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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Gators’ late comeback falls short in loss to Gamecocks

Florida swept in first series loss of season

Florida second baseman Cade Kurland watches his hit during the Gators' 13-11 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs Friday, April 14, 2023
Florida second baseman Cade Kurland watches his hit during the Gators' 13-11 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs Friday, April 14, 2023

Florida redshirt freshman center fielder Michael Robertson had the chance to tie the game as he came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. The Gators struggled to hit the ball all weekend but still had a slim chance to avoid the series sweep.

South Carolina closer Chris Veach worked Robertson into a 2-2 count before the Gators’ outfielder swung and missed a pitch for a game-ending strikeout. 

The No. 3 Florida Gators (31-10, 11-7 SEC) fell to the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks (34-6, 13-4 SEC) 7-5 Saturday afternoon. Florida was swept for the first time since April 2022 against the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Gamecocks got after Florida sophomore lefty Jac Caglianone early in the first. Outfielder Dylan Brewer hammered a double, and infielder Braylen Wimmer crushed a towering homer into the left-field bleachers.

Caglianone continued to struggle with command and worked high, long at-bats. He walked a pair of South Carolina batters but eventually ended the inning with a strikeout to keep any additional runs off the board.

Freshman second baseman Cade Kurland got the Gators’ offense started in the top of the second. He notched the team’s first hit of the day with a powerful solo blast into right field to cut the deficit in half.

Caglianone returned to the mound in the second after a 38-pitch first inning. The sophomore southpaw rattled off a three-pitch strikeout to start the frame. However, the Gamecocks rebounded with a walk and a single.

Wimmer drove in another run with a groundout. Caglianone walked another batter to work himself into another jam, but senior catcher BT Riopelle caught South Carolina outfielder Ethan Petry at first base for the third out. 

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan pulled Caglianone for freshman left-hander Cade Fisher in the bottom of the fourth. The young pitcher struck out a pair of Gamecocks, but Petry pelted a pitch for a two-out double that scored two runners.

Kurland smashed a leadoff home run to open the fifth inning. The 412-foot homer was nearly identical to the freshman’s first opposite-field bomb earlier in the game.

Outside of Kurland, Florida’s offense failed to get anything going against South Carolina pitcher Matthew Becker. Kurland’s two long balls were the Gators’ only hits against the Gamecocks’ starter through five innings.

South Carolina catcher Jonathan French dropped a single into shallow center field to allow another Gamecock run to score. Fisher ended the fifth inning with his fourth strikeout of the day.

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Right-hander James Hicks replaced Becker in the sixth. The change in pitchers did little to help the Gators’ offense, and Florida posted another zero.

Fisher delivered his best inning of the afternoon. The freshman lefty worked a 1-2-3 inning and struck out Petry looking to end the sixth. Redshirt sophomore right-hander Ryan Slater replaced Fisher after another scoreless inning from Florida’s offense in the top of the seventh.

South Carolina dropped a pair of two-out singles against Slater to put runners on the corners. The Gators intentionally walked French after a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position. Slater got out of the jam when he struck out Gamecocks infielder Will Tipped to end the frame.

Caglianone got a run back for Florida in the eighth. Redshirt freshman center fielder Michael Robertson reached base on a single, and Caglianone sent the speedy outfielder home with a double down the right-field line.

Junior shortstop Josh Rivera continued the rally with a single to score Caglianone from second base. Riopelle had a chance to make it a one-run game, but the senior catcher grounded out to end the frame.

Slater returned to the hill to keep Florida’s comeback hopes alive into the ninth inning. Brewer doubled to left field — his fourth hit and second double of the game — to put Florida under pressure early in the inning.

Wimmer reached on a bunt, and South Carolina put runners on the corners with no outs. Slater walked Petry to load the bases, and the Gamecocks added an insurance run as first baseman Cole Messina grounded into a double play. Slater closed the inning with a strikeout.

Freshman first baseman Luke Heyman knocked a leadoff single to open the top of the ninth. Kurland flew out to left field, and junior third baseman Colby Halter popped up to shortstop to put the Gators down to their final out. 

Junior infielder Tyler Shelnut came in to pinch hit and weakly hit the ball in front of home plate. Robertson struck out to end the rally and secure a series sweep for the Gamecocks.

Florida will host the North Florida Ospreys at Condron Ballpark Tuesday before the Missouri Tigers come to Gainesville for another SEC series. First pitch against UNF is scheduled for 6 p.m., and game one against Missouri will start at 7 p.m. Friday. Both games will be streamed 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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