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Monday, March 04, 2024

Caglianone’s two homers, five strong innings give Gators series win over Georgia

Florida has won all five of its Southeastern Conference series this season

Florida two-way player Jac Caglianone hits the ball in the Gators' 2-1 win over the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday, April 15, 2023
Florida two-way player Jac Caglianone hits the ball in the Gators' 2-1 win over the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday, April 15, 2023

Brandon Neely stared over his glove into the catcher’s mitt of BT Riopelle 60 feet, six inches away. 

He inherited a bases-loaded, two-out situation and needed to retire Georgia junior third baseman Parks Harber to keep a 6-4 Florida lead intact in the eighth inning. Neely struck out Harber and unleashed an emotional celebration as he walked back to the mound; he hollered at the Bulldogs’ dugout. 

Home plate umpire Brian deBrauwere ejected Neely and set off a shower of boos from the Condron Ballpark crowd. Fresh off the ejection’s emotions, Florida’s offense tallied five runs in the bottom of the eighth, punctuated by a Jac Caglianone grand slam, to put the game away.

The No. 3 Florida Gators (30-7, 11-4 SEC) defeated the Georgia Bulldogs (19-17, 4-11 SEC) 11-6 to win the series two games to one and give UF its fifth consecutive southeastern conference series victory. 

Caglianone’s two-way talent was the star of the show once again. The sophomore southpaw tossed five innings and allowed two earned runs while walking two and striking out four to earn the win. 

At the plate, he demolished his nation-leading 20th and 21st home runs of the season and recorded seven runs batted in. He is just the seventh Gator to accumulate 20 long balls in a season. 

“I knew my team needed me,” Caglianone said. “The past few outings weren’t great, so it was nice to reset right there.”

Caglianone offered a clean opening frame and received immediate run support in the bottom of the first. Caglianone walked and later scored on junior shortstop Josh Rivera’s 14th home run of the season — an opposite-field blast to right-center.

Florida engineered its third run in the bottom of the second. Freshman center fielder Michael Robertson picked up right where he left off from Saturday’s walk-off win when he slashed an RBI single to left field. 

The Gators continued to pepper balls to the outfield off Georgia junior starting pitcher Liam Sullivan. Caglianone came up to bat again in the last of the second and delivered a three-run bomb to right. 

Georgia broke through against Caglianone in the fourth inning. Junior designated hitter Corey Collins turned around a fastball and parked it on the right field berm for a solo homer. The drive brought the Gators’ lead down to 6-1. 

Bulldogs senior center fielder Ben Anderson tripled to right-center with one out in the top of the fifth. One batter later, Riopelle attempted to pick Anderson off and tossed a wild throw to junior third baseman Colby Halter. The ball deflected off Halter’s glove and went behind him, which allowed Anderson to score Georgia’s second run.

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Caglianone shook off the poor defense and induced back-to-back fly outs to snuff out any momentum. 

Sophomore right-hander Tyler Nesbitt replaced Caglianone in the sixth inning and was removed mid-at-bat after yielding a walk, a single and wild pitch that placed two runners in scoring position. Freshman lefty Cade Fisher took over and worked his magic. He forced three consecutive groundouts to strand both runners and preserve the four-run lead. 

Fisher faltered in the seventh and allowed runners to reach first and third base. Georgia freshman right fielder Charlie Condon drove home a run with an RBI double to right. With two outs, Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan went back to his pen and brought in sophomore left-hander Philip Abner. The move panned out; Abner blew a fastball by senior third baseman Will David to end the threat. 

Georgia’s bullpen thrived in the middle innings. Junior left-hander Luke Wagner allowed just two hits and no earned runs over 3.2 innings after taking over in the fourth inning, though he was responsible for three of Florida’s five runs in the eighth inning. 

Abner failed to keep Georgia off the bases in the eighth inning. He allowed two walks before sophomore righty Ryan Slater entered. Slater allowed a single to load the bases and walked Condon two batters later to force home a run and reduce the Florida lead to 6-4. 

O’Sullivan then brought in sophomore right-hander Brandon Neely to attempt a four-out save. Neely recorded the strikeout and was subsequently ejected for his celebration.

The Florida bats stomped out any hope of a Georgia comeback with a five-run bottom of the eighth. 

Robertson knocked his second RBI single of the game to left, and Caglianone followed up with a grand slam to the left field berm to extend UF’s advantage to 11-4. 

Sunday was Caglianone’s fourth multi-home run game of the season and his third while pitching in the same contest. 

“It takes the pressure off at the plate, knowing that I’m doing both,” Caglianone said. “On days that I pitch, I want to get my team a solid four to six innings and the hitting aspect just flows.”

Sophomore right-hander Nick Ficarrotta allowed a two-run homer to Bulldogs sophomore pinch hitter Cole Wagner in the top of the ninth inning but shut the door shortly after to secure Florida’s 30th win of the season. 

Florida hosts Florida A&M Tuesday at Condron Ballpark before traveling to Columbia, South Carolina to face the No. 6 Gamecocks at the end of the week. 

First pitch Tuesday against the Rattlers is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be streamed on SEC Network+. 

Contact Ethan Eibe at 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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