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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Gators set to host rival Hurricanes in first ranked matchup of season

Florida will face first major test of 2023 season

Florida pitcher Jac Caglianone delivers a pitch in the Gators' 13-7 victory against the Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.
Florida pitcher Jac Caglianone delivers a pitch in the Gators' 13-7 victory against the Cincinnati Bearcats Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.

The No. 6 Florida Gators (8-2) will face the No. 22 Miami Hurricanes (7-2) this weekend in the first major series of the season. This is Florida’s first ranked matchup of the year.

The Gators won last season’s series in Coral Gables, Florida. Miami took the first game, but Florida dominated the final two matchups with seven- and eight-run victories.

The hype surrounding this year’s rivalry series is high. Reserve tickets are already sold out for Saturday and limited tickets remain for Friday and Sunday. The players are equally excited for the series. 

Junior third baseman Tyler Shelnut is in his first season with the Gators, and this will be his first experience against the Hurricanes.

“It’s one of the biggest rivalries in college baseball, for sure,” Shelnut said. “I’m really excited to be able to participate in that.”

Florida comes into Friday’s series opener after suffering its second loss of the season. The Gators gave up six runs in the sixth inning and used eight different pitchers in a 10-8 loss to the Jacksonville Dolphins. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said the team needs to find depth in the bullpen after another loss.

“If we just say we average our starters on the weekend go six a piece and [Sophomore closer Brandon] Neely those three innings, that leaves six innings left,” O’Sullivan said. “We have to get six extra innings on the weekend.”

The Gators’ weekend rotation will play a starring role against Miami. Juniors Brandon Sproat and Hurston Waldrep are both 2-0 to start the season with 16 and 19 strikeouts, respectively.

Florida’s Sunday starter, sophomore Jac Caglianone, has been the star of the young season but not just for his exploits on the mound.

Caglianone has allowed just four runs in 11 innings as a pitcher, and he challenges batters with his impressive velocity. The sophomore from Tampa is also a dominant presence in the batters’ box. His eight home runs are twice as many as anybody else on the team, and he’s hit eight in his last seven appearances.

“I've never seen it in my life,” Shelnut said about Caglianone’s two-way excellence.

The rest of Florida’s offense has been equally impressive. The Gators have scored at least eight runs in all but one game this year, and they’ve scored over 15 runs twice. They’re ranked second nationally in hits, and third in home runs and runs scored.

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Miami will be a significant step up in competition for Florida this weekend. The Hurricanes won their first two weekend series of the year, which included a sweep of Dartmouth.

UM is led by sophomore pitcher Karson Ligon. The right-hander is 2-0 to start the season, and he’s allowed just one run in more than 13 innings of action. Miami’s other weekend starters — junior Alejandro Rosario and Ben Chestnutt — are off to solid starts as well.

Junior infielder Yohandy Morales leads the Hurricanes’ offense. The Miami product was one of the best players in the country last season, and he’s off to a strong start this year with a team-high four home runs. 

Junior outfielder Zach Levenson is another star man for Miami. The Oviedo, Florida, native leads the Hurricanes in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

The entire Miami offense is one of the best in the country. The Hurricanes are fourth nationally in home runs — right behind Florida — and tied for 32nd in total runs scored.

First pitch Friday is set for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be streamed on SEC Network+. Saturday’s game is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will also be on SEC Network+. Sunday’s finale is set for noon and will be broadcast on SEC Network.

Contact Topher Adams at Follow him on Twitter @Topher_Adams.

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Topher Adams

Topher Adams is a fourth-year communications major and in his fourth semester with the Alligator. He previously covered football, baseball and women's basketball. He also enjoys professional lacrosse and Major League Soccer.

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