further. In the bottom half of the inning, Robbie Martin crushed his second homer of the day, this one a two-run shot off of Ryan Cabarcas, to stretch the lead back out to seven. Before the television broadcast had even finished showing the replay of Martin’s blast, Nelson launched a homer of his own to right field to finalize the scoring at 10-2.
Robbie Martin finished the game 3-for-5 with the two home runs and five RBI, while Lacey went 3-for-5 with two RBI.
Florida, meanwhile, mustered only four hits and struck out 16 times.
If there’s one positive to glean from the Gators’ perspective from the beatdown, it’s that three key relievers turned in solid outings, albeit in an extremely low-pressure situation.
Trey Van Der Weide followed Milchin to the mound and tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts. He’s now given up just one earned run in his last 10 1/3 innings of work spanning four appearances.
Franco Aleman continued to show signs of progress following his control problems earlier in the season. He tossed a scoreless frame and hit 97 miles per hour on the radar gun to strike out Ryan Romano.
Jordan Carrion, who coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he wants to get a look at as the team’s closer, tossed a scoreless eighth inning with two strikeouts.
With Nick Pogue and Tyler Nesbitt out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and Ben Specht out indefinitely with an injury, the Gators are perilously thin in the bullpen. If Van Der Weide, Aleman and Carrion can become consistent performers and the weekend starters continue to pitch well, the Gators might have a chance to live up to the lofty preseason predictions.
Still, there’s no denying that there are some disturbing trends going on with this team. In four games against power conference opponents, they’ve given up 8.3 runs per game. Offensively, they’ve struck out 11 times per game.
With SEC play beginning on Thursday when Texas A&M visits Florida Ballpark, the Gators need to turn it around quickly before it’s too late.