Freshman catcher Luke Heyman hadn’t played since March 10 due to a hamstring injury.
When Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan penciled his name into the starting lineup Sunday, Heyman wanted to make sure he brought the big stick in his return.
Heyman lofted the second and third home runs of his college career in the No. 3 Florida Gators’ (22-4, 5-1 SEC) 7-4 win against No. 13 Ole Miss (15-9, 0-6 SEC) at Swayze Field.
The last time Florida swept Ole Miss on the road was April of 1988.
Gators starting pitcher Jac Caglianone allowed eight walks in his 3.2 innings pitched. The sophomore two-way player allowed just one hit and blasted a home run of his own. Florida’s bullpen did its job. It allowed just two unearned runs in 5.1 innings of work.
Ole Miss starting pitcher Xavier Rivas’ outing began with two quick outs. Caglianone hit his nation-leading 17th home run of the season to interrupt Rivas’ groove. He deposited a 1-0 slider from Rivas over the right field wall to give UF an early lead.
Caglianone barely had time to get a drink of water following his longball before he found himself on the mound to start the bottom of the first inning.
The sophomore southpaw allowed the first two runners to reach. He received the benefit of a 4-6-3 double play and struck out Ole Miss junior catcher Calvin Harris with a wipeout slider to escape the opening frame unscathed.
Rivas struggled with his command in the top of the second.
He walked Heyman and hit sophomore right fielder Ty Evans with a pitch. The Gators failed to cash in as freshman center fielder Michael Robertson grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the frame.
Caglianone found himself in a similar situation in the second inning. Ole Miss threatened with runners on first and second with one out. Caglianone responded by striking out junior right fielder TJ McCants looking on a well-located fastball.
His defense bailed him out when Evans made a diving catch in the right-center gap on a ball hit by Rebels designated hitter Reagan Burford. The play prevented at least one run from scoring and preserved UF’s one-run lead.
Rivas yielded another base hit to Caglianone in the third inning, which placed runners on first and second. The Ole Miss starter got out of the jam when he induced a fly out to right from junior shortstop Josh Rivera and struck out senior catcher BT Riopelle looking.
Caglianone also struggled with his command early. He walked five batters through the first three innings.
In the third inning, a pair of fielding errors by Rivera and junior third baseman Colby Halter loaded the bases for Ole Miss. Caglianone was unfazed; he struck out senior first baseman Anthony Calarco swinging to leave Rebels on every base.
Heyman stepped to the plate to begin the fourth inning and launched a solo shot around the foul pole down the left field line to double UF’s lead to 2-0.
With two down, Robertson sliced a ball to left-center field. Rebels center fielder Ethan Groff misplayed the ball while battling the sun, which resulted in a double. Robertson came around to score one batter later on a runs batted in single up the middle from freshman second baseman Cade Kurland.
Ole Miss finally broke through against Caglianone in the bottom of the fourth inning. Florida’s starter walked three more batters to bring his total to eight. Rebels shortstop Jacob Gonzalez smashed a two-run double over Langford in left field. The hit cut the Gators’ lead to 3-2.
O’Sullivan summoned sophomore righty Blake Purnell from the bullpen. Purnell forced a fly out to left field by junior left fielder Kemp Alderman to end the inning.
Rivas kept the momentum going for the Rebels in the fifth inning. He began the inning with a strikeout of Caglianone and set down the Gators in order.
Left-hander Chris Arroyo took over on the mound for Florida in the bottom of the fifth to make his first appearance since March 1. The freshman struck out two Rebels and tossed a 1-2-3 inning. He looked even better in the sixth inning when he punched out two more.
Evans, Robertson and Kurland all singled and brought around UF’s fourth run of the ballgame in the top of the sixth inning. Robertson’s hit prompted Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco to replace Rivas with senior right-hander Mitch Murrell.
Kurland greeted Murrell with his second RBI knock of the game to open the lead to 4-2.
Murrell bounced back in the top of the seventh by sending down the heart of the Gators’ order. He got Caglianone to fly out to center and fanned both Rivera and Riopelle.
Sophomore lefty Philip Abner was the next arm called upon by O’Sullivan. He worked a scoreless seventh inning by recording three ground ball outs.
Heyman’s second home run of the game led off the eighth inning. Kurland followed up with his eighth homer of the year, a two-run smash to center field against Rebels reliever Mason Nichols.
The Gators’ defense let Abner down in the bottom of the eighth. With a runner on first, Ole Miss senior second baseman Peyton Chatagnier sent a ground ball to Halter at third base. Halter threw the ball into right field while attempting to turn a double play.
A passed ball from Heyman allowed Harris to score from third. After Calarco singled, O’Sullivan pulled Abner in favor of sophomore right-hander Brandon Neely.
Neely recorded a 6-4-3 double play that brought home the Rebels’ second run of the inning. He induced a fly out to end the inning and keep UF’s 7-4 lead intact.
Neely returned for the ninth inning and nailed down his fifth save of the season when he struck out Alderman to end the game.
The Gators head to Jacksonville, Florida, Tuesday for the second leg of their three-game series against the Florida State Seminoles. First pitch at 121 Financial Ballpark is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.
Contact Ethan Eibe at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @EthanEibe.
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.