The nation’s leading home run hitter stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning in a situation crafted to his liking.
Sophomore two-way player Jac Caglianone had fellow Gators at every base and sent them all home with one swing of the bat.
A long grand slam to right field — Caglianone’s 11th of the season – tied a bow on the 12-3 No. 6 Florida Gators’ 11-0 mercy rule win against the 7-6 Florida Atlantic Owls Wednesday night at Condron Ballpark.
The victory was UF’s fifth of the season via the run rule. Caglianone’s four hits put up five runs batted in, giving him 25 for the year.
The Gators called upon sophomore right-hander Tyler Nesbitt to start. In just his second appearance and first start of the season, Nesbitt tossed a career-high five innings. He allowed two hits and struck out six. Wednesday was just Nesbitt’s third start since returning from a Tommy John surgery he underwent in February 2021.
“I think tonight was a really good night for me, hopefully to earn their trust back,” Nesbitt said. “To be able to go out there tonight and be able to throw strikes, fill up the zone, get outs, it was a great feeling.”
Sophomore left-hander Philip Abner also threw a career-high three innings of relief to keep the Owls off the scoreboard and record his first career save.
“That’s two nights in a row for Philip,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I’m really pleased with the direction he’s going.”
Nesbitt retired the first two Owls he faced before he surrendered two consecutive singles to put runners on the corners. FAU left fielder Mitchell Hartigan flied out to center field to retire the side.
Owls freshman starting pitcher Tyler Murphy worked a similar opening frame. Caglianone doubled to right field and one-hopped off the wall.
Junior shortstop Josh Rivera flied out to the warning track in left-center field to leave Caglianone stranded.
Nesbitt struck out the side in the top of the second; he sent the first two batters down swinging and froze Owls second baseman Dom Presto for the final out. Nesbitt continued to steamroll FAU’s lineup, sending the Owls down in order in the third and fourth innings.
Murphy followed up with a 1-2-3 second inning of his own. He struck out UF senior first baseman BT Riopelle and sophomore right fielder Ty Evans before he recorded a ground out from redshirt freshman center fielder Michael Robertson.
This was the end of the line for Murphy, who was replaced the following inning.
The Gators engineered their first run in the bottom of the third by loading the bases against new FAU pitcher Max Martzolf. Caglianone grounded a ball to Owls first baseman Nolan Schanuel on the first pitch of his second at-bat.
Schanuel flipped the ball to Martzolf, who covered first, but Caglianone beat the play, which allowed junior third baseman Colby Halter to score from third.
Martzolf fanned Rivera and forced Riopelle to ground out to second to limit the damage to just the run.
Florida put more runners on base against Martzolf in the fourth, which set the table for Halter to drive them in. Halter grounded a ball into right field with Robertson on second and freshman catcher Luke Heyman on first.
The ball deflected off Schanuel’s glove, and Owls right fielder Dylan Goldstein airmailed his throw toward third and sent it into the net to the right of the visitors’ dugout.
The error allowed Heyman to score UF’s third run and Halter to reach third. Halter scored one batter later when Kurland lined a sacrifice fly to right field to extend the lead to 4-0.
Nesbitt’s streak of 11 straight batters retired ended in the top of the fifth. Owls designated hitter Christian Adams put a ball in play, but Kurland booted it at second.
Adams stole second base but was stranded after Nesbitt struck out Presto and forced a groundout to third from shortstop Patrick Ward.
Florida jumped on Owls reliever Marc DeGusipe in the bottom of the fifth for three more runs.
Caglianone and Rivera led off the inning with a double and single, respectively, to put runners on the corners for Riopelle. The senior sliced a double off the top of the left field wall to score both teammates.
Riopelle advanced to third later in the inning, and Heyman reached first on a walk. Heyman stole second and aimed to bait a throw from FAU catcher Caleb Pendleton. The catcher instead threw the ball to third and caught Riopelle too far off the bag.
Riopelle scored after the ensuing pickle when Pendleton’s tag on Riopelle popped out of his glove. The double steal put UF ahead 7-0.
Abner took over for Nesbitt in the sixth and worked a 1-2-3 frame.
Florida threatened to score again in the bottom of the sixth against another FAU reliever, junior right-hander Robert Wegielnik. Junior left fielder Wyatt Langford tripled to right-center field after Owls center fielder Jalen DeBose whiffed on a diving attempt.
Langford was stranded at third after Caglianone struck out and Rivera flied out to deep left.
Abner and Wegeilnik set down both sides in order and traded scoreless seventh innings. Abner put up another zero in the eighth. He stayed in the ballgame after a groundball deflected off his left ankle toward Halter at third, who made an outstanding barehanded play to record the inning’s second out.
“It’s good that the ‘pen is starting to click. That’s huge going into conference play,” Abner said. “These two outings, there’s a confidence boost for sure.”
Caglianone’s grand slam with one out in the bottom of the eighth sent the Condron Ballpark crowd home early and happy.
Florida hosts the Siena College Saints for a weekend series Friday through Sunday. Southeastern Conference play for the Gators is on the horizon with the Alabama Crimson Tide coming to Gainesville at the end of next week.
First pitch against Siena is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday, and the game will be televised on SEC 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.