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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Super 8: Gators set program home run record in weekend sweep of Cincinnati

Caglianone mashes three, Rivera slugs two in UF’s home run parade

Florida infielder Josh Rivera celebrates his home run as he trots toward home plate in the Gators' 13-7 win against Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.
Florida infielder Josh Rivera celebrates his home run as he trots toward home plate in the Gators' 13-7 win against Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.

Jac Caglianone had already given the Gators more than enough.

He spent nearly five innings on the mound and launched two baseballs out of Condron Ballpark. Florida’s emerging two-way star stepped to the plate in the eighth inning, looking to put the icing on the cake. 

The sophomore smacked the first pitch he saw from Cincinnati right-hander Griffin Hugus off the batter’s eye in center field well above the 400-foot sign. Caglianone’s three home runs were the tip of the iceberg in the 7-1 Gators’ 13-7 win against the 2-5 Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday afternoon.

Junior shortstop Josh Rivera recorded his first career multi-home run game; he finished the weekend with three homers. Freshman catcher Luke Heyman, junior third baseman Colby Halter and freshman second baseman Cade Kurland each added solo shots late in the game to outpace a persistent Bearcats offense. 

UF’s eight home runs are the most the program has ever hit in a contest. The performance also marked the first time two Gators registered multiple home runs in the same game since April 7, 2015, against Stetson.

“[Caglianone] got into a really good rhythm and groove.” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He obviously wasn't as sharp as his first outing, but I thought he pitched really good after the first and made some pitches when he needed to.” 

The Tampa native allowed three earned runs and struck out six through 4.2 innings in his second start of the season. He delivered 6.2 scoreless innings against Charleston Southern in his pitching debut Feb. 19.

Caglianone said he has been meeting with sports psychologists to find ways to separate the hitting and pitching sides of the game.

“For me, it's accountability,” Caglianone said. “If one side is lacking, you’ve got to make sure you make up for it some other way.”

Caglianone was tested in the opening frame.

Cincinnati loaded the bases and scored its first run when junior shortstop Kameron Guidry hit a ball on the ground to UF senior first baseman BT Riopelle. Riopelle bobbled the ball and attempted to flip the ball to Caglianone covering first base. Guidry beat the play with a headfirst slide into the bag, and junior Cole Harting scored from third.

Caglianone received a pitch-clock violation during Guidry’s at-bat, which added an extra ball to the count. 

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The Gators got a runner on base in the bottom of the first when junior center fielder Wyatt Langford walked. However, Cincinnati junior starting pitcher Chase Hopewell picked him off during the next at-bat. 

Caglianone bounced back through the next three innings. He retired nine and struck out six of the Bearcats’ next 10 batters.

Rivera showed no signs of slowing down after his grand slam Saturday. The shortstop smashed a 445-foot blast off the batter’s eye to even the score at one in the bottom of the second. 

Rivera’s second home run of the ballgame arrived in the bottom of the fourth. He hit a two-run, opposite-field shot that landed in the Gators’ bullpen beyond the right-field wall to deliver UF a 3-1 lead. 

The advantage didn’t last long, however, as Cincinnati put together a rally in the top of the fifth inning that ended Caglianone’s day on the mound. Florida’s starter walked three batters to load the bases before right-handed sophomore Blake Purnell, who didn’t fare much better, took over.

Purnell hit the first batter he faced and walked the next one, which allowed two runs in to tie the game at three. O’Sullivan made his second change of the frame and summoned lefty freshman Cade Fisher to inherit a bases-loaded, two-out jam. Fisher induced a flyout to right field off the bat of Cincinnati sophomore Kory Klingenbeck to keep the game tied. 

O’Sullivan kept Caglianone in his lineup as the designated hitter after his pitching outing came to an end. The move paid off in a big way.

Caglianone received a first-pitch fastball from Bearcats senior reliever Mitch White. He smashed a low-line drive 375 feet out of the ballpark to right for a two-run shot. Caglianone’s fourth home run of the season, which left the bat at 118 mph, gave the Gators a 5-3 advantage.

O’Sullivan decided to retain Caglianone as the designated hitter, something he didn’t do against Charleston Southern, to prepare him for Miami next weekend, he said.

“We're gonna hit him because he's done it his whole life,” O’Sullivan said.

“I always say growing up I was always the hitter who could pitch,” Caglianone said. “Then you get to junior high school, I became a pitcher who could hit.”

Fisher went back to work in the top of the sixth and gave up three straight singles. The final-base knock from Harting brought a run home from second to cut the deficit to one, 5-4. The freshman recovered to strike out the final two batters of the frame looking. 

Senior righty Jackson Murphy took over on the mound for Cincinnati and surrendered a trio of Gators home runs. 

Heyman greeted him with a long ball to left, the first of his collegiate career. The Gators recorded back-to-back jacks, with Halter’s first big fly of the season to right field. 

Caglianone stepped to the plate after Langford’s second hit-by-pitch of the game. He lifted his second homer of the game 462 feet to right field to give Florida a 9-4 lead. 

O’Sullivan brought in sophomore Brandon Neely after Fisher allowed a run in the top of the seventh. The right-hander recorded the final two outs of the frame and pitched a clean eighth to bring Florida closer to a sweep. 

The Gators added four more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning with two more home runs. Kurland clubbed his third of the season to left-center and Caglianone destroyed his third homer of the game 449 feet off the batter’s eye, similar to Rivera’s second-inning blast.   

Florida tacked on its final pair of runs on a wacky series of events. Riopelle doubled to bring up Rivera, who singled to right field. The ball went under the glove of Bearcats freshman right fielder Landyn Vidourek and dribbled toward the wall. Rivera turned on the jets and circled the bases to give UF a 13-5 lead. 

Neely’s ninth inning faced a slight hiccup when he allowed a two-run homer to Cincinnati freshman Kyle Schupmann with two outs. He struck out Hugus looking to end the game and seal the sweep.

The Gators hit the road to face the Jacksonville Dolphins Tuesday to begin a home-and-home series, which concludes Wednesday night at Condron Ballpark. The game will not be televised but will be available on the radio through WRUF 98.1FM/850AM.

First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Contact Ethan Eibe at eeibe@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @EthanEibe.

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Ethan Eibe

Ethan Eibe is a second-year UF sports media major and covers Gators baseball for The Alligator. Outside of his writing, Ethan is a play-by-play broadcaster for UF student radio and has spent two summers announcing professional baseball with the Alpine Cowboys. He is a long-suffering Miami Marlins fan.


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