St. John’s stuns No. 2 Florida in season opener

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – With an opening night program record of 7,898 fans in attendance, the St. John’s Red Storm charged into Gainesville and stunned the No. 2 Florida Gators, 9-5, at Condron Family Ballpark. 

Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan, entering his 17th season leading the program, had a 15-1 record in season openers before Friday. Florida’s only other loss came against Duke in 2013.

“We’ll just have to put this behind us,” O’Sullivan said. “We’re not used to losing opening nights… but congratulations to St. John’s for playing better than we did tonight.” 

Expectations are high for the Gators this season after posting the winningest season in program history and a College World Series runner-up appearance in 2023. But the Gators fell behind immediately against St. John’s on Friday.

St. John’s came out swinging in the first inning, scoring two runs on a double from Jimmy Keenan and a single from Aries Samek. Florida responded by going three and out to fall behind 2-0 after the first inning.

The Red Storm carried their hot start into the second inning, adding three runs to their total. The Florida offense remained quiet, simply earning their first base hit of the game on a single from Luke Heyman.

After allowing six runs on 54 pitches, starting left-handed pitcher Cade Fisher exited the contest in the third inning.

“I just didn’t throw enough strikes, got behind kind of early in counts and then they just made me pay for it,” Fisher said. “Had a couple of walks, hit batter… just wasn’t in the zone tonight.” 

While it was opening night, Fisher said he did not think his performance was influenced by opening night jitters.

“I’ve pitched in big moments in my career so far,” Fisher said. “Just wasn’t my night tonight.” 

“It looked like the game got sped up on him,” O’Sullivan said. “He got two quick outs with nobody on, then I think he hit a guy and then gave up the double. I think things just kind of got quick on him.” 

St. John’s continued its storm, scoring two runs in the third to increase its lead to 7-0. 

Following two empty innings, the Gators got on the board on singles from Michael Robertson and Cade Kurland and a sacrifice fly from Heyman. The Gators cut into the deficit, making the score 7-3. 

The Gators earned another run in the fourth to pull within three runs. Colby Shelton chipped away at the deficit further in the fifth inning, hitting a home run to right field.

After scoreless sixth and seventh innings for both teams, Jackson Tucker gave the Red Storm their eighth run with a home run to left field. Blake Mayberry also scored on a walk, increasing the Red Storm’s lead, 9-5. 

Florida had a chance at a comeback after St John’s did not score in the ninth. However, the Gators ultimately came up short, suffering a stunning defeat. 

“(St. John’s) played well,” O’Sullivan said. “For the most part, they threw strikes, and they got some timely hits when they needed them in scoring position. I felt like every inning we were pitching with runners on. 

“We really didn’t have a chance to get settled offensively, and I know opening night is different, I get that. You haven’t played somebody else for quite some time. But we really put our offense in a tough situation to try and battle back from seven runs early.”

Florida looks to tie up its opening series against St. John’s at 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Condron Family Ballpark.

Ava Baccari
Ava Baccari
Ava Baccari is a junior undergraduate student at the University of Florida. She is majoring in Journalism with a specialization in Sports and Media. Follow her on X (Twitter) @avabsports.

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